‘We’re the queens of cosy’
Meet three women who help make autumn magical
As we hunker down for autumn, meet the women whose businesses bring us all that is wonderful about this time of year
Krystyna Patey, 46, from Partridge Green, West Sussex, creates candles that shine a light on the best things about the darker months.
‘Pulling on my wellies and tramping through the autumn mist from our cottage to my workshop is the perfect start to the day. The smell of wood smoke and fallen leaves stays with me as
I open the door, where a cornucopia of other wonderful scents hits.
This is where we make all our candles, diffusers and room scents. I employ one other person, Sharon, to blend, pour, package and label everything. At this busy time of year, I also have a band of brilliant local people who pitch in to help. My husband, Richard, is a great support and even my mum and dad come in once a week between now and Christmas.
I started the business eight years ago after moving to the Sussex countryside from Brighton. I felt so much more connected with nature here, and was drawn to setting up my own business reflecting this more natural way of life.
Candles can be used all year round, but they carry a special significance at this time of year. Our Mandarin Spice scent with its cloves and cinnamon is perfect for autumn, while Bonfire or Woodland are calming and relaxing during the darker, colder months.
I actually started out making body scrubs and bath foams, before deciding that the cute Kilner jars I was using would work brilliantly for candles, too.
I started making them in the evenings at home after my daughter Tia, now 18, had gone to bed, and found the process helped me switch off from my office job.
As the business grew, I attended my first big trade show, where a stand cost £1,500 – a huge amount for my fledgling business. I was terrified I wouldn’t receive any orders. Luckily, it proved a turning point and I decided to leave my day job with an events company and concentrate on Parkminster – named after the area where we live – full time.
I started the business without any real savings, putting expenses like the trade show and materials on credit cards. Luckily, Richard, who already had his own company, backed me all the way. He believed in my idea and helped me understand the financial side of things.
I grew the business steadily, wary of rushing in and making mistakes. I added more fragrances and reed diffusers, paying particular attention to packaging. Turnover doubled every year, but I only started paying myself a salary five years ago and still plough most of my profits straight back into the company.
Parkminster products are now sold in more than 300 independent stockists in the UK, as well as some beautiful shops in Rome, Amsterdam, Zurich and Japan. Our biggest-selling products are our small votive candles, which are 90ml scented soy candles that come in 22 fragrances.
I spend a lot of time travelling around in Oscar, our VW Transporter van, which is packed with stock. At £25,000, it was another huge expense, but it’s invaluable for delivering products around the country – and I can sleep in it if I have to! If I spot a shop that I think would like our candles, I never miss the opportunity to pop in and persuade them to give them a go. As the business has grown and
I’ve overcome different challenges, my confidence has grown, too.
A lot of time, effort and trial and error goes into my products, but the feedback I receive makes it all worthwhile. At the end of a busy day, after walking home across the fields, I can enjoy one perk of the job – lighting loads of lovely candles!’ • parkminster.co.uk
Krystyna creates her products in the workshop in her garden