There’s a HOT New Brand in Town: Meet Wndrmade
We are in love with this sexy local brand! From its evocative name and product nomenclature to the elegant packaging design and stunning photography– what’s left but to strike a match, light a candle, and surrender to the bespoke fragrances of Wndrmade®. Working with ingredients such as Bergamot, Black Spruce, Jasmine Samboc, Palo Santo and Pink Grapefruit, to name a few, Wndrmade isn’t just inspired by nature, it’s what they are made of!
All fragrances are made in-house (in the Catskill Mountains!) and poured by hand using all-natural essential oils, CO2s and absolutes (concentrated, highly aromatic, oily mixtures extracted from plants). Driven by a mission to produce real smelling candles with all of the complexities and curiosities that nature intended, you know you’re in for something special with this brand. Good-bye, over-perfumy kill-me-now candles (you know what we’re talking about). Hello Wndrmade!
Let’s begin our exclusive interview with modern makers: Alice Yeung + Stephen Biebel.
Inside+Out: What inspired you to get into the fragrance business and how did your company get its name–Wndrmade®
Wndrmade: I don’t know if we set out to get into the fragrance business necessarily, it may have just found us. Before Wndrmade, and even before we moved to Kerhonkson, Alice, my wife, and Wndrmade’s co-founder was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After her surgery and treatment, a long road to full recovery and wellness ultimately led to us seeking out a more natural lifestyle, a more mindful approach to what we put in our bodies, what touched our skin, the air we breathed. We worked our day jobs in NYC and saved enough to buy a house in the Catskills with the hope that we would one day find a way to live there full time, to breathe that fresh air, to listen to whispering pines instead of honking horns.
When we purchased our home, we received a few housewarming gifts, including a very beautiful, heavily perfumed luxury candle. I remember the scent…it was quite strong. It smelled good, but also the heavy perfumery felt so unnatural and out of place. I looked for natural alternatives and found very little that impressed me the way the luxe perfumers did. So, I started looking deeper into what went into perfumery, the chemicals, the processing, and natural alternatives like essential oils–their benefits and their drawbacks. Ultimately, it was curiosity and a constant desire for creative outlets that first drew Alice and me into fragrance crafting, and from that, with well over a year of research, testing, failing, tweaking, failing again, and finally some success, Wndrmade was born. It was Alice who thought of the name. We were in this new adventure together, making new things, tumbling down the proverbial rabbit hole, in wonderland. Hence, Wndrmade. It’s comedic how inspiration happens sometimes, in retrospect.
Where are you originally from and what drew you to the Hudson Valley?
Alice was born and raised in New York City and I am originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, but I moved to NYC in 2003. We met in 2008, spent the majority of our adult lives in the city, and the West Village will always have an imprint on who we are. However, as we matured, our pace slowed, and we had a strong desire to be closer to nature. The Catskills were calling, and we found great peace in hiking, fly fishing, even just having the windows open and hearing the birds and chipmunks sing their songs. There was joy in chopping firewood and clearing snow, in cooking dinners instead of ordering delivery. It really just felt like the right place at the right time, and we couldn’t be happier to be here.
“The Catskills Are Calling–and we found great peace in hiking, fly fishing, even just having the windows open and hearing the birds and chipmunks sing their songs”
Your products are botanical, 100% plant-based perfumed candles, hand-crafted here in the Catskill Mountains which is so great! Once you develop a fragrance how do you decide which product to roll out–such as candles, aerosols or oils?
Conceptually, the first products we set out to produce were wearables, aerosol perfumes and oils, mostly by default because that was how we were learning about which essential oil blends we liked, and how accords were balanced. An accord is a scent made up of several perfume notes, or ingredients, that blend together to form a distinct fragrance. One day during development, almost as an afterthought, we decided to experiment and create a candle using one of our prototype fragrances. It was always on our radar to make candles, but it wasn’t necessarily in our initial plans for the brand. When the fragrance worked so well in the wax it really surprised us, as the conventional knowledge is that you need to use synthetic fragrance oils for best results in candles, and that essential oils are typically not stable enough to throw a scent properly. But we found a way to get good results, and from there we began creating 100% natural fragrances with candles as the intent. That was a breakthrough moment for us, and became the catalyst that started moving the brand from concept to reality. That said, candles were just the starting point, and we leave nothing off the table for future all-natural products.
What’s the biggest misconception about your business?
One misconception seems to be that people think we’re a much bigger company than we are. We’re still just two people trying to manage every aspect of the brand, from creating the products to the imagery, social media, web design, packaging, customer relations. It’s just the two of us here trying to make it all happen.
Do you have staff? If so, what is your company culture and how do you inspire your staff?
A perfect lead-in from the last question. We are a very small company, probably still a long way from having staff and employees. So for now, it’s just Alice and I, a husband and wife partnership in life and business. We both bring different skill sets to the company, and we inspire each other because of how much we complement each other. We both know this company could not exist without our collective efforts. Our business meetings take place over morning coffee or Sunday dinner, and our culture is very much that of a family business…always working.
How do you market your brand products and how do your customers find you?
We utilize social media, mostly Instagram, and search platforms for the majority of our digital outreach marketing campaigns. However, we’re finding organic growth in these areas is becoming more and more challenging, and the cost for competitive paid marketing is really increasing. For growth, word-of-mouth sharing is always going to be what we appreciate the most. It means that people really love what they’re buying so much that they’re sharing it, or buying it for a friend. There’s nothing more special than that to us. We also have had some help from good friends who work in PR and fashion. They have shared Wndrmade with their colleagues, friends, and clients, and from these efforts, we’ve received placement in columns at WWD, CondeNast Traveler, FabFitFun, and Veranda alongside some of the most elite luxury candle manufacturers in the world. We got stocked at Fred Segal in Malibu and Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles, and the Verishop app. The exposure gained from those successes has been truly invaluable.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a new business?
Every new business is unique, but the advice I would give is to be patient, be true to yourself, and block out the noise. Don’t compare yourself to others who you think may be experiencing more success, and don’t give up when things get really challenging, because they most definitely will.
What made you launch your business in Kerhonkson New York?
Kerhonkson is where we live, so having work close to home was important to us. That, and we launched in 2020, right at the start of the pandemic when work-from-home became more of a requirement than a desire.
What do you find the most intriguing about living and working in the Hudson Valley?
There is a real sense of community here that spans much further than even our little neighborhood. People really want to help each other, and we’ve felt that support in these first couple of years of business. I think of Todd Spire at Esopus Creel fly shop in Phoenicia. Before Wndrmade was known for much of anything, Todd brought our candles into his shop and introduced us to a whole new audience, it was a special gesture and we’ve since become friends. The support we’ve received from people in the community has been really warm and genuine, and I think that’s a unique characteristic of the area.
What impact does your business have on your community?
I don’t think we’re big enough to have any real impact yet. I would still be surprised if I ran into someone who would even recognize the brand by name or on store shelves. But we’d love nothing more than to grow to a point where Wndrmade is a household name, consciously associated with upstate New York, the Catskills region and Hudson Valley artisans. This year, we want to focus our efforts on getting a foothold in the Hudson Valley and having a stronger presence in the local market. Even before we get there, though, we want to contribute what we can to environmental protection and conservation directly in our community and the surrounding area.
Tell us more about how your collaboration with Incausa, 1% for the Planet and One Tree Planted.
We have expanded to be able to directly support the marketplace existence and creation of a sustainable chain of commerce for indigenous peoples with Incausa.
Incausa is a Brooklyn-based merchant of incense, palo santo, and other artisan-crafted home goods. We’ve been fans of theirs for years, and always kept some incense on hand in our NYC apartment and then later our upstate home. When we started Wndrmade, we wanted to expand into incense and other home scent products, so why not try to share Incausa with more people? They have an incredible mission, and by wholesaling their products we can share in that mission of supporting a marketplace of entrepreneurial commerce for indigenous communities. They are, quite frankly, amazing products and wonderful people.
We’ve partnered with 1% for the Planet to pledge a portion of our revenue to support environmental causes. As an all-natural brand with sustainability at the heart of our company, we just wanted another way to give back to Earth with the profit that she allows us to earn. With 1% for the Planet, we connect with an organization that enables us to donate 1% of every sale to the environmental causes of our choice.
We’re also One Tree Planted members, so with every purchase you make, we’ll make a donation to plant trees. Similarly to 1% for the Planet, One Tree Planted is a non-profit that we donate to for every unit sold. Since we’ve been members, we can proudly say that hundreds of trees have been planted thanks to people purchasing Wndrmade products, and this year we’re hoping to contribute thousands more. We’re so grateful to be in a position to not only support conservation efforts, but also environmental regeneration efforts where we can.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
Right now, Esopus Creel is the only local storefront that carries Wndrmade, but we would really love to partner with more local shops, and we’re hopeful that Inside + Out can assist us in making some new connections.
We love your product so we’ll work on that! What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
The only thing I’m missing is my close friends and family who live too far to visit regularly. Although Alice might also say the convenience of Seamless (for those lazy days) or Trader Joe’s!
Where do you network or meet fellow Upstate NY modern makers/artisans?
So far some of our best networking has been done just through our neighborhood get-togethers for Halloween and the holidays.
Who or what inspires you personally and professionally?
I can’t say that I find professional inspiration in any individuals, other than Alice who never ceases to amaze me with her vast capabilities and creativity. Otherwise, I’m inspired by my surroundings. It sounds cliche, but as a photographer, I am inspired by how the sun hits an object or the way a shadow lands on a wall. As an artisan, I’m inspired by the way I can take a walk in the woods, be present with naturally fragrant plants like moss, wildflowers, or balsams, and never feel overpowered by it. That is the feeling I strive to reproduce.
What does your typical day look like?
Every day is something different, but there are a few constants. Every morning is a coffee meeting where we prioritize the needs of the day. We process orders in both the morning and evening to ensure they’re ready to go out at the next available shipping window. I write a handwritten note to go out with every order, which takes a little time but I feel like it’s worth it. We try to spend time every day preparing some social media or email to outreach and connect with our clients and followers, there is a good amount of time spent on photography, editing, and writing. Alice is always working nights on graphics and design, website functionality, and finances. We reserve weekends for fragrance crafting, candle pouring, managing inventory, and the development of new products. It’s a pretty full slate and keeps us on our toes.
The Wndrmade® journey is only just beginning – What’s next for you? Sneak peek of new direction or product?
We have plans to introduce two more new scents this year, starting with Jasmine for February and a Geranium scent for summer. We’re also developing all-natural soaps, perfume oils, spray perfumes, and pillar candles. Probably not all this year, but we will see what the future holds. We’d also like to collaborate with local potters to release limited edition ceramic or stoneware candle vessels.
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Born of Nature. Made for Home
BATH. CANDLES. INCENSE. ACCESSORIES
Artisan home goods
Hand-crafted luxury fragrances
100% natural botanicals in vegan wax
Hand-poured in the Catskills
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