Friends With Leafage: Olly Rzysko
Welcome back to Friends With Leafage. Today we’re catching up with Olly Rzysko, founder of newly launched candle brand, Good Candles. If you haven’t seen Olly’s brand on your Insta feed over the last few weeks, then the algorithm really is broken. With each candle supporting a different cause, you can purchase with intention and donate some cash to a well dissevered charity too. Prior to wax pots and melter machines, Olly has worked with some incredible brands including Haeckels and LA-EVA, co-founded the climate solution company Ecologi and works as a CMO in the footwear industry by day. We really hope you’ll enjoy our chat!
Hi Olly! Thanks for joining us on Friends With Leafage today. We’d love for you to share a little more about who you are and what you’re currently up to?
I’m Olly, despite all the long fangled titles on Linkedin I’m a shopkeeper. I love retail and started working in the sector when I was 13. I think it is the most incredible industry. I’ve shifted from shopfloor, to buying, to digital strategy and marketing for a few fairly recognisable brands. Today you find me by the seaside in Broadstairs. It’s a village by the sea where I live with my daughter and my wife (who is expecting our second in 2021). I am like a very middle aged Batman/Bruce Wayne. By day I work for an incredible footwear business as their CMO but by night and Friday afternoons I run Good Candles and advise several environmentally focused businesses such as Ecologi.
We’re pretty obsessed with Good Candles and we love that a % of each sale goes towards a different cause. How did this idea come about?
Boxing Day 2019 was when it all fell into place. I was sat at my in-laws reading a book and it came to me. I had wanted to make something for ages and candles was the one that I kept coming back to but I didn’t want to make another generic brand to fill the shelves. I was very clear that this needed to do good.
So that was it. The brand name came immediately and I bought the domain and it all kinda happened organically. I really believe that businesses can operate for good, generate money for good causes and also make a profit and that is an important point to me. In three years we could be employing people, creating skilled jobs and improving many more lives.
I believe in second chances and that is something I am trying to support at every part of the business. From design, to supply chain, to scent creation and packaging. I have faith people can do great things when given the chance.
The design element was really important and although I knew what I wanted I am not an illustrator. I wanted everything to be done locally and randomly I stumbled upon Melanie Johnssonwho’s work really makes the Good Candles story unique. All done over lockdown via email we didn’t actually get to meet until the candles were finished. I look at them every day and think how lucky I was to find someone like Melanie.
Candles are quite boring in most shops, It is a sea of white boxes and black ribbon or very serious scents. Those are nice, but I wanted to make people feel special buying these, give them a moment to escape somewhere and put something on the shelf that starts a conversation. Have fun. Don’t grow up. It’s boring.
We have four candles out there in the wild today that support four different causes including The Literacy Trust, Campaign Against Living Miserably and The Trussell Trust. All of these causes are close to my heart for reasons I explain on the website. Each one has a story about the scent and what it relates to. These include my Grandad’s garden where he took his last steps, a very drunken weekend in Paris with my wife and the importance of the school tuck shop when I was growing up.
Next year we’re adding four more which will focus on period poverty and homelessness among other things and we have a few other surprises up our sleeve.
No. My life is odd, very strange at times but I love it. I have my day job which I love and that is very structured. Lists, diaries, precision and accuracy is what enable me to do that well. That takes 3-4 days of my week. When that is done I’m juggling the school run, decorating our house or trying to come up with some other daft idea. I work best when I am not chained to a desk 5 days a week and I have to feed my brain rather than just take stuff out of it. I read a lot of books, I listen to people and I like having lunch with interesting people.I made a promise to myself 6 years ago that I wouldn’t do anything unless I love doing it. That means I earn a lot less than I used to but I am infinitely happier. There’s a link in my instagram bio that talks to this in a bit more detail.
Previous to starting your own brand, you headed up digital teams for some incredible companies. How did you like to switch off and connect with nature during these times? Do you have any tips you can share with our community?
Yeah they were long days and I spent too much time on planes. It was fun but equally dull at times. Sitting in the fancy seats is all very nice but if you’re on your own it’s rather lonely. Nature has always been an important part of my downtime. I grew up by the beach and from an early age you walked on the beach every day. Moving to London I missed that so I used to escape to the coast and sit in my Dad’s garden and enjoy his hard work. He has a garden that is very much inspired by Japan and it is incredibly relaxing to look at. He doesn’t let me touch anything tough.
My first tip is GET A BIKE. I don’t know what I would do without mine. I experience the world on it, it’s really tactile as you feel the bumps, the wind and smell all that you whizz past. It can be cheap, it just needs two wheels and you can experience something incredible that you just don’t see from a car or a train. I use mine 2-3 times a week whatever the weather. This summer I hired a tandem with my friend Tom and we went for a ride together. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much. Do it. Get out there… and wear a helmet.
Second tip would be that if you travel for work get up early and go experience things. I used to travel a lot and people liked going to the hotel bar or somewhere nearby. I would prefer to get up early, get my trainers on and wander the streets and see things IRL. I used to love walking around Hong Kong or going for a (slow) run through Central Park before everyone is up. Life is really short, getting out before everyone else can be magical. It charges up the brain.
As we’ve all been at home a lot this year, have you adapted any new routines or rituals to keep your wellbeing in check?
Errrr yeah. I became a Peloton person as I really missed being able to go out on my bike and that was a really important part of my mental health staying in check. I’ve not baked though. I am terrible in the kitchen.
I also became quite disciplined about seeing / speaking to my friends. Just because you saw an instagram post about what Dan had for dinner doesn’t mean you know how he’s doing or what’s really going on. We need to bring that connection back.
School Dinners by Good Candles
Describe yourself in one word?
Name a book you’ve read that’s positively shaped you?
Alchemy by Rory Sutherland
If you could be any houseplant, what would it be?
Something you'd love to do more of?
Sing Disney songs with my daughter
Name your favourite podcast(s)?
Quickly Kevin - it’s a football podcast about the 90s. I’m all about the nostalgia
A destination you'd love to visit?
Naoshima - I would love to go back here and spend a few weeks on the island. It was life changing when I went with my family for just a few days
If you weren’t doing your current jobs, what would you be doing instead?
Working with local businesses to help them through the growth of eCommerce.