Photos courtesy of Abby Jane Crawford
When her house burnt down in a fire, Abby decamped to a hotel (naturally) where she came up with a hobby business idea designed to protect others from the dangers a naked flame. She initially intended to keep her flameless candles as a ‘side thing’, however its rapid uptake forced her to sit up and pay attention – and with a little help from the Kardashian clan, Love & Protect quickly blossomed into a serious business. Here Abby shares with us how a major low point blossomed into an entrepreneur’s dream (challenges notwithstanding).
What do you love most about what you do?
I absolutely love collaborating with creative and talented people. It’s so rewarding to come together on projects, be it industry events such as the Spandau Ballet concert I styled for Smooth FM, or beautiful product launches such as Samantha Will’s zodiac launch, to working with florists on gorgeous weddings and of course your very own Collective event. I have loved candles since I was a tiny girl – the romantic, gentle nature of them has always mesmerised me.
Share how your house burning down was the catalyst for you to start a flameless candle company?
Losing everything in our house fire was of course a horrendous experience, but I am so fortunate to be able to look back and be grateful not just that my son and I managed to escape with our lives, but that it became my inspiration to start Love and Protect. I never wanted to see a naked flame again! I launched Love and Protect from my hotel room just 10 days after the fire and began simply selling the candles to clients in the Hunter Valley wineries, resorts and day spas.
Were you surprised at how quickly things took off?
When I set up Love and Protect, I really was setting it up to be a ‘hobby’ business, something that I enjoyed but would just give part-time attention as I was consulting as the general manager of a Sydney-based business at the time, and had my house to design and rebuild as well as a 7-year-old son to look after. I set it up to grow organically, but I have been delighted with how quickly it has grown, and I now treat it as a serious company – it basically demanded my attention!
How did you diversify your offering?
The business really gained momentum after I styled the Kardashian Kollection launch at Hugos Lounge in Sydney with over 450 candles. I thought it would be a great showcase to help me with sales, but almost overnight it took me into developing the rental and styling side of the business too. Now I have hundreds of candles, as well as gorgeous lanterns, candlesticks, and other beautiful styling products for weddings and events.
What were the challenges you faced in setting up a company from scratch?
The biggest was keeping up with demand – I didn’t initially have the systems in place to manage a high volume of orders, which meant I spent a lot of time manually sorting out logistics, invoicing and stock management. That diminishes your ability to work on growing the business, developing relationships and increasing presence in the market – all the fun stuff that I was far more passionate about than sorting out spreadsheets.
The second was knowing when the time was right to bring someone into the company. From the very beginning, I contracted some very talented styling assistants to help me with bigger events and wedding fairs, but knowing when to invest in people to grow the business always felt like such a big step. The temptation to do it all yourself can result in complete burnout. If I had my time over I would invest in really good people much earlier to help with the basic day-to-day operations, and free myself up sooner to be able to work ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ it.
What’s your favourite way to style candles?
Well I have to say that hundreds of candles create magical lighting that literally has people gasping as they walk into any event. Candles never go out of style, however the way they’re styled can be so individual. My absolute favourite is combining our boho-style brass vases, candlesticks, bowls and cups I have collected over the years, with loads of candles and exquisite florals to create a feeling of eclectic, free-flowing decadence. I have to say candles are the one thing where in fact more is more!
Do you have any styling tips for a wedding or event?
I believe the secret is to understand what the client loves, what colours they adore, how they want the event to feel. My other big tip for venues is to create rooms or specific areas that have a purpose, with each area having a focus on a variation of the overall style. It helps create a journey for the guests and can highlight different features of the venue or the styling products themselves.
Where do you want Love and Protect to go in the future?
The future is very exciting. I will be focusing on growing our rental offering to include more gorgeous candlesticks and stands, from vintage silver, to gold candelabras, crystal glass stands and accessories.
We’ve recently expanded beyond Sydney, Hunter Valley and Newcastle to service Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Byron Bay too and I’d love to keep growing.
One of the most important things to me personally is that Love and Protect continues to give to charity and that our ability to contribute grows. We have contributed our product and event styling services to several fundraising events for Variety – The Children’s Charity, as well as to Redkite, the McGrath Foundation and the Australian Marine Conservation Society. It feels so wonderful to help make a difference. I really do feel very grateful and I am loving every step of the path that Love and Protect is taking.