A new company launched during the lockdown has found that bringing the world to a standstill provided a spur to success, even while staying at home.
In fact, Innes Harrison says that working from his kitchen table, with a view of the Atlantic, is the perfect alternative after a 30-year career at sea and in the shipyards of the world.
Innes returned to his home and family in Benside in 2017, after working in ship-building from South Korea to Copenhagen – and seldom in one place for long. Before that he worked on trawlers out of Stornoway, so the chance to stay still is one he seized with relish.
Last summer the family moved to Shawbost and the new family business, Atlantic Lights, was conceived in direct response to what he can see from the window.
Innes said: “I thought of the title before I thought of the business. I was looking out of the window and seeing the beam from the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis and the light on the Atlantic and I thought, there’s something really special about the Westside; the light, the Atlantic – Atlantic Lights.
“I started to muse about how much there is of architectural interest around the area – from the Callanish stones and the broch, the lighthouse and the blackhouses. What they all have in common is light – the lighthouse flashing, a beacon burning, the solstice connection with the stones and even the gleam from the blackhouse door when the fire is lit.”
The connections Innes was making between Atlantic Lights came together as he started making candles at home for his own interest. He experimented with paraffin wax and didn’t like the smell while it was heating, so he turned to soya wax and taught himself how to pour a nice candle.
He said: “There’s something really satisfying about the first time you pour a candle and it turns out just right – no bubbles or flaws. Then I started to think about fragrances and wanted to capture elements special to the islands.”
The business plan was growing and Innes had made tentative moves towards customers, with a view to starting out in public at this year’s summer shows and galas – then along came Coronavirus and lockdown.
Luckily, making candles is a kitchen activity – and by this time the whole family was involved, wife Sheila helping to make the candles and daughter Kara designing labels and packaging.
The only hitch was not being able to get the products showcased, but Innes still had plenty to do. He said: “I had to look into getting glass containers, wicks, packaging and plenty soy wax, whilst family members – especially Kara, Daniel, Anna and my wife, Sheila – also spent time on the design and review of all the labels and boxes.”
With stock building up in every corner of the house, it was time to launch an online shop (https://www.atlanticlights.co.uk/our-fragrances) , which went live just two weeks ago and now brings in new orders every day.
Five products each come in five fragrances from fresh Lustre (aqua minerals and sea kelp) to sweet Glint (rhubarb and rose). There’s been excellent feedback from customers, such as this from a customer in Harris: “Absolutely loving the gorgeous scents from Atlantic Lights. Our home smells amazing! Thank you very much and all the best with your new venture – you’ll shine!”
Innes said: “We have only been live a couple of weeks and we are over the moon with the response. We’ve had plenty of time to build stock, but if it wasn’t for our haulage companies and posties, we wouldn’t have been still in production.”
Now there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, with restrictions set to ease slightly, but this Lewis company will still be working hard making staying at home a refreshingly fragrant experience for customers home and away.
Pictures show the perfect lockdown business – Innes finishing candles at his kitchen table overlooking the Atlantic.