Ranger Station gives its products a dual purpose
Candles are a unanimously beloved home essential, gifted to thousands every holiday season—they’re a simple way to cozy up a space with warmth and an inviting smell. It’s a sad day to see a favorite candle burned down to its wick’s end—but what if that wasn’t the end? This is the thought that struck Steve Soderholm, inspiring him to launch his company, Ranger Station, the Nashville-based fragrance company that breathes new life into its depleted candles. The concept: once the product has been completely burned out, the candle can be cleaned of its residual wax and resurrected as a whiskey glass.
Soderholm’s interest in candles stemmed from his inability to find a scent that wasn’t too feminine or too masculine, but struck a middle ground. Preferably one inspired by nature. Soderholm took matter into his own hands, making candles that satisfied his desire
Soderholm’s interest in candles stemmed from his inability to find a scent that wasn’t too feminine or too masculine, but struck a middle ground—preferably one inspired by nature. Soderholm took matters into his own hands, making candles that satisfied his desires—but because he was just starting out, he had to get creative with his production methods.
“It was honestly one of those things that I kind of fell into without much thinking,” Soderholm says. “When people come over, the first thing I do is mix a cocktail for them, so I had a ton of cocktail glasses. When I first started making candles, I would pour them into the cocktail glasses I had. Once the candle was finished, I didn’t want to throw away the glass, so I would simply clean it out and put it back to use as a whiskey glass. That’s where the idea came from.”
Soon, the company began to grow, and Soderholm and his brother Jon were unable to keep up with the demand for their products, as they hand poured all of the candles themselves. Faced with the option of either outsourcing to a larger manufacturer or investing in a bigger space, more equipment and personnel, the brothers were introduced to a third possible solution: a partnership with Thistle Farms, a local organization that provides support and employment opportunities for women who are survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction.
“I give a ton of credit to my wife for this one,” says Soderholm. “She is the fashion director of an amazing company in Nashville that empowers women called ABLE. She knew some folks over at Thistle Farms and put us in touch with them because we knew they had experience with candles.”
From there, the situation provided a win-win for both the company and the women of Thistle Farms.
“We hit it off with them right away and have been able to move all our production to them. We’ve found a nice middle ground for our next phase of growth, and we are able to bring more business to an amazing organization,” he continues.
Though the partnership has benefitted Ranger Station in terms of business, the collaboration means much more to Soderholm than mere production efficiency or brownie points for “pushing good work,” as he puts it.
“The best part is just being able to go by Thistle Farms and train with the women or just check in. They are some of the happiest people you’ll ever meet,” Soderholm explains. “We didn’t start working with Thistle so that we could claim that we were helping women. In all honesty, they are helping us probably more than we are helping them. We don’t market our work with Thistle too much, but doing right by people always has its way of rewarding you back.”
While Soderholm is wary of utilizing the partnership with Thistle Farms in any marketing form—himself somewhat skeptical of companies that publicize good doing to boost sales or egos—the relationship has given Soderholm a sense of purpose amidst his creative process.
“Before we started working with Thistle Farms, you could often find me contemplating why we were doing what we were doing, Solderholm says. “We absolutely love the products we make, and we love the experience and memories it helps create for our customers. But that being said, we could often feel detached from what our products were doing, and to be honest, we wanted to be doing more with Ranger Station. Working with Thistle Farms has added a whole new element to what we get to do everyday. Now, we are not the only ones who benefit from our hard work, but every woman at Thistle Farms does as well.”
With the help of the women of Thistle Farms, Ranger Station has been able to keep up with the supply needed to satisfy demand, allowing the company grow and expand its range of products and serve a larger variety of people. While, at the moment, its primary interest lies with earthy fragrances—the lack of these scents in the market being the reason Soderholm started Ranger Station to begin with—it don’t want to restrict itself in terms of what comes next.
“We definitely want to stay true to the more natural style of perfumery. We want to stay away from anything that smells too fake or sugary, like a pumpkin spice latte candle, for instance,” Soderholm explains. “Other than that, the sky’s the limit as far as where we could go. We just want to provide products that will continue to enhance our customers’ lives.”
As a business, it’s only natural that future expansion is always on Ranger Station’s radar. But in the end, this isn’t Soderholm’s main priority. His advice to those embarking on a creative or business endeavor encapsulates what his company strives to do:
“Create memories and experiences and quit thinking that you need to accomplish a ton of things in the future in order to be successful and happy. Society has taught us that, but we are not guaranteed tomorrow—so you have to make the most of today.”