Every now and then I find a candle company that I become obsessed with. I’ll go out and purchase an assortment of scents and place them in various spots around my apartment. For me, music and candles go hand in hand—I’ll rotate them depending on what playlist I’m listening to. Currently, my obsession lies with Valley Girl Apothecary. These handmade, 100% soy candles smell absolutely amazinggg, and as I sit here blasting Free Fallin’ I have the Ventura Blvd candle lit. The combination of coffee and vanilla has me mentally chilling somewhere in The Valley. Another one of my favorites is Valley Nights because the essence reminds me of a hot summer evening watching a movie at the drive-in theater. I’m also loving Nature Walk—a sweet fragrant scent of floral that I’ll be enjoying throughout the spring.
Different areas of Los Angeles are the driving force behind #GirlBoss founder Michelle Alvarado’s beautiful scents. I was so intrigued, I reached out to her to see if I could ask her a few questions about her business concept, the art of candle making, and how she finds her inspiration. She kindly agreed to be interviewed and give us the 411 on her operation (plus, a sneak peek into what she has in store for 2020).
PS: Here’s the playlist I curated to go along with these scents. These songs are inspired by areas and thoroughfares throughout The Valley, like Mulholland Drive, Ventura Blvd, and places like Topanga Canyon.-Xo.Kristie
When did you start Valley Girl Apothecary?
I started Valley Girl Apothecary in 2019 out of my family’s kitchen. The idea came after becoming somewhat unsatisfied with what I was doing in my career. My career was thriving, but I felt like I wasn’t and that I needed more. I talked to my boyfriend about it and he suggested we start a small business. After I attended a “lunch & learn” where the benefits of essential oils were discussed, I became interested in delving into the world of EOs. After some brainstorming, we decided to go with candles. We bought a $60 candle-making starter kit on Craigslist and started our small business.
How does Los Angeles inspire your business?
I was born in Los Angeles, CA but I moved to the San Fernando Valley when I was about 2 years old. I’ve always felt lucky to be from and live in California. From the picture-perfect scenery to the idyllic year-round weather, who wouldn't want to be from LA?!
Being from the Valley brought on a different kind of pride. Even though the SFV is a collection of cities, it has a small-town feel where everyone knows the same people and places. There are over 1.77 million people that call the San Fernando Valley home and I wanted to represent them by creating a product that was inspired by my surroundings.
What type of candles do you make and how long does it take to make each one?
I make 100% soy wax candles infused with essential oils and high-grade fragrance oils. I chose to use soy wax because I learned that paraffin wax, the cheaper and commonly used option, emits toxic fumes when burned. (This includes toluene and benzene which are also found in car fumes and cigarettes.) These fumes have been linked to lung cancer and asthma. I suffered from asthma for most of my childhood so I knew that I would not be using paraffin at all.
The entire process including curing takes about 72 hours. It takes roughly 30 minutes to make a small batch of candles but they then have to cure (set and dry) for about 48 hours prior to lighting. After that, we take them to post, which is where we clean, label and box the candle jars.
How do you choose your amazing scents?
My inspiration for the candle scents comes from my surroundings and my pride of being a Valley Girl.
No. 01 Northridge, is inspired by my time at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). I had the BEST time at this hometown university that many people think is just an extension of the local high school! The campus has an orange grove that’s super fragrant and served as my inspiration.
No. 04 Ventura Blvd, is inspired by my day job! I work in Entertainment insurance and the office I work from is located on Ventura Blvd. in Encino. Thousands of people work on Ventura Blvd. which is described as the Miracle Mile of the valley and there are countless coffee shops and office buildings. The scent for this candle is simple, coffee. It’s inspired by the endless amounts of coffee that are consumed in this highly-trafficked and hectic area.
How many sizes do your candles come in?
We actually just finalized our new size! It is a 14oz jar that is perfect for reuse once the candle runs out. It is a tall, amber glass jar that holds up to 16oz of liquid. Our standard size is a 10oz amber glass jar.
As an entrepreneur what is your biggest challenge?
Working a 9-5 job and then working on building up my own business on my off time. I am tired. I’ve been working 7 days a week since I started but I wouldn’t want it any other way! Less sleep, less shopping, less going out but I see the growth in my business and I know it’s worth it.
What do you love most about candle making?
My favorite part is coming up with the scent. It takes a lot of trial and error. Weighing out oils and wax and mixing different amounts of fragrances until I find the perfect blend.
What’s the best part of living L.A.?
There is always something to do and the weather is always perfect.
Do you have any new scents or products that we can look forward to in 2020?
I am currently working on a spring collection as well as a zodiac inspired line! I’m really into horoscopes and the zodiac so this has been super fun so far.
*Sponsored by Valley Girl Apothecary.
*This article contains some affiliate links.