Meet the Maker... Lesleyanne Andrews, Orchard - Cheshire Candles*
In my Meet the Maker series, I profile makers across the creative industries, chatting to them about their lives, backgrounds, passions and the stories behind their businesses. This month, I talk to Lesleyanne Andrews, founder of eco soy wax candle brand, Orchard - Cheshire. Read on to learn about how Lesleyanne balances life as both an ICU Nurse and a small business owner…
"There's something really satisfying about people wanting to purchase something that you’ve made. When friends and family buy your product, you think they’re just being nice. But, when complete strangers want to buy your candles? That’s so rewarding..." I'm chatting to Lesleyanne Andrews, founder of Orchard - Cheshire, ICU nurse, and all-round superwoman.
I first discovered Orchard - Cheshire on Instagram (of course). Scrolling through my feed, I landed upon a post asking what the rest of the home interiors community does work-wise, and Lesleyanne's comment, posting as Orchard - Cheshire, really stood out to me: 'I'm an ICU nurse, as well as founding Orchard - Cheshire.' I was well and truly blown away. My next thought? I absolutely have to interview this womanboss! Which is how I came to be talking about the feeling of utmost satisfaction when someone buys something you've made. With your own two hands.
Lesleyanne has always been the creative type, but creativity was generally something that was done as a hobby. Until now, that is. "I’ve always been a nurse. I went into nursing when I was 16, as a cadet nurse, and I’ve done lots of various different things within nursing since," Lesleyanne tells me. After working on an alcohol treatment unit for "quite a number of years," Lesleyanne made the decision to work in Intensive Care. That was 18 years ago, and she's never looked back. "Life in Intensive Care is such a satisfying thing," Lesleyanne says. "When someone comes through the doors of ICU, they are literally dying, and if we can better that? Then we’ve done really well." 'I can't even begin to imagine how amazing it must feel to save someone's life,' I respond. "We lose a lot of people in Intensive Care; it’s the nature of it. But, that’s outweighed by the people who do get better," she offers.
So, despite working 14-hour shifts, how on earth did Lesleyanne manage to set-up Orchard - Cheshire? "As a single mum with two kids, [Lesleyanne was sadly widowed at 36] and with nursing salaries being what they are, I’ve always had other things that I’ve done," she reveals, adding, "I used to make curtains, way back when the boys were little, and then I started painting furniture." A back injury meant that the furniture painting had to be, excuse the pun, put on the back-burner.
Ever the multi-tasker, Lesleyanne had began to make candles, alongside the furniture painting, under the guise of The Little Vintage Candle Company. "I was inspired by another brand, but not for the right reasons!" Lesleyanne confesses. "I was gifted a well-known luxury candle, and every time I burnt the damned thing, I got black soot up the walls in my house." Curiosity got the better of her, and she ended up browsing the web in search of answers: "I started to look into it, in depth, and because I’ve got a medical background, I began to look at medical papers by respiratory consultants. They were all advocating for paraffin to be taken out of candles, because it exacerbates all of these respiratory conditions."
Before talking to Lesleyanne, it had never occurred to me that candles could have a negative effect on my health. I, like many others, try my best to look after myself. I don't smoke; barely drink; have never touched drugs, and do try to eat my five-a-day. The same can be said for Lesleyanne: "Bizarrely, it had never occurred to me that candles could be bad in any way," she agrees. But, after reading up on alternatives to the paraffin wax used more traditionally in candles, and spurred on by the candles she was already creating for friends and family, Lesleyanne decided to "give it a go."
Lesleyanne "messed around" with soy wax, which is an eco-friendly alternative to paraffin. "It took me probably about six months to get a candle that didn’t sink in the middle, or one where the wick didn’t collapse," she laughs. "I thought it would be really easy, but it really wasn’t that easy at all!" Never one to give up, Lesleyanne persevered and, after a solid few years of selling at craft markets, The Little Vintage Candle Company (as it was then known) began to get recognition from stand-alone stores. "I had to re-think my candles," Lesleyanne explains. "While they were great for craft fairs, they didn’t really look professional enough to go into shops, so I drafted in my youngest son, and we completely re-branded."
In March of this year, Orchard - Cheshire was born. The branding is beautiful: all clean lines; classic minimalism, and with the elegance we have come to associate with luxury candles. After our lengthy chat, Lesleyanne very kindly gifted me the candles that were sitting in my online shopping basket: a Raspberry & Peppercorn honey jar candle and a mini tin candle in Lemongrass & Ginger. They both came in the most luxurious of gift boxes and, true to the eco-friendly nature of the brand, the boxes are recyclable. Shortly after lighting my Lemongrass & Ginger candle, the room was filled with fragrance - the freshness of the lemongrass contrasting beautifully with the warmth of the ginger.
Although Orchard - Cheshire, as a brand, is a relative newcomer, Orchard - Cheshire, as a concept, is something Lesleyanne has perfected over the past few years. "People are always shocked that they can get such good fragrances, and such a long-lasting candle, for a third of the price of my competitors' candles," Lesleyanne tells me. Which is pretty ironic, considering the story of the black soot left behind by a certain luxury candle gifted to Lesleyanne all those years ago.
Unlike mass-produced candles, Lesleyanne has stuck to a few key product lines. "There is always the danger of overwhelming your customer with too many fragrance choices," she notes. At Orchard - Cheshire, there are two candle choices for each of the fragrance groups: Raspberry & Peppercorn and Peony Blush cover florals; Lime Basil & Mandarin and Lemongrass & Ginger cater to the citrusy palette; White Musk & Amber and Black Pomegranate are a musk-lover's go-to, and, of course, there are the traditional scents, like English Pear & Vanilla and Cassis & Fig. "I think I've got it down to a T now," Lesleyanne tells me. "I’ve certainly got candles that sell better than others, but I don’t think I have any one candle that doesn’t sell."
At 55, Lesleyanne has done her time, as it were, in the NHS. Does she have any plans to retire from nursing, and concentrate on Orchard - Cheshire full-time, I wonder? "I'm too young to not work," Lesleyanne quips. "I like the contrast between the ICU and candle-making; they’re so different." I get the impression that Lesleyanne likes to keep busy. With both sons now grown-up, and new partner, Lee, with his own business to run, spending days off from the stresses of life in Intensive Care appears to be a way of getting those creative juices flowing.
"Orchard - Cheshire candles are a little bit of me," Lesleyanne tells me. "They're my creativity, and passion, bottled into something as beautiful as a candle - something I can pass on to other people." Lesleyanne is always giving, you see. Whether that's helping out with Lee's business, saving lives in Intensive Care, or pouring her heart and soul into a candle that can be gifted to someone you love. I told you she's superwoman.
Orchard - Cheshire Candles are available to buy online at https://www.orchard-cheshire.co.uk as well as in selected stockists across the UK. Keep up-to-date with limited edition fragrances, and giveaways, by following Orchard - Cheshire on Instagram @orchardcheshire.
*Candles were gifted to me by Orchard - Cheshire. For more information, please refer to my disclaimer.