What started as a hobby quickly became a viable business for Angel Vu, who got into candle-making for fun at the onset of the pandemic and began selling her creations online. At first she said she was just getting orders from family and friends but then strangers started buying her products as well.
“Over time I started not recognizing the names on orders,” she said. “That’s when it felt real.”
Vu’s business, Blow Me Candle Co., opened a new storefront on Main Street in May.
She moved to Santa Monica in 2020 from New Orleans with her daughter and partner. She said they had been wanting to move to the West Coast and Santa Monica “just felt right.” She loved the proximity to the beach, community feel, downtown area and near-constant sunshine.
“I always tell my friend – the sun just shines different in Santa Monica,’’ she said.
When they first moved into their new place, Vu said that the living room and dining table were covered with boxes, the result of her increasingly successful on-line candle venture. In July 2021 she opened her first store in a small space in Ocean Park.
“It was like a closet,” she said, adding that it didn’t even have a toilet. “We had to ask our neighbors to use the bathroom or just go to the beach.”
Vu said making the decision to transition to the larger Main Street location was scary, but thinks it has paid off. Since opening, she said a mix of tourists and local residents have been coming in.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” she said.
All of her candles use soy wax and wood wicks and are made by hand, on-site. Vu, who has a background in graphic design, does all of the company’s branding herself and also comes up with the store’s unique array of playfully named scents including ‘living my zest life,’ ‘vitamin sea’ and ‘I wanna be a melon-aire.’
“I love picking scents that trigger memories,” she said. “I want people to be like ‘that reminds me of my dad or that reminds me of my favorite cereal.’”
As for the business name, Vu said she just thought of it one day when she first started making candles, and it made her chuckle. She told her partner about it and he got it trademarked which she thought was “extra” at the time, but is now very glad he did. She hopes it makes other people laugh too and also catches their attention. She said not everyone has gotten it, but it has brought people in.
She said people have come in multiple times ordering lattes, thinking that the candle-making equipment was a coffee maker. One woman asked to set up an appointment to get her hair blown out, thinking it was a salon.
“We’ve gotten all kinds of crazy questions,” Vu said.
Candles are the focal point of the store, but Vu says she tries to “have a little bit of something for everyone.” The store also sells soap, pet toys, apparel and other products which Vu sources from other small businesses. She also hosts monthly workshop events for those interested in getting into candle-making themselves.
Going into the future, Vu hopes to expand to other locations, but wants Santa Monica to remain her flagship store.
“We love this community,” she said. “Everyone has been so kind and welcoming.”