Design Q&A with Vancouver Sun

Demand for the handmade, eco-friendly, coconut wax candles produced by Sonia Chhinji and Fouad Farraj of local company Woodlot has seen them secure retailers in Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Portland, Switzerland and Paris since launching in May and is now allowing them to expand into bath and body products. Chhinji chatted with The Sun about how it all began and their recent expansion.

Q: Tell us about Woodlot?

A: “My partner, Fouad, has been making handmade soap bars for about 10 years now in Lebanon. He got into it because he was fed up the way other soap bars were making his skin feel and were full of so many toxic ingredients. We both started to look further into the ingredients that were in the products we were using every day, including skin care, candles, bath and cleaning products and started to make our own. We made a batch of candles for the holidays last year and had a lot of early supporters. In May we launched the brand officially with Coconut Wax Candles.”

Q: Where did the name Woodlot come from?

A: We stayed in a yurt on a woodlot in Ontario when we were developing our scents, which are inspired by memories or adventures. Woodlot stuck with us.

Q: Why do think Vancouver is a good place to launch a company like yours?

A: There’s a lot of really interesting things going on in Vancouver at the moment — so many makers on the rise. The community is awesome and the support is definitely there. Our Vancouver stockists have been great at providing us with feedback as we grow.

Q: Why do you think the maker movement has caught on so well here?

A: I truly believe that all of us have this innate desire to make things with our hands. With our days so heavily entrenched in technology, I personally was craving something that was a bit more tangible. These days, I satisfy that by mixing custom blends, pouring candles and developing new products.

Q: Can you tell me about your involvement with Farmacie? (the local long table dinner series, where all proceeds go to local organizations and start-ups)

A: We were a part of Farmacie 3.0 back in June. We donated candles for the dinner table and created a custom Farmacie/Woodlot candle that each guest went home with. My family is full of farmers back in India, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to get involved with a dinner where proceeds supported the Fresh Roots Schoolyard initiative.

Q: What’s been the biggest surprise since launching Woodlot?

A: The opportunity to work with some really great brands and how quickly things can take off.

Q: What effect has social media had on your business?

A: These platforms have really helped us gain worldwide traction. We’ve been very lucky to have our consumers share beautiful images of our products in their home or office setting, which the masses on Instagram and Pinterest love.

Q: Where can locals find your products?

A: Le Marche St. George, One of A Few, Charlie & Lee, Vincent Park, WALRUS and

Q: What’s next for Woodlot?

A: Our interest is to continue developing simple ingredient products for everyday use. For our soaps, we’ve played around with (ingredients like) locally brewed beer, coffee beans and florals, such as lavender. With our candles we have a new scent called Holidaze, which reminds me of Christmas morning: mandarin oranges and pine trees. We’re also releasing an 8oz candle and travel tins, which are great for stocking stuffers.

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