Oddly enough, allergies and asthma have treated Amy Vance well.
That's because the Vancouver 39-year-old didn't let them beat her. Instead she found a way to use them to create a new business — one that's heading to Hollywood for a pre-Emmy party in September.
Vance, who's allergic to synthetic fragrances, has always had pounding headaches when exposed to normal petroleum-based wax candles. So about 3 1/2 years ago she decided to make her own candles with an organic, natural mixture of soy and plant extracts.
"I wanted a candle that I could burn without having an asthma attack," she said. "So I put these together with real plant extracts and oils."
The result was something that she could use every day with no risk of headaches, and it was also a means to start her own company, Vance Family Soy Candles.
"I started selling them at farmers markets," she said. "I didn't know if anybody else would care if they were synthetic-fragrance free, but people loved them."
Soy candles cost a little more to make, but use renewable materials, last longer and clean up more easily than wax candles. And if the dog or kids accidentally eat them, there's no health issue because the natural fragrance and soy in the candles are all natural and plant based, said the mother of three.
"It burns at a much lower temp and it burns more thorough," she said. "There's nothing left when you're done with them. And if you knock it over it cleans up with soap and water."
She also gives 10 percent of her profits to an assortment of charities, she said.
As her reputation spread, she found a couple of national online retailers that agreed to sell her products. And while the business is still small enough that it runs out of her house, Vance said it's been doing so well that she may soon look for some retail space in Vancouver.
One of her more popular offerings, the "Keep Portland Weird" candle she created with Music Millennium, smells of lemongrass, orange, spices, patchouli and organic coconut. It drew the nose of the makers of the TV show "Portlandia," who started using them on set. The candles are also given in gift baskets to guest stars on that show and on "Grimm."
"So somebody at some point — and I don't know who it was but I'd love to thank them — recommended my candles for the Emmy lounge," Vance said. "It's a pre-Emmy party where the stars get things like dresses, jewelry and get ready for the Emmys."
Apparently the Hollywood set liked them so much that they also asked her to fly down to the party to give a talk, she said.
"So I get to talk about my products and meet the stars," Vance said. "I don't know who will be there. But I think it'll be fun no matter who I meet."
Guests at the party will get a series of Vance's candles in their gift basket, including a Washington candle, an Oregon candle, the "Keep Portland Weird" candle and "probably a hand-blown glass one," she said.
She sells the candles at http://www.vancefamilysoycandles.com and at several local stores.
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