Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
Transporting your home to some of the world’s most irresistible destinations, Hotel Lobby Candle creates five-star fragrances inspired by some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Basically, Hotel Lobby Candle lets you check into your dream destination faster than Airbnb. Keep reading to find out how Lindsay Silberman (@lindsaysilb), the editor turned influencer and now an entrepreneur, has changed the way you shop for candles.
You have an extensive background that spans multiple different industries. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your journey to becoming an entrepreneur?
LS: “I started my career as a magazine editor. I went to school for magazine journalism, and all throughout college I interned at magazines. After I graduated, I got a job at a business magazine, which was not exactly my dream job, but I always say that if you can write about something that is not your expertise, then you can really write about anything.”
“Fast forward, I spent about ten years in magazines – either on staff or freelance – and I got to have a lot of amazing experiences in editorial. I wrote for Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, CNN and, most recently, I was the Deputy Digital Editor at Town & Country. In that role, I oversaw our digital content on both Town & Country and ELLE Decor.”
“In 2018, I decided to take the leap to do what I am doing now full time. My Instagram following had started to grow, and I saw a lot of other people making a career out of being an influencer. I knew with my background, experience and contacts, that I could take a stab at it and see what happened. Here we are three years later and I am doing this full time and have launched a product.”
Can you describe the process of launching Hotel Lobby Candle and how it was different from launching your digital platform?
LS: “It is really insane to think about everything that has happened in the past year. There were so many moments in the process of building Hotel Lobby Candle where I didn’t think that it would ever see the light of day. Thankfully, I did not listen to all those doubtful voices in my head because if I had, then I wouldn't be where I am today.”
“I spent a lot of time traveling and loved how many fancy hotels had a signature scent. There was one hotel in particular where I stayed at their location in Hong Kong and I remember I loved the smell there. Five years later, I walked into a hotel in Sydney, Australia – it was the same brand – I immediately smelled that same fragrance and was transported back to Hong Kong. I thought from a branding and marketing perspective it was so genius that you could create this recognition and memory through scent.”
“I would fall in love with these hotel smells and I would try to find candles or diffusers that smell similar. I didn’t understand why it was so hard to find what those scents were, or a company that made them. So, I thought, why don’t I make a cool brand inspired by the smells in luxury hotels?”
“There is something very straightforward about the name ‘Hotel Lobby Candle’ because that literally is what it is. I kept trying to come up with all these concepts and watched TED talks about how to name a brand, and nothing felt right. So, why overcomplicate it? Let’s just call it what it is: Hotel Lobby Candle.”
What about the DTC space excites you?
LS: “I love that we have such direct and open communication with the people who buy our candles. I get immediate feedback and correspond with people all the time. Since a lot of our customers are also followers, people love to tell me what they ordered or ask me my opinion on what scent they should get. Because we have this open dialogue with our followers and customers, it makes the experience so fulfilling.”
“This holiday season, one of the scents we launched is called Chalet and it has a lot of spicy cinnamon notes and comes in a deep red vessel. I knew that I wanted to launch a new scent for the holiday, but I was too in my head about what type of scent it should be. So, I used my audience as a focus group and asked what their dream holiday candle smell would be. Surprisingly, 75 percent of people said something cinnamon-related and I honestly hadn’t really even been thinking about that, which told me that was the direction we needed to go. We also asked what color they would want the glass to be. People responded wanting a deep red for the holiday, so that is what we did, too. It’s things like that which make it very interesting and cool for the buyer to have a direct say in what the final products look like.”
What dreams and goals do you have for Hotel Lobby Candle as you continue to grow?
LS: “Just thinking about the short term for next year, we are already exploring other home fragrance products, but I am not in a rush. Right now we have the candle thing down and there are little tweaks we are always trying to make here and there, but I want to expand categories only when we find everything that is exactly right – the right vessels, the right packaging, the right formulas.”
“This year we got a ton of inquiries from retailers that wanted to stock the candles, but we just didn’t have the inventory or the bandwidth to take on any wholesale accounts. So, that is definitely something we are thinking a lot about for 2022.”
With so many candle brands on the market, what sets Hotel Lobby Candle apart from all the rest?
LS: “When I was thinking about the concept and our launch, I was definitely nervous that there was too much competition. Who needs another candle brand? But, I do think that our point of view – the concept of travel and hotels – is something that really resonates with people. We want everyone to feel, even if they are not traveling around the world, that they can still bring that experience into their homes.”
“We also really pride ourselves on quality and luxury from the ingredients to the beautiful packaging. Our vessels are hand-painted and the wax is hand-poured. The box has a hand-tied ribbon, and in terms of gift-giving, we wanted to focus on offering something really special to open.
“Our wax is soy, which a lot of big candle brands use blends of paraffins and other things that aren’t great for you. You really don’t want to be inhaling that kind of stuff, but a lot of companies use it because it is cheaper and it holds the scent stronger. We also really encourage people to reuse them after they finish burning because the sustainability aspect is really important to us.”
As an influencer-founded brand, what are your thoughts on the continued rise of celebrity & influencer-founded companies?
LS: “The bottom line is people need to be able to sell their product. If they haven't cultivated that trust and support system from their audience, they can launch as many brands as they want, but they won't make money and it won't have longevity.”
“At the end of the day, my goal is to not be the face of Hotel Lobby Candle. I would prefer that people hear about the brand and then find out about me later. Success for me would be someone becoming a fan of the brand, loving it, and then later finding out that it was founded by a woman who used to be an editor and left her job. I get really excited when I see people posting and tagging Hotel Lobby Candle, and if I look at their account and see that they aren’t following me, that’s an amazing sign.”
Being a founder featured in our “Quality Makers” series, what does “quality” mean to you?
LS: “I am a perfectionist and obsessive to the point of it being crippling. There were so many points throughout the process where I didn't think the final product wasn’t everything I had dreamed up in my head. I needed to reach a point where I was so proud of what we created that I was truly happy to put my name behind it.”
“Shortly before we launched, I switched our manufacturer because I felt that the original manufacturer wasn’t on board, and we weren’t getting the quality that we wanted. So, two months before we launched, we fired that manufacturer and started all over with someone new.”
“To me, that is quality – being unwilling to compromise when it is something that you put your name on and caring about every single little aspect. The wicks had to be perfect, the wax had to be perfect and even the painting on the glass had to be perfect.”
(Late) Check Out
Looking to check into an entirely new destination when you come home? We’ve all been there – hoping our apartment or home would transform into the penthouse of a luxurious hotel in the Swiss Alps or magically become a floating villa in the Maldives. Thankfully, Hotel Lobby Candle brings you one step closer to the destination of your dreams.
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