Simple Nature: This Fort Wayne company is striving to make the 'cleanest candle possible'

If you’ve been to Ft. Wayne's Farmers Market in the last year, then you’ve likely seen—or smelled—a Fort Wayne success story. 

Simple Nature Candles is the product of one entrepreneur's quest to produce and market a soy-based, small-batch, quality candle that doesn’t contain harmful chemicals. But it didn't start out that way, says the founder Derek Taylor. Actually, it started with soaps.

“For the first month, we were called Simple Soaps," Taylor explains. 'We were more focused on all-natural cleaners. But there were so many products, it was hard to keep up with all the demands.” Simple Nature Candles are sold at Ft. Wayne's Farmers Market on Saturday mornings downtown.

So Taylor made the pivot to a product with a more streamlined production process and began focusing on candles to fill a gap in the market.

While many candles add warmth and atmosphere to a space, they can also contribute to indoor air pollution by emitting particle matter or soot. According to data from the American Lung Association, chronic exposure to particle pollution can shorten life by one to three years.

As such, Taylor set out to answer a rhetorical question: How can we make the cleanest candle possible?

Using soy wax proved to be part of the solution.

“Soy is the most sustainable wax that I know of,” Taylor explains. “Most candle wax is petroleum based. That alone is bad, due to chemicals and indoor air pollution.”

About a year ago, Taylor launched Simple Nature Candles to create a solution for candle-lovers, and the brand has been well received by people looking for an alternative to toxin-laden formulas on the market.

His wanderlust scents and packaging resonate with his customer base, too.

"Explore," which has undertones of amber, plum, and cardamom, was the first scent he released, and it remains a bestseller. Taylor describes it as “nice and mellow.” 

Simple Nature candles are made in small batches to ensure quality.

Today, he has more than 30 candles available in a variety of aromatic profiles. Most of the names and the corresponding scents conjure up a sense of place, from Paris to Cincinnati—and everywhere in between. Many are inspired by Taylor's personal journies to the cities themselves and what he's picked up in their sights, sounds, smells, and culture.

His website describes them as "candles that take you places." The backside of each candle's label includes a clever description of its origins, too. Fellow Fort Wayne entrepreneur Robert Johnson, of Bukál fame, lent his creative talent to write the copy, Taylor says.

Customers can purchase Simple Nature Candles via multiple channels: direct-to-consumer, wholesale and e-commerce. Taylor estimates he’s made 5,000 candles during the last year, and he expects to sustain that momentum. Global trends seem to be in his favor.

The worldwide market for candles is expected to grow at a rate of more than 2 percent during the next five years, according to an industry group report.

Simple Nature candles can take you places.
Along with using soy wax, Taylor says another thing that sets his candles apart is that he is conscious about using as many natural ingredients as possible in the production process. For instance, his candles contain natural fragrance oils, and some only contain essential oils. 

Speaking of production, he started the business where many entrepreneurs do: In his home. In the future, he hopes to have a dedicated facility for his business. He also has his sights set on expansion in another area. He has set a goal to be in retailers in 20 states by the end of the year. 

In the meantime, he’s focused on keeping his mental game strong.

“I think the biggest struggle is trying to make a decision and stick with it,” he says. “What was correct last month and worked is not necessarily true anymore. You always have to be willing to reevaluate a certain path. Six months ago, this is not where I thought I would be.”
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Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a freelance contributor for Input Fort Wayne. A graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.