Everyone has a story. What goes on beyond the ‘norm’ is often fascinating. Extraordinary hobbies. Dedication to causes. Side hustles.
Michelle Bristow is a ‘chandler’, literally cooking up exquisite bespoke candles in her garage for her side hustle Molly & Me Studios.
Our paths crossed briefly in the fashion/lifestyle industry, around the time I was living a double life, dashing off to Bali to run Retreats in between corporate life. Back when Sharing Bali was my hustle on the side.
Little did we know that we’d continue to meet up around the world in very different circumstances. Michelle has become one of our most avid retreat goers.
It turns out our retreats triggered significant change in both of our lives for different reasons….
Karen: I remember you booked your first retreat more than 6 months in advance. What prompted you to get in touch?
Michelle: It was Jan 6th (I will never forget the date) I had just been through another Christmas in retail, I was over weight, over tired and I needed an escape. I remember somebody telling me you had a retreat business in Bali, so I googled you and Sharing Bali popped up. Thank god I had the courage to e mail you and commit to my first retreat.
Karen: For some, booking a retreat well in advance is often the motivation to set some goals to get ready for the retreat. Others barely have time to take a breath and just rock up and hope for the best. Which one are you?
Michelle: I set goals!!!!
The day I contacted you was the same day I did my first 5k walk, emptied my fridge, freezer and cupboard of sugar and unhealthy food. I then jumped on the scales!!
I was so pleased that doing this was the first step to a huge change in my attitude and life.
Karen: You chose to go solo on your first retreat. Was that important to you? Exciting? Daunting?
Michelle: it was important that I did this myself, I had not talked about it with any of my friends, I knew if I committed to my first retreat I needed to be fit enough to enjoy it. And so my journey began even before the real journey started!
I went through every emotion, excited, proud, daunted and most of all fear of not reaching my goal and not being fit enough to enjoy the retreat.
Karen: You did it! At times you had to dig a little deeper, but you did it with your heart and soul. I really believe that our retreats are not ‘escapes’, I don’t like to think people are running away from their lives in the hope to find something better. For me it’s all about ‘getting back in love with life’. Fear taking aback seat to making the most of every day. And having fun along the way. It took me a while to work this out and it changed my personal outlook on life.
You’ve now booked your 7th retreat…. how are you feeling about those emotions you had on booking retreat number 1?
Michelle: my outlook on life has completely changed, there is no longer thoughts of escaping or fear, there are only thoughts of excitement about the people I will meet and the adventure of a different country, culture, scenery, experience and being able to try new food without feeling any guilt because I have burnt off the calories in such a fun way!
Karen: And that’s a good reminder to me about why we never talk about weight loss….. it brings in doubt, guilt and anxiety.
We always take some space at the end of a retreat to make ‘a holiday promise’ to ourselves. I know one of your most valuable ones was to stop over committing and learning to say ‘no’ more often… putting yourself first for a change. How’s that promise going for you? Any tips or advice?
Michelle: I would say I’m 90% there, it’s tempting to slip back into old ways, into that familiar place of wanting to catch up with everyone, have lunch, have drinks or see a movie that someone else wants to see. I always ensure I plan “me” time, I loved my massages in Bali, so that is a treat for me. I know my friends are OK if I say no, I won’t offend them, so if I don’t see them face to face I can catch up for a chat or maybe we go for a walk instead! There’s always a way to be social without over commitment.
Karen: ‘Me time’ also lets in new ideas, creativity. You enthralled me with your tales of becoming a serious candlemaker. I believe the garage is now called the studio, you have a wardrobe of protective gear and goggles and your knowledge spans from scientific to creative. What got you started?
Michelle: I have always loved candles and to be honest had a bit of an obsession.
I would buy a very expensive candle then pop it into the cupboard because it was too expensive to burn. One day I faced my obsession pulled the candles out of the cupboard, realised how much I had spent and suddenly thought… “it can’t be that hard to make them.”
In my usual impulsive style I googled candle making kits, I was self taught, then my friends would ask if they could buy them from me and I realised I could make a small business from something I loved doing.
Karen: How did the name ‘Molly & Me Studio’ come about?
Michelle: I wanted something meaningful to myself but all modern, fun and quirky so I named it after my Cat and me!!! So yes Molly is my cat and I’m me. At first I didn’t tell any customers where the name came from, but soon realised that everyone loved this story and then I realised it made my product very “real” to everyone.
Karen: There’s a quiet sophisticated elegance to your candles. I’m astounded they’re made in your converted garage. I’m guessing there were some epic trial and error moments before you got to this level of refinement?
Michelle: Yes, hours and hours of practice, disasters and lots of fun. I wanted the glass vessel to be unique and also be able to repurpose it , when I found the double wall glass it was perfect being to reuse on a daily basis for hot or cold drinks.
Karen: Your exquisite lemongrass & ginger candles took our massage houses to a new level of delightfulness at Sharing Bali. What’s the secret to a good quality candle?
Michelle: first of all it was the Sharing Bali lemongrass and ginger tea that gave me the inspiration. Quality candles need to have natural wax, I buy the best quality soy wax and the wicks should be lead free and need to be the perfect diameter for the vessel.
Karen: I confess my candles typically end up misshapen with burnt down short wicks. Any quick and easy housekeeping tips?
Michelle: Yes, there’s lots of candle etiquette. The first burn of the candle needs to ensure the wax has fully melted around the surface to liquid. Never burn for more than 3 to 4 hours and before every burn trim the black wick back, if you don’t your wax will burn. This will ensure you get the longest burn from the candle and the best scent throw. My candles are also triple scented meaning they will throw the maximum scent even when not lit.
Karen: I love that having a little ‘side hustle’ is becoming the norm today for many. Typically they start as a ‘passion project’ and may open new doors, possibly change lives, but equally they may fail, creating regrets about crossing the line from passion to business. Do you have a tip for any potential side hustlers?
Michelle: I’ve learnt so much.
Again, in the early days I over committed to my side project and didn’t give myself time out.
Personally for me it ticks away in the background, gives me time out of my full time day job and I guess it’s something I could decide to grow in the future. I love nothing more than trying new fragrances and getting inspiration from travel (I would never have tried the lemongrass and ginger if not being for Sharing Bali).
Karen: It feels like you keep coming back to that holiday promise… learning to say no, avoiding over commitment. Good for you. I have no doubt there will be more to your story when we next meet in Timor-Leste, but for now let’s wrap up by sharing our ‘best moment of the day’.
Mine: an early morning walk through the village, so uncomplicated.
Yours: a sunrise walk to Shorncliffe pier, gives me a chance to set my intentions for the day
Karen: Thank you. I believe stories keep us connected, inviting us into a different world, a different way of thinking. What seems ordinary to one is extraordinary to others. I look forward to the updates!
If you too have a candle obsession you may want to connect with Michelle:
Website: Molly And Me Studios. There’s a list of stockists or get in touch with Michelle if you have a wedding or special event that needs exquisite candles.
Michelle will be travelling with us on our Sharing Timor-Leste trip and the Sri Lanka Fitness & Discovery Retreat by Sharp Moves in 2019. Feel free to join our adventures and catch up with the latest on Michelle’s inspiring journey.
Need a hotel on your travels? I use Agoda.com.