Who is Doc's Candles again?
Hi, this is Morten Carstensen, CEO of Doc's Candles. Let me tell you a little about our company, where we came from and where we are today. Normally you would only have a picture of the owner and a bla bla about the company which gives you zero information about who they really are. I would like you to know who we really are by telling you a little story:
Doc's Candles was born in 1997 in Lipa City, Philippines where we still produce hand-made candles, lanterns and hurricane candles in all shapes and sizes.
The company is owned by it's President and Founder Marichu L. Carstensen who still oversees production and quality in the main factory in Lipa City, Batangas, Philippines.
Like all start-ups Doc's Candles beginnings were small and humble. We started in the back-yard with just 3 workers until they joined a tradefair in Manila and received large US orders, forcing them to expand and build a factory in 1999. Back then I was working in shipping in Manila and Marichu was still a medical doctor. By 2000 we both resigned from our 'normal' jobs and teamed up around Doc's Candles full time.
We created a unique range of candles which we called applique and woven candles. We had a shell of candle pillar and then we laid on a braided or hand-cut wax design on the outside so that when you lit the candle it would illuminate beautifully from the inside. We only really had around 4 sizes back then which would be enough to withstand hundreds of designs as the design was put on the outside. Good for keep the material and R&D cost low to start with. Stainless steel molds still work today 20 years later amazingly. Marichu continued to innovate designs keeping clients coming back for more.
By knocking on doors in Manila such as SM, Regalong Pambahay, Kultura and Rustans I was able to get in the door with local wholesale which kept production hot when exports were low. Startuppers and SME's always ask me "export or local?" - I would say it should be a combination of both - why? because the local wholesale is all year round and just peaks around christmas. Export is seasonal and follows the EU/US calendar. Exports can come and go like the wind, nothing lasts forever...only local wholesale does if you nurture it well.
By 2003 we went into retail with kiosks stores in malls around Manila. It was tough but we decided it was the way forward so we could control sales, promote our brand and control price-points. We did well and hired staff to manage them under our strict supervision. In those days traffic was not that bad so we could from Lipa reach 3 stores in a day.
Fast forward a little and by 2005 we had 10 of our own stores and 10 franchises plotted in various malls all over The Philippines. Yes, we had gone into franchising.. took the plunge as you may say. I have mixed feelings over franchising but if you can not afford to expand on your own it's a good way to get more sales. If you can afford it, don't do it. Anyway, life was good and corporate gifts were sold as well. That added a huge revenue as we saw medical representatives eagerly wanting to give them to their local doctors as a gift. By 2007 you could not enter a medical clinic in Manila without seeing a candle on the shelf with a pharma logo on it...
By 2009 the crunch came in and we decided to take over some of the franchises and others folded. Chinese and Indonesian candles flooded the local retail space in the department stores forcing our prices down. Retail was hard to handle in and with theft, loss, management issues and increasing salary costs we decided to close them. Long story short, we decided to stay inside the Robinsons Department Store - why's that you may ask? Well, I thought it was a good decision at the time as the sales staff does not deal in cash and inventory etc is all streamlined. Eventually the department store found some Chinese concessionaires and competed with us just 2 meters away in their own store. We complained by to deaf ears so decided to close them and focus on export.
In 2010 we went back to exporting to European and US clients but there was a recession and high end candles were hard to push. By 2012 we made a joint-venture with another candle company called Deco Candles who had french ownership. 6 months later the factory had a fire and we found a new place for the factory a couple of months later. Needless to say it was a longest year of my life to get through a fire, manpower relocation, cash-flow issues but Marichu and I pulled through and rebooted the company with over 200 workers and a 40' container shipped out every Saturday. Most went to France mixed with Japan, Germany and US clients.
By 2014 our french partner decided to pull the plug on our orders and move it to their own factory in Tunisia. Thanks a lot for the warning shot frenchie! Anyway, long story short, due to the loss of the revenue to that client we had to close down and move back to Doc's Candles original factory where we are today. I dislike those french guys so much I don't have words for it. Let's just say that I have not eaten french fries for almost 5 years in protest...
Today Doc's Candles still operates their own factory outlet store but primarily sells online. We have built a cafe called The Candlelight Cafe on one of the wings of the old factory where people can sip coffee, have a meal and enjoy the thousands of candles we have made. Marichu has made an entire area where you can see the many collections we have made over the past 20 years which is open for anybody to come and see.
If you have read all this you are a true candle lover or a friend - so thank you and hope to see you for a cup of coffee in Lipa ;-)