Francesca Chan of Artket Goods found a unique way to honor various Asian cultures through candles, with scents that range in inspiration from classic snacks to traditional medicines.
Chan, a 28-year-old full-time graphic designer in the medical field, launched her online business in January 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic to explore and share her own creativity.
As a plant lover, her business initially started as a “plant parent” collection of tote bags and mugs, but Chan soon realized that she could express herself more through candle making.
“I’m a huge foodie, so you’ll probably see that everything is related to food. I just thought that scent can kind of help me experiment and try new things. I believe that scent is the most efficient way to evoke specific memories,” Chan tells NextShark.
The candles, which are made with fragrance oils, require Chan to constantly taste the food or drinks they’re inspired by and smell test her mixtures.
“I feel like a scientist sometimes because I have to mix and test them out. Its a lot of eating snacks and drinking,” Chan admits.
Artket Good boasts over 15 scented candles, including South Korea’s Melona ice cream, the Philippine’s sampaguita flower, Japan’s grape-flavored Hi-Chew candy and China’s classic white rabbit candy. The business also offers candles inspired by Asian drinks, such as boba milk tea, banana milk, peach soju, matcha latte and Japanese ramune soda.
Chan, whose parents emigrated to Canada from Hong Kong when she was 9 years old, spent most of her childhood in Hong Kong and Vancouver.
She notes that her childhood was “filled with the flavors and experiences of Asian culture,” particularly recalling the many family or privately-owned corner stores in Asia that sell a variety of daily essentials and beloved snacks and treats. Chan explains that this business model eventually inspired her to create her own business in Toronto.
While she initially created Artket Goods alone, she was soon joined by her supportive partner and mother. While she and her partner focus on marketing in the U.S. and in the east side of Canada, her mother helps out in the west.
Although Artket Goods is mainly marketed online, Chan and her partner often participate in Toronto-based pop-up events, where they get to interact and witness their customers’ reactions.
“It’s a lot of feel-good moments. It’s really fun seeing reactions and how our customers provide their feedback to us,” Chan says, sharing moments with customers smelling their candles for the first time.
For example, she says her sampaguita candles, which are based on the national flower of the Philippines, often remind Filipino customers of home, particularly certain memories with their grandmothers. Chan was inspired to create the sampaguita-scented candle by her Filipino childhood nanny, who introduced her to Filipino food and culture.
Chan also took inspiration from her early years in Hong Kong, where a mix of Asian cultures are present and celebrated.
“Hong Kong in general was inspired by different people coming into Hong Kong. We do have a culture of K-drama. We also have street food in Hong Kong, like the bubble waffle pineapple bun. I also loved going to coffee shops and getting matcha,” she shares.
The 28-year-old says some of her other candles have the unique effect of evoking more distinct memories.
“It smells like a hangover, but in a good way,” a customer said of their bestseller peach soju candle, according to Chan.
As for their sriracha-flavored candle, its strong flaky pepper scent helped it become a popular gag gift. “I got a customer telling me they want to get it for their friend, so they can light it up to make their house smell like sriracha the whole day,” Chan shares.
Artket Goods’ latest project is its Asian medicine collection, which currently includes Tiger Ointment and White Flower Oil scents.
Chan shared that Tiger Ointment was inspired by her late grandmother.
These kinds of medicine, they’re all very essential in every Asian medical cabinet, and I tried to capture that. It took half a year to figure out all the ingredients. It was a lot of testing, making sure that each product does smell like how they are. It’s probably one of my biggest accomplishments where I gotta pat myself in the back moment.
While Chan sees social media marketing as a great advantage for her business, she is also trying to find ways to introduce her candles to larger markets.
“I think Asian candles are still a little niche, so hopefully there is a platform or space where I can bring it to bigger front stores to introduce these kinds of scents to more people,” she says.
Chan notes that stores often only carry generic candle scents, such as vanilla, cherry blossoms or lavender. But as Chan and her partner embrace Asian heritage in their candles, they hope more people and stores can be introduced to Asian-inspired scents.
“A dream of mine would be having it in store fronts. I want to show more because a lot of times Asian products are hidden in the corner and a lot of people don’t get introduced to Asian food or products and see just how good they are. I try to use scent as a way to bring them in,” Chan says.
ArtKet Goods’ Asian-inspired candles are available internationally through their official website.
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