It’s no surprise that connection is a core value for Keap Candles—a candle company that strives to create beautiful moments in their customers’ lives while maintaining a strong focus on sustainability and their relationship with the earth.
On season three of our Hit Subscribe podcast, we sat down with Stephen Tracy, founder of Keap Candles, to discuss how the company measures customer success and their strong commitment to keeping the earth healthy. By keeping their vision at the forefront of everything they do, Keap Candles has found their way into people’s homes and hearts.
About Keap Candles
When you visit Keap Candles’ website, you’ll see the tagline, “Restore yourself and the planet.” With this one simple sentence, shoppers understand immediately that Keap Candles is a company that cares about people and the earth. Located just two hours north of New York City, Keap Candles makes scented candles with a zero-waste approach, aimed at providing much-needed moments of connection in their customers’ lives.
“Through the scents and through the stories…it’s all about this idea of helping build rituals of connection back into people’s lives.”–Stephen Tracey, Founder, Keap Candles
Connectivity vs. connection
As a former employee at Google during the early 2010s, when Facebook and Instagram were gaining popularity and a permanent place in people’s lives, Stephen realized that not enough people were talking about the things we were losing as technology took a bigger role. He saw how conversations with friends were beginning to take place online, instead of in person, and started to question it.
“What does it look like if we spend 90% of our lives on our phones, instead of around other people? What does it mean when we spend more time seeing nature through a screen than actually being able to go and visit natural settings?”–Stephen Tracey, Founder, Keap Candles
At the end of the day, Stephen told us, the only thing that “felt real” was coming home, lighting a candle, and opening a bottle of wine. It felt good to have this ritual at home—simple pleasures like candles, wine, and friends were the parts of life that Stephen wanted to hold onto, and what led him to his co-founder, Harry Doull.
Breaking into candles
Stephen and Harry began to talk about how much they loved candles and how scents can connect you to the present moment. They realized new major players hadn’t broken into the candle industry and asked questions in a long time—meaning they either had to wait for the industry to change or be that change themselves.
Driven by the belief that candles could be a product that leads to deeper conversations around the world, Keap Candles was born.
The natural opportunity for subscriptions
Because candles need to be replaced, subscriptions were a natural choice for Keap Candles. However, they kept connection with the customer at the top of their priorities, creating an experience around their candle subscription that feels personal and warm. As Stephen pointed out, they wanted to offer something that people would look forward to receiving.
“This could be the type of subscription that’s a bit more joyful and like a present arriving to your door every month.”–Stephen Tracey, Founder, Keap Candles
With subscriptions, Keap Candles saw a 48% increase in customer lifetime value (LTV). As they’ve grown, they’ve gone from including handwritten notes in their packages to adding fun accessories to their boxes—like a custom matchbox, and a mini candle previewing next month’s fragrance. With the addition of different scents to match the seasons, Keap Candles keeps their subscribers interested and excited to receive their package each month.
Measuring customer love
Of course, thinking about data is crucial to subscription businesses looking to hone in on their retention and growing customer lifetime value (LTV). Keap Candles, however, has chosen an alternative route—instead of talking about customer support, they measure their customer success in terms of love.
Stephen points out that as human beings, we all love to connect with other people. When you treat someone well, that comes back to you. So they’ve given customer notes—which they’ve coined “love letters”—a permanent spot on their website for all to read.
What sustainability means to Keap Candles
Talking about sustainability inevitably comes up in any conversation with Keap Candles. They’ve made it a priority from the beginning, and it shows—in how they run their business, on their website, and why customers keep coming back. As competition increases in the direct-to-consumer space, brands have to make their values known not only to stand out from the crowd, but also to attract the right kind of customers.
One of the major ideas that drove Keap Candles is the concept of “no waste.” As Stephen shared with us, nature generally doesn’t have a concept of waste—anything that seems to be waste is actually a starting point for another process. You may remember this from a high school biology class. By applying this lens into every aspect of their business, Keap Candles has been able to create a company that produces no waste.
“Are we behaving in this way that’s going to effectively mean we’re integrated within this great web of life or are we somehow breaking ourselves away from it?”–Stephen Tracey, Founder, Keap Candles
In order to fully embrace this concept, Keap Candles had to break down every aspect of their business: how the candles are made, every material used in making the candles, materials used to package them, etc. Stephen said that once you start looking at all of this, you even start to see the bigger picture—how employees are treated, how you interact in your local neighborhoods, your relationships with suppliers.
They also want to share this message of sustainability with the world, to encourage others to question decisions they make in their businesses or in their day-to-day lives, and how we can make better ones for the future of the earth. Keap Candles tells stories on their blog and with their newsletter, with the goal of inspiring others.
 How Keap Candles prioritizes sustainability (Hit Subscribe podcast)
 Keap Candles increased LTV with flexible subscriptions (Recharge )
 Direct-to-consumer (Recharge ecommerce glossary)