It’s gift season. It’s candle season. It’s spend all your money because the sun sets at 4:45 p.m. so what else are you going to do season. Luckily, there’s a D.C. business that fills all those very important niches. Frères Branchiaux was founded by Collin Gill, Ryan Gill and Austin Gill, three D.C. brothers who just wanted to buy nerf guns and video games. To come up with the funds, they started making candles and the business has taken off ever since. Not only are they now carried in Macy’s, but they travel around the country, selling their candles at different festivals and markets.
We called up the three brothers (and their mom) to chat about how they manage their busy schedules, what their favorite scents are and how they got involved working with charities. Check it all out below and don’t forget to load up on some candles when you’re done.
How did you start your business?
Collin: We started the business because we wanted to buy games and nerf guns and our mom said no. She said, “Get a job or start a business.”
Why did you guys decide to go with candles and bath stuff?
Collin: First, we started off with bath bombs, but my brother has allergies and he couldn’t make the bath bombs. Our mom knows how to make candles, so she taught us.
Celena: We also homeschool, so we incorporated it into science lessons, chemistry experiments really. We learned how to do bath bombs, but like we said, Austin has allergies and the soaps bother him, so he couldn’t make them. So we learned how to do hot and cold process soaps. Ryan still makes soap and Collin makes bath bombs by himself because he says it’s very relaxing. I might help him, or my husband might help him, but he does really it by himself. We chose candles because it was something the three of them could do with little supervision.
How do you guys decide what you’re going to do scent-wise? How do you create a new kind of candle?
Ryan: We mix two or more scents together, to make one, and then we let our family members choose if we should make the candle or not.
Collin: Also, we sit down, we get a bunch of scents and we smell each one. Then, if there’s a candle we want to make, we write it down.
How often do you guys do that?
Collin: Every couple months.
Ryan: Twice a month.
Celena: Making a new candle means making a new label and getting a new UPC code, so there’s a lot involved in getting a new candle. Like Collin was saying, we might introduce a new candle every two months, but like Ryan was saying, they might have new ideas twice a month.
What are your favorite candles right now?
Austin: Mine is Lime Cotton.
Ryan: My favorite is Cinnamon Pump.
Collin: My favorite is Black Leaves.
You guys are clearly very busy, you’re running a business, you’re going to school, you’re enjoying those nerf guns, how do you make the time to do everything?
Austin: We have schedules for everything! And we only make the candles after we do homeschool.
Celena: We have to have a really well regulated schedule and calendar. Sometimes we’ll overlap, and when we overlap is when we have a problem. So we have to make sure the sporting events are on it, the community events are on it, my husband and myself are on it, doctor appointments, everything. Every now and then someone gets double booked without realizing it.
That happens in my life and I’m just running myself. What’s an average day like for you guys?
Collin: A normal day for us, first we wake up and do our homeschool work. Then while we’re doing our work, our mom and dad will start making the labels for the candles. Or getting the candles ready. After homeschool, we make the candles and do everything we need for them. Then, my little brothers will go outside and come back in and then probably make some more candles.
Celena: Collin plays football, Ryan plays baseball and Austin plays soccer. So depending on the day, someone will either have a game or practice… But most of the time, during the summer and spring, when we’re a little less busy, we make candles maybe three days a week. Now we’re in full swing and it’s candle season.
They’re in 20 or 21 stores, but they debut in Macy’s in two weeks. It’s called the Market at Macy’s. Every day more people enquire, and it’s a good thing, but now we know we need to move it out of the house. It’s taken up the first floor of our house, completely. And as the kids are growing up, they have different interests, and we still want them to be kids. So we have to balance them being kids and also little businessmen. We don’t want them to regret being in business, we want them to enjoy being kids.
How many candles do you have to produce a week now?
Collin: A hundred?
Celena: At least a hundred. At minimum. Sometimes if we have a festival, we know we have to have at least 200-300 candles. We did the H Street Festival, which was amazing, and I think they sold 100-200 candles that day.
What’s your favorite part about owning a business?
Collin: We get to make our own money. And it’s our product.
Ryan: I can buy my own toys!
Austin: I don’t know what my favorite part is.
Celena: Austin is 8-years-old, so you may get an answer our of him, you may not. Who knows.
Austin: I like traveling!
Ryan: Me too, me too.
Celena: We get to travel. We’ve been to Canada, California, Chicago… We’re going to Atlanta next month… Oh, I forgot New York. We’ve been hopping around.
What is the hardest part of running a business?
Collin: Sometimes we lose free time.
Ryan: Sometimes I don’t want to do it because I want to have fun.
Austin: I don’t want to do it sometimes because it’s too hot outside…
Celena: He doesn’t like vending outside when it’s hot.
Austin: Or cold!
Celena: We did a street market once and it was so cold we didn’t even bring them out. It was like 30 degrees.
I know you started the business because you wanted to go out and buy your own things, what was the best thing you bought with your candle money?
Collin: The best thing? My Apple Watch.
Ryan: A nerf gun!
Celena: He has an indoraptor toy he really likes… Also, Ryan says his Switch. He bought a Nintendo Switch with some of his money. We also donate a portion of the proceeds to homeless shelters. This month, we selected the Father McKenna Center.
When did you guys decide to make charity a part of the business?
Ryan: When we first started.
Celena: Ryan has a big heart for giving. He can’t stand to see people who are in need. So his big thing was, “Let me give some money to people who don’t have any money.”