P.F. Candle Co.'s wife-and-husband team practices sustainability, inclusivity & community building
Learn how Kristen Pumphrey founded P.F. Candle Co. as an Etsy shop and one-person operation based out of a spare bedroom before her husband, Thomas Neuberger, joined the team, and how their values of putting the planet, people, and community first have helped propel the brand to international acclaim.
When Kristen Pumphrey founded P.F. Candle Co. in 2008, it began as a humble operation based out of her spare bedroom. From there, she sold scented vegan soy candles on Etsy, hoping it would lead to a breakthrough.
"I've always made things, so my whole goal was to make a living by selling my handmade goods," she reflects. "Candles were the item that really took off for me."
It was in 2013, after Pumphrey received her first large national order from furniture and home goods company West Elm, that her husband, Thomas Neuberger, joined the team to help take things to the next level.
Twelve years later, P.F. Candle Co. has evolved from a one-woman show to an international team of more than 70 passionate employees across three brick-and-mortar shops and e-commerce operations in America and the E.U. (If you're wondering, the P.F. stands from pommes frites, a phonetic play on the founder's last name that also translates to "fried potatoes" or "french fries.") Still, as a true LA Original, Pumphrey and Neuberger's home fragrance company remains committed to its progressive values of putting people, planet, and community first.
P.F. Candle Co.'s environmentally minded collection is vegan and cruelty-free, and all of their candles are made with wax from 100% domestically grown soy. And then, there's the diverse team that develops, produces, tests, packs, and ships P.F.'s products out of their LA warehouse, representing Black, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, and other local communities, and featuring plenty of women in leadership roles. Pumphrey and Neuberger are emphatic about inclusive hiring practices and place extreme value on supporting their employees.
"We're motivated by our community," Pumphrey explains. "We have incredible team members who work here and really supportive customers. What's priceless to us is being able to bring our whole self to work — to have a space where people are allowed to be themselves."
This open nature and lack of pretense have gone a long way in fostering a loyal customer base and content employees, and it pays homage to the company's humble beginnings. "We built our customer base by doing markets and craft fairs, so the personal customer connection has always driven our sales," explains Pumphrey. "Opening our shops was a way to create that space daily. We love to get to know our customers on a deeper level and find out how they're using a fragrance, what it reminds them of. Now that we're having more one-on-one experiences at the shop, we're able to build those personal relationships."
Pumphrey and Neuberger are grateful that the relationships they've built through the company have led to an increase in people discovering the benefits of aromatherapy through their candles, reed diffusers, incense, and other fragrances, especially with so many working from home. "We're incredibly fortunate that people are continuing to purchase candles and home fragrance. There's a real effort to create an intentional, cozy space at home."
To help aroma enthusiasts in training, the duo is in the process of completing their first book, At Home With Fragrance: Creating Modern Scents for Your Space, set to release in March 2021. Readers will learn how to incorporate fragrances into their spaces based on their design style, along with how to make their own candles, incense, and room sprays with custom scents.
As the company continues to grow and attract new fans, Pumphrey and Neuberger want to set an example for other small businesses by staying true to their core values of inclusivity, sustainability, and community. "We care about our customers, our staff, and our environment; we put them at the forefront when we're making important choices," says Neuberger. "Whether it's through great customer service, fair pay, or giving back to charities we work with — it's about more than the bottom line for us." Pumphrey, who makes sure her business donates annually to causes like Downtown Women's Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the LA Food Bank, adds, "Our ultimate goal is to create a welcoming atmosphere for people, whether that's through home fragrance or a supportive work environment. We want to give people a deeper connection to the products they use."