Brightening Up with Shy Wolf Candles Founder, Julie Klukas

It’s really an incredible thing to watch collaborations come to existence, but especially in a year like 2020, where small business needs more support than ever.

Sustainable, delicious-smelling, fairly priced and gorgeously branded, Shy Wolf candles stand to be a trailblazer in the world of luxe but responsible candle consumption.

The company’s founder, Julie Klukas started her business just 16 months ago and has managed to grow it, even during a global pandemic. Her story is remarkable, and her journey is just beginning. She recently collaborated with cannabis company San Rafael ‘71 to create a collection of candles reminiscent of the flavour notes in many of their blends – Tangerine Dream, Pink Kush and Delahaze. They smell amazing and are a nod to the early 70s, which both brands are heavily inspired by. All candles are hand-poured by Julie, in her studio, tucked away in the country village of Grey Highlands, Ontario. With cotton wicks, reusable glass amber jars, sustainably-grown soy wax, and clean-burning, premium fragrance oils, Shy Wolf candles are a purchase you can feel good about.

Julie, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

Hi there! I’m Julie Klukas, creator of Shy Wolf Candles. Every day at work looks different, but my favourite days are when I’m coming up with fragrance combinations for new collections, like the San Rafael ‘71 Collection. All of our fragrance blends are designed by myself in-house. Most days are a combination of pouring candles, answering emails, social media, and a lot of shipping. 

How did you get into this industry? Was entrepreneurship something you always wanted to do?

I thought of the idea for Shy Wolf in March 2019, before I had ever poured a candle, and I launched on Kickstarter five months later. With no previous experience in the candle making industry, I learned it all through trial and error as I melted wax on my kitchen stove. Once I had a wax and process I was happy with, I started creating custom fragrances that would evoke feelings of ritual, nostalgia and comfort based on tarot cards and some of my favourite classic vinyl records. 

I have always had an entrepreneurial side. I started a successful pet business when I was nine, and started with e-commerce in 2007 when I was 14 and would resell records I found at thrift shops on eBay. My business before Shy Wolf taught me a lot as it was also a product-based business that provided me with experience in wholesale and online retail. But I also have a passion for mental health work, and that was my full time job before I started Shy Wolf. 

Candles are the ultimate sign of relaxed luxury. How did you manage to stand out in an already saturated industry? (Because you really are something special!)

Thank you kindly! One of the things that sets Shy Wolf apart is our unique fragrances. Since all Shy Wolf candle fragrances are blended in-house, you’re probably not going to find an identical smelling candle elsewhere. The other main thing that sets shy wolf apart is where we draw our inspiration from. As an example, the San Rafael ‘71 collection was inspired by the brands top strains — Pink Kush, Tangerine Dream and Delahaze. The scents for these candles are unique and one-of-a-kind because we leveraged the top three dominant terpenes found in each aroma profile of the strains. The vinyl collection features songs inspired by classic rock songs, with fragrances that are blended to evoke the emotions that can be found in the music. On top of this, Shy Wolf is committed to using 100% sustainably grown soy wax, reusable glass jars, cotton wicks and phthalate-free, perfume-grade fragrance oils to ensure a top quality candle. 

Can your booming success also be attributed to the support from a community wanting to support a small business and live clean?

Absolutely! When COVID hit, I was worried it would be the end of Shy Wolf. As a one person, six month old company at the time, I figured that there would be no way to sustain enough sales during a pandemic to keep going. However, (happily!) I was quickly proven wrong by the most supportive community of folks who wanted to bring some comfort into their homes as they spent more time there. Support for small businesses skyrocketed during COVID as folks came together and chose to shop small instead of big box, and I’m so grateful to say that support hasn’t slowed down. And since all of the ingredients and components of our candles are clean burning and earth friendly, Shy Wolf candles were a purchase that people could feel good about bringing into their homes at a time when people became more aware than ever about the importance of living clean.

How does a collaboration like the one you did with San Rafael ‘71 come to be?

The brand reached out to me earlier this summer and I felt it would be the perfect fit. After all, both fans of Shy Wolf and San Rafael ‘71 appreciate the moments of ritual and pause in today’s fast-paced world, and know that good things come from the strike of a match. Furthermore, both Shy Wolf and San Rafael ’71 draw inspiration from the 70s, so our aesthetics were a seamless fit with one another.

Coming up with the blends for San Rafael 71’s Tangerine Dream, Delahaze and Pink Kush strains was definitely my biggest (yet most rewarding) challenge as a candlemaker. These strains are well known within the industry and I wanted to create a fragrance blend that captured the individual notes in the same way the terpenes of each strain are distinguishable in the dried flower.  It was important that San Rafael ‘71 lovers would immediately recognize the scents when they smelled the candle. We successfully launched on December 10th and the collection sold out in minutes!

How do you come up with the collections? There’s an obvious tie aesthetically to the 60s/70s/80s, are you a big music fan?

The tarot collection was the first collection I developed for Shy Wolf, and the source of my initial inspiration. My youngest sister was getting into tarot and introduced me to the practice, and when I saw her light candles before pulling her cards I thought it may be good to have a candle that has been created to channel the specific meaning of a card that holds some significance to a person. As I was coming up with the candle blends, I always had a steady mix of classic rock as a soundtrack playing in the background and eventually decided to also add in a collection of candles inspired by some of my favourite songs. I wasn’t sure if the two themes would work together under one brand, but the response has been fantastic from the get-go. I’m a huge music fan and love being able to translate a song into a scent. 

What’s next in 2021 for you? 

I’m planning on taking the month of January to really plan out the next year for Shy Wolf. At only 16 months old, the business has  been fortunate to experience such unexpected growth, especially during a pandemic, but the result was feeling like I was flying by the seat of my pants for most of the year (I’m sure most people can relate!). After planning out some new candles, swapping out some of the old ones, and testing the waters for a new product or two, I’m looking forward to growing our team even more, opening our gorgeous studio in Grey Highlands to the public as a retail space, and continuing to pour candles that have been enjoyed in every state and province.

We’re excited to join along on the journey. You can learn more about Shy Wolf Candles and San Rafael ‘71 on their website, and on Instagram