Founder of Master & Jack, mother of two, fan of hunting, fishing, graphic design, and starting side hustles; we interview Jaci Skelton who describes herself as a jack of all trades and a master of none.
How did Master & Jack begin?
I’ve always known that I was made to be my own boss. Once my kids hit school age I felt that society expected me to go out and get a ‘real’ job. While I’ve always had office jobs, I’ve also always preferred to be on my own timeline and doing what I want. My husband and I love nature and being outdoors. We began to get tired of what we refer to as the “box” life. Living in a box, driving in another box to go work in another box, in a job where we aren’t finding as much satisfaction as we’d like.
At the beginning of 2019, my friend gave me a candle that she had made. She said it was 'easy' and that started me off. I bought a candle making kit that made two candles. You had to choose your fragrances from their description online which was very hit and miss! So I didn't love the fragrance of the first two candles I ever made from this kit, this is how the rollercoaster of candle making began!
What motivated you to turn candles into a side hustle?
I soon learned that not all candles are created equally. Of course, we've all been guilty of buying cheap candles from retail stores, but those candles never list their ingredients. And that's when you should be worried.
You wouldn't eat food that didn't list ingredients, so why would you burn a candle in your home if you didn't know what it was made from?
You don't know what you don't know, and I have certainly had my fair share of cheap nasty candles. On the other end of the scale, I have also seen expensive brand candles produce soot and black smoke. It’s important to remember that just because something is expensive does not necessarily mean it is of high quality. Wicks and wax are so much more than just looking pretty! The more I researched how to create the most ethical and environmentally sound candle, the more passionate I became about it.
What challenges did you face when creating your unique range of coconut wax candles?
If you've never made candles before, you don’t realise that there is so much to learn! It is by no means a simple endeavor. There's science and maths involved when considering the right types of wax and wicks. Finding the right wick was certainly the biggest headache to get right. It took weeks and it almost broke me!
Your wick is determined by the size of your vessel, but then not every wick will burn the same. It really is trial and error. My notes contain pages and pages of my testers. Some wicks would burn fine, but the next time they wouldn't. I didn't want any inconsistencies so I needed something that worked every time. I eventually sourced a cotton wick (zinc and lead-free) that aced all my tests and it was such relief! It was so discouraging, in the beginning, having to try and try again. Especially because I didn't have the money to 'invest' into it, it was just a hobby. But finally, I got my wick right, it suited all my fragrances and from there everything was much easier. The next battles were branding, choosing a vessel, label, size, and colour.
Everything was and still is done on the smell of an oily rag! At a certain point, I needed to recoup some money that I've spent during this whole process, so I decided to do some markets. This was far beyond where I thought I'd ever go. But actually, it was something I really loved and surprised myself at how much I enjoyed it. So I managed to do a good few months of markets, in the winter which is perfect for candles, but not to perfect for the weather! And that is how I've slowly built up my brand.
What makes your candles unique?
I never do anything by halves. I could have chosen a cheaper wax, I could have chosen a 'standard' size label which would have made sourcing labels so much easier. I could have chosen a colour vessel that was easier to source. But because the candle market is such a saturated one, I needed and wanted everything to be quite removed from the other candles I had seen. It was my point of difference. And I chose coconut wax because of the eco and sustainable features of it. It is a much more cleaner burning wax, it won't produce soot. It has a low melting point which means it burns longer. And the scent thrown from the wax either hot or cold is outstanding.
It's also so interesting that what might smell good in a candle, doesn't necessarily translate well to say a bar of soap or diffuser. When I head into my suppliers, I'll do a sniff of new fragrances or get samples, but I do have to stick to the KISS method (keep it simple stupid).
How has running Master & Jack affected your outlook on supporting New Zealand made?
Having started this hobby business, it's made me really aware of supporting other small businesses - COVID has really put that into perspective! I don't think I would have appreciated small business as much if I hadn't done this venture.
Even my kids now know that it's worth paying a bit more for someone's craftmanship than a commercially produced product.
We try and support local as much as we can and you get a kick out of doing that. And you see those memes of people literally doing a happy dance when they make a sale - it's so true! I just get such a buzz out of a sale. It means I've produced something that not only do I love but so do other people. And then to get repeat customers really cements that notion that people like what I create. And that's the funny part because I just didn't see myself as a crafty person, but here I am! When you are creating an eco-friendly product that makes you aware of what you're breathing it, it also makes you start looking around the house at other toxic chemicals. We haven't mastered getting rid of everything, but awareness is a start.