Get to know our Founder, Erin Morgan!
Elm Design Candles was begun by Erin Morgan, in the Spring of 2020. After undergoing the heartbreaking loss of a dear family friend, Erin sought to heal her soul through creative endeavors, and stumbled upon candle making. The rest, as they say, is history. Or it will be in time. Here is a chat between the vivacious, open-hearted, force of nature herself, Erin Morgan, founder and creator of Elm Design, and me (Nécole). For imagery purposes, know that Erin has a radiant smile, and an ever-present, infectious laugh. This was present throughout much of our time talking.
Nécole: Tell me how Elm Design began. What was the event, or chain of events, that led you to create a business making and selling candles?
Erin: As a child, I was always creating: sewing Barbie clothes, painting, drawing…any way I could bring my imagination into the real world. Unfortunately, as I aged, creative pursuits took less precedence than the demands of day-to-day life. I explored my creative side again while battling breast cancer, but it wasn’t until November of 2019 that I would seek to nourish my creative side to once again heal my soul.
Nécole: What happened in your life at this point?
Erin: I had just decided to leave my long-time, stable, well-paying job to try another. I needed a change, but I wasn’t yet sure what I was after. The first day I started my new job, our (my husband and my) best friend, Leif, ended up in the hospital with Stage 4 melanoma. He died two days later, on his 46th birthday. His loss devastated our community, our circle of friends, and our family. We were all sinking into a deep grief, and I knew I needed a way to help raise myself from the depths of this grieving. Somehow, I stumbled upon candle making, and immediately fell in love with the process.
The scents, the creating process…it was amazing and soul-filling. I started giving away candles as gifts, and people loved them! I wasn’t finding fulfillment in my new career, and couldn’t wait for each day to end, so I could get home to continue exploring my new craft.
After a year of making candles on the side and working full time at a “safe” job, I decided to take the leap. I left my job to pursue my passion.
Nécole: I imagine this was quite a massive leap! How did it feel for you?
Erin: Terrifying, exciting, overwhelming! All sorts of emotions ran through me…they still do!
I started believing in myself and putting energy out into the universe that this was going to work. I reached out to local vendors, presenting my products, and to my great surprise, they loved them! I now have fifteen wholesale stores selling my products, eleven on Whidbey, and four off-island.
Nécole: That is a huge feat! Not only to take the risk of starting your own business, but to bet on yourself, and what you have to offer! What is it about Whidbey that inspires you to name many of your products after local places?
Erin: Growing up on Whidbey Island, I couldn’t wait to get off the rock, and explore the world. Little did I know that Bellingham (and Western Washington University) was far enough for me! My happy places are in the woods with my family and my dog, on the beach, in the lakes, or in my kayak…anywhere in nature.
The island community is another reason I love Whidbey. When I was battling cancer, this incredible community came together and raised $50,000 for my medical bills. I have always wanted to honor that gift, but until I started Elm Design, I never knew how to do so. Now I have the chance to honor all the special places and people, while giving a powerful aromatherapy experience based on my love of our island home.
Nécole: I love that. So few of us figure out a way to give back, while also generating an income that allows us to live, and do good work in the world. As a small business owner, what do you offer that other candle companies do not?
Erin: We are Whidbey-centric! At Elm Design, we strive to recreate the essence of living on this serene, laid-back, nature-filled island. From the smells and inspiration of the salt water and cedar forests, we infuse our products with the never-ending beauty of Whidbey Island.
We create everything by hand. Every vessel, every wick, every label is touched by our hands, as we go through the process of ensuring we provide a high-quality product that customers love and can rely on.
We have a high standard for ingredients in our products. I only purchase fragrance oils from one company that has a rigorous testing process in place for all of their oils. If it isn’t clean, I don’t buy it.
We strive to use eco-friendly vessels, and sustainable practices in our business.
Nécole: That is why your candles and diffusers are so amazing! The love you put into each creation truly shows. Where do you see Elm Design in five years’ time?
Erin: I’d love to see Elm Design products offered around the country, with an emphasis on the Pacific Northwest. We will have a dedicated production space, rather than my kitchen and upstairs office! It is my goal to have Elm Design achieve financial stability, and to offer full time jobs to staff. We will continue to create innovative scents that our customers can’t get enough of…fragrances that lift them from the boring, day to day grind…that brighten their mornings, wrap their sorrows and grief in love, bring back memories of loved ones, and bring about much needed smiles and joy.
Nécole: That is a grand, and no doubt, very achievable goal for you! Last question: what is your favorite scent?
Erin: I love all of our scents, so it’s impossible to narrow it down to just one…but I do have a few top favs! I tend to gravitate towards earthy, musky scents, so I love Hippie Bookworm, in all its spicy, earthy sexiness! I also absolutely adore the Root Chakra scent, with its grounding frankincense and spicy ginger notes. And I can never get enough of our Sacral Chakra scent either! It has warm sandalwood blended with bright, sunny citrus notes.
Nécole: It’s no wonder you make such beautiful creations! Combining your passion for creating, with your love of your home island…it really does seem like you’re living the dream here.
About the author:
An island transplant of ten years, Nécole is a native Pacific Northwesterner. Having spent years reveling in travel and living an expat lifestyle overseas, she ultimately landed here on Whidbey Island. Nécole immediately felt a pull on her heart, announcing that she’d found Home.
Nécole loves the ocean, reads obsessively, talks incessantly, writes sporadically, and laughs exactly the right amount. (Which is loudly, and often.) When not teaching yoga or socializing, she can generally be found in her favorite indoor space: the kitchen.
To read more about aromatherapy and mental health click here.