The origin of Jules + Gem Hawai'i traces back to Lana Gronwald discovering her love for candles when she and her husband bought a candle kit for date night.
"I just enjoyed the process of it," says Gronwald, the founder of the award-winning Hawaiʻi lifestyle brand. "It was very relaxing, very therapeutic."
While the craft kit lit the fire, it was the contribution Gronwald made to her step-daughter's holiday craft fair in December 2016 that stoked the flame.
"My step-daughter needed an item to sell at a fair for her volleyball team," Gronwald says. "I did a small test run. After that, I fell in love with it and dove straight into building my business and my marketing plan."
Shortly after her test run, Gronwald began working on her online store. In April of 2017, she opened her online shop on Esty.
Within a month of opening, Gronwald was approached by retailer Eden in Love.
"We hit the ground running," Gronwald says, noting that after Eden in Love became a client, she added on more wholesale accounts—up to 20 wholesale accounts at one time. As she added on accounts, Gronwald alone was fulfilling orders of more than 1,000 units a month.
Now, natural and authentic hand-poured soy candles and other bath and body products made by Jules + Gem Hawai'i are sold in specialty boutique stores across Hawaii, the continental United States, and the world.
Jules + Gem Hawai'i's top five fragrances include Guava Nectar, Passion Fruit + Mint, Mango + Papaya, Pineapple Cake, and Mango + Mint.
"We're on the fruit fragrance side," Gronwald says. "They are mainly food-inspired flavors. The food we eat here in Hawaii."
Guava Nectar is Gronwald's favorite candle, as it is the first fragrance she poured.
"It was the first fragrance that I made," Gronwald says. "It's close to my heart."
Jules + Gem Hawai'i's latest collection includes the fragrance of Pakalana, which is available in candles, reed diffusers, and perfume rollers.
"I have always loved Pakalana," Gronwald says. "We did a great job creating a blend that was as close to Pakalana as I could get to. Sometimes we have to add more of one thing or more of another to get a perfect balance. In a way, it's like cooking."
Gronwald hand-pours the tropical candles in small batches and uses minimal, eco-friendly materials in the process. She crafts the candles with soy wax, phthalate-free, fragrance oils, and natural wood crackling wicks.
"We always aim to have an authentic fragrance for what our candles are described as," Gronwald says.
Her authenticity has attracted acclaim. Jules + Gem Hawai'i was honored with the Best Scented Candle award by Honolulu Magazine in 2018. A year later, Honolulu Magazine honored Jules + Gem Hawai'i as the Best Local Fragrance Shop.
Combined with her tenacity and love for her craft, the key to Gronwald's success is the heart she puts into her brand. The name of her company and significant collections are inspired by the ones she loves most.
"Our name is actually a combination of my daughter Julie and my dog Gemma, from my two girls," Gronwald says. "Our signature collection is called Victoria, and that is my step daughter's name."
Gronwald says she hopes to expand to her product line to have her fragrances in bath and body products.
"My overall vision of Jules + Gem Hawai'i is to expand it also into bath and body products," Gronwald says. "Our customers are demanding that. A lot of them are interested in our fragrances in options and soap."
Within the next two years, Gronwald also plans to expand the reach of Jules + Gem Hawai'i. She says she is looking to grow her presence in Japan, Las Vegas, Florida, and also in Colorado.
"I think we can do that within two years," Gronwald says, confident in the brand she's seen perform beyond her expectations. "Every year, I set a goal, and we always exceed it."
Local value-added products can contribute to a promising future for diversified agriculture. Mana Up brands have foundations rooted in quality Hawaiʻi-grown ingredients and each founder has a strong commitment to the islands that fosters their success.