Matthew Mewbourne was sitting in his room studying for a test one day when he glanced at a coffee mug he had made in high school, debating whether he should get back into creating ceramics. This seemingly insignificant moment gave birth to an idea of creating candles with a purpose.
“I always remember from ceramics and art shows and crafters or whatever, or even just going to people's houses is [that] people would buy a ceramics … And it's not really used,” Mewbourne said. “But I can incentivize you to use it and to put purpose to instead of just letting it waste away.”
Mewbourne is giving locals and others a chance to give back to the community through his homemade candle business, Rekindle Athens. He, along with Kayley Anderkin, founded Rekindle Athens in fall 2016.
The company sells candles in mason jars, tin cans and ceramics in a variety of fragrances. They use a mixture of synthetic and essential oils for fragrances such as Wassail and Cinnamon Chai. They sell online but first started with farmers markets.
The majority of Rekindle’s consumer base comes from farmers markets, underlying their value of interaction with the local community. Mewbourne said he loves how “freaking grassroots” it is to talk and share your products face to face with consumers.
“I guess we kind of tapped into this … people love buying candles … But people now want more of a reason to spend their money,” Anderkin said. “People are seeking to put their money towards something they actually believe in … They love supporting us, and so it's been a cool journey.”
But what makes this candle business unique is its founder's social initiatives for change within Athens.
To attain sustainability, the candles are made from soy wax, a cleaner alternative for the environment and one’s health compared to the petroleum-based paraffin wax that most commercial companies use. The wood wicks used in the candles are sourced from sustainable lumber mills which plant a tree for every $100 the mills make, according to the Rekindle website.
Most of the materials Mewbourne uses are recycled. Mason jars are bought from local or antique stores, the ceramics are homemade from Mewbourne or collaborations/features with local artists and the tin cans are purchased from local homeless organizations. The burlap used to decorate the tin cans is also recycled from 1000 Faces Coffee’s bean bags.
Rekindle also offers a 50% discount for refills to locals in Athens.
The company also works with local organizations such as Athens PBJ’s, Action Ministries at the Athens First Baptist Church and the Salvation Army. Rekindle Athens will give one dollar back for every tin can that the organizations give them.
Laura Degroot, a volunteer manager for Action Ministries, has recently started working in conjunction with Rekindle Athens. Action Ministries is a non-profit organization that provides food with an open door policy which can lead to a lot of tin cans left over. She went to the Christmastime market hosted at Big City Bread Cafe and saw Mewbourne’s sign outlining his company's initiatives.
From there, the two talked about the tin cans that are usually left from groups at the church and how they could be repurposed for the candles. The non-profit organization will use the money to lower the costs for the food they provide.
“If we’re getting $50 a month, that’s probably a lot of stuff that will buy like maybe all the coffee supplies that we’ve got … every little bit helps,” Degroot said. “It’s a model of really trying to be involved.”
Although Rekindle Athens has yet to buy any cans from them due to issues with the sizes, Degroot is excited for when they can use this method.
Rekindling the community
Rekindle Athens’ personal touch and value for the community is not something larger candle business can provide. For the future, they plan to expand outside Athens and created a parent name of “Rekindle” without losing that community aspect.
“I want people who don't know about us to know that we're a company that offers the opportunity and ability for a customer who wants to purchase quality aromatherapy products … Be able to help others in need and … promote sustainability,” Mewbourne said. “And you feel totally accepted [and welcome] before you even meet us.”
At the moment, Mewbourne is working from the dining room and kitchen in his own house, but after he graduates from UGA all of that will change. Not only are the Mewbourne and Anderkin getting married in May but they will open a physical location during the summer.
The location is in Monroe and they are planning to launch its opening sometime during late summer. They couldn’t open a building in Athens at the moment due to the expensive market, but that will not stop their interactions with the locals.
“We're very authentic and genuine. Like, what you see is what you get, this is who we are, and we want to be associated with, like our faces with the company,” Anderkin said. “We want them to know, this is our passion. This is why we're doing it.”