When you light a Bentley & Hart candle, you’re not just filling your home with the most invigorating and sumptuous fragrance, but shining a positive light for people with disabilities.
Auckland candle brand Bentley & Hart was founded in 2015 with a view to develop a business that could create an employment pathway for Julie and Bryan Hart’s 24-year-old daughter, Daniella, who was diagnosed with autism as a young child. Finding pathways to employment limited, the three embarked on a journey in a niche industry that would develop fantastic opportunities for Daniella and others like her.
What challenges does Daniella face as a young woman with Autism?
“Daniella was diagnosed as a young child and although very positive and outgoing by nature, she struggles to communicate effectively or recognise social norms in a professional workplace. This made it difficult for her to get a job,” says her mum, Julie.
Julie had produced candles as a hobby for several years and liked the idea of creating a premium product; coupled with the business mission to offer employment opportunities for people with disabilities, the enterprise allows candle lovers to contribute to the social sustainability of communities around New Zealand.
“When it came to discussing business ideas, any venture entered into had to be something that could promote employment for people with disabilities in a positive light – a creative, safe work environment that provides opportunities for others who may have struggled in a conventional workforce,” she adds.
Daniella venturing into the workforce was a life event Bryan and Julie had been anxiously anticipating over the years, and were always aware finding work in a safe, structured environment would be difficult.
How has this impacted her quest to find employment?
“There was a lack of jobs available that we felt confident Daniella could complete 100 percent without help. Although she has completed Work Ready courses through MIT and undertaken work experience, it was hard to find a job which suited her need for routine.”
With jobs requiring a certain amount of flexibility from employees, this is something that people with autism struggle with and requires extreme amounts of patience and compassion from employers and co-workers in order to be successful in the workplace.
“Being flexible is not a strength of Daniella’s. She is also easily manipulated and as parents, we needed to ensure her safety,” says Julie as she delves into the daily difficulties people with autism face.
“Recognising social cues and adhering to her personal space can be an issue for her. She does not like any sort of negativity so finding an employer who could remain positive 100 percent of the time was going to be a real challenge.”
The art of Chandlery
The Hart family travelled internationally in 2017, investigating chandlery businesses and products in retail outlets and expanding their knowledge through studying the art of chandlery.
Upon returning to New Zealand, the trio brought back with them the art of crafting hand-poured, luxurious candles that not only look stunning, but have the ability to fill a room with the most invigorating and sumptuous fragrance. Professional brand developers were commissioned to produce concept designs and in 2019 Bentley & Hart launched; a loving result of a project borne to help overcome the challenges faced by this Kiwi family.
Bentley & Hart’s first collection of candles, one by one encompasses the meticulous, step-by-step process behind their opulent scented candles, lovingly made with exquisite scents to soothe or revive the soul. From every sale, the team donate $1 to special causes and New Zealand charities.
The one by one collection is available in 12 divine scents; from the luscious cosiness of Cashmeran & Rose, the invigorating, herbaceous blend of Green Tea & Bergamot, to the fresh and floral Linen Blossom, perfect for adding to your shower or bath routine.
The team’s favourites vary from oriental fusions, to smoky spices, to sweet and tantalising notes; Julie’s is the enticing exotic ambience of Oriental Orchid while Bryan has a fondness for the more masculine of the collection, Spice Verbum.
Bella’s Candle: a celebration of beachy, summer days
Daniella’s love for beachy summer days combined with her innocent and joyful nature inspired the creation of the collection’s hero candle: Bella’s Candle (a reference to Daniella’s nickname) and its tantalising top notes of sweet candy through to the base notes of vanilla amber, makes this candle her top pick.
“Bella’s Candle embodies all of Daniella’s favourite things about summer like vanilla ice cream and candy floss. She chose blue as the colour for her candle jar and picked the exact shade of blue she wanted.”
Collaborating with professional perfumers to develop bespoke fragrances is a rewarding and fun part of the job and creating something stunning to be enjoyed at home led to the establishment of regular candle making workshops. Here is where fellow candle lovers can learn the art of chandlery and tips and tricks such as understanding the fragrance pyramid and the importance of temperature in candle making.
The workshops also give Daniella face-to-face time with customers as well as the opportunity to participate in the running of the events.
“She has a checklist of what is required to set up each tray and enjoys checking each item off. She also helps me with the catering. Her favourite part is recording which fragrances people choose, and then ranking them in order from most popular to least!”
In what ways have you seen Bella grow within herself since starting B&H?
Bryan and Julie beam about the incredible changes they have witnessed in their daughter and her self-confidence.
“Daniella is less anxious now that she knows what is required from her and has her routine. She is able to make a candle from scratch, from weighing the wax and fragrance, cleaning the jar, setting the wick, and mixing and pouring at the correct temperatures.”
Julie admits it has been tough letting go and giving the young woman a bit more independence but is so proud as to how far she has come.
“I’ve learnt to step back and give her more responsibility. When she was at school the constant change was very unsettling for her and she was extremely anxious all the time so I would often step in to make life easier for her. She is now much calmer, and she surprises me daily with what she can achieve.”
“I’ve gotten to experience her positivity on a daily basis. Daniella never lets things get her down, she is always happy and bubbly and invariably singing!” says Daniella’s dad, Bryan.
Both have also been surprised at how much she has relished her role in the business.
“She loves having her photo taken for Instagram and ‘the business’ which is a major achievement as she once had a severe phobia of cameras, even when they weren’t aimed at her!”
This month, this small business of three will be launching into the wedding market, developing a collection of customised wedding candles (available in June).
“Our friends and family are seeing their children marry and we’ve had many discussions on how couples can express their thanks and gratitude to their wedding guests or bridal party with gifts that are elegant but also personal,” says Bryan.