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The Prospect Project: How Perth’s cult candle brand went from side hustle to thriving business

Anyone who’s successfully turned their side hustle into a career will tell you that the blood, sweat and tears are just the beginning. And as Shannon Fragomeli well knows, the feat is even more impressive when your market is one of the most saturated of any retail category.

Fragomeli’s candle company, The Prospect Project, has become cult with its delicious scents and distinctive brand, and as it opens the doors to its first retail space, it admits it’s been a crazy journey from seven years.

“Candles are a completely saturated market,” she says. “From expensive and sophisticated designs, to $5 ones you can pick up at your local discount store, to handmade ones that can sometimes look (and feel) the same, we love the challenge of standing out and to get off the beaten track.

“While in 2022 there are probably a ton of other candles being sold in glass jars, when I started doing that there were none.”

Part of what makes TPP products so memorable are their simple but striking “This Candle Smells Like” labels, an idea that Fragomeli says came from wanting candles to suit all genders, ages and decorating styles.

Camera iconThe brand is known for its iconic ‘This Candle Smells Like’ labels. Credit: Michael Wilson/western australia

The flavors themselves are also unique – think Jam Donut, Espresso Martini, Sourdough Bread and Perth (a blend of cucumber, sea salt, seaweed and sandalwood that evokes warm summer evenings in WA).

“We think outside the box and source fragrances from around the world to ensure we offer something different,” Fragomeli says.

“Your sense of smell can have a serious impact on your mood, and I love that smelling one of our candles can bring you back to memories of your childhood, your favorite vacation, or just set the mood for a room.

A portion of every sale is donated to a charity chosen by the customer, an aspect that has always been a key part of Fragomeli’s philosophy – since its beginnings, as a granola company.

“My childhood dream was to be a philanthropist, but at this point in my life I didn’t have the funds, so I thought, ‘What if I could sell a product, some of the funds going to customer a charitable cause?” she explains.

While candle making was little more than a hobby at this point, it turned out that she already had another successful product on her hands. “I was already making my own granola that I would take to my corporate job for breakfast and my co-workers started asking about it and wanted to buy some,” she says.

She ended up selling the granola through an online store and supplied several local cafes. One day, she made the fateful decision to give one of her wholesale customers a candle with a personalized label on it. “They loved it and asked how they could store it so the business eventually went to 50% granola and 50% candles,” she says.

Fragomeli, right, started making candles as a hobby while working a full-time corporate career.
Camera iconFragomeli, right, started making candles as a hobby while working a full-time corporate career. Credit: Michael Wilson/western australia

“Being a solo show who was still working full-time at a company, I had to choose a path. “The candles allowed me to be more creative, so I opted for this.”

Between her online store, wholesale customers and her stock in Myer over the past four years, Fragomeli says she has now sold more than 50,000 candles and generated more than $34,000 in donations.

And after working on everything from the kitchen of his century-old home in West Perth to the garage to a 3m x 3m closet, it was time to give the brand its first real home.

“The studio is a pastel, neon dream inspired by growing up as a 90s kid – Hypercolor T-shirts, biking the streets of Hillarys, playing basketball, listening to R’n ‘B old school on CDs and save pocket money for lollipops at the grocery store,’ Fragomeli says of the Guthrie Street space.

“Our peach shelves in the showroom are reminiscent of the local deli, with peach-colored groceries, and the concept is that candles are a necessity as are groceries.”

Bringing his vision to life on a strict budget meant that Fragomeli didn’t shy away from getting his hands dirty when it came to transforming the 1970s-style commercial office space.

“My husband and I spent a good six weeks working day and night (with our three-year-old on site) ripping up carpet, laying new floors, painting walls, installing new lights and curtains, building and tiling furniture. ourselves,” she explains.

“There is literally blood, sweat and tears, but I loved every second of it, and the finished product is truly a dream come true.”

The space also includes a pouring studio where guests can create their own personalized candles and participate in private ‘sip and pour’ events, while the TPP range has also expanded to include a monthly subscription (playfully titled Only Cands ) and Fragomeli intends to release a DIY candle making kit in the near future.

Five more Perth brands to feed your candle addiction

Generics

With stores in Northbridge and around town as well as an online store, this popular WA brand is best known for its vegan refillable candles, as well as its wide range of wellness and self-care products.

Equal candles.
Camera iconEqual candles. Credit: instagram/provided

Equal candles

This fun fragrance brand – think Thirsty Beach and Fruity AF – is driven by an inclusive and friendly ethos, creating candles designed to invoke a comforting and welcoming environment.

Health Candles & Well-being

Founder Justine Burnett specializes in hand-poured essential oil candles designed to offer an alternative to traditional scents. They also offer sprays, children’s products and aromatherapy rollers with natural scents, which had the honor of being included in a gift box that was presented to the 2020 Oscar nominees.

Flower Box home fragrance.
Camera iconFlower Box home fragrance. Credit: instagram/provided

Flower Box Home Fragrance

This boutique brand is known for its luxury diffusers, oversized candles and home fragrances, in exquisite scents such as Blood Plum & Leather, Cucumber & Wild Basil and Fig Leaf & Cedar.

aromatherapy laboratory

Created by an aromatherapist and a naturopath, Aromatherapy Lab is your reference for soy candles and beauty essences based on essential oils of natural origin.

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