Social Enterprise

This M’sian Startup Has Made A Business Out Of Turning Used Oil Into Scented Candles

Author’s blurb: I had a scented candle phase a few years back where every time I went to the mall, I would walk into scented candle stores just to smell the many options available and identify the ones I liked. Whether or not I ended up buying them, it was more of an experience I enjoyed doing with some friends.

Scented candles have always been something that’s considered classy and luxurious. 

While thinking of an exclusive name for their brand which upcycles used cooking oil into scented candles, one of the co-founders suggested combining their business’ main elements. 

“Oil” and “lilin” (candle).

“So we combined both names into OiLilin,” said Redza. 

Upcycling Oil From Restaurants

OiLilin was started by 3 co-founders. Nina Alias, Ashaari Rahmat, and Redza Shahid. 

Prior to starting OiLilin, the three have been involved in the social enterprise, Grub Cycle—which Redza also co-founded—that focuses on creating an environmental impact. 

“Looking into the environment sector, we know it’s still a long way to go before we can really educate the public on the importance of taking care of our environment for our future generations,” Redza said. 

Grub Cycle works with restaurants and collects their used cooking oil.

With so much excess, the 3 researched upcycling ideas for the oil and noticed that turning it into scented candles was something not many people were aware of or had even done.

Some of OiLilin’s scented candles / Image Credits: OiLilin

So they began their validation process in November 2019 and officially launched the business in March during the MCO.

“We noticed candles are a great companion during the stay at home period,” he said.

Wouldn’t It Smell Like Fried Chicken?

The oil is first collected from halal-certified restaurants restaurants around the Klang Valley.

“Once we collect the used cooking oil, we will do multiple filterings of it to ensure all the residue has been taken out before it’s used to create the scented candles,” he said. 

After it’s filtered, the used oil is mixed with OiLilin’s scented powder. 

Adding the strong scents will remove the smell of the used oil.

For example, mixing used cooking oil with their blueberry scented powder will simply convert any smell from oil into the blueberry scent. 

“The candle will no longer smell like fried chicken or fish after mixing,” Redza said.  

Used cooking oil ready to be turned into candles / Image Credit: OiLilin.

He further explained that some other methods of reusing cooking oil was by upcycling it into soap or detergent.

“It’s a simple process and can easily be done at home by just learning it from the internet, although it’s something we have not explored yet.”

It would seem like a good way to make sure oil doesn’t get poured down the sink and clogged up drains, though the hygiene aspect of cleaning something with another dirty thing is questionable.

Hence, OiLilin chose to upcycle used cooking oil into candles so that consumers wouldn’t have to use it directly on their skin. 

Firing Up The Interest

To find out whether or not these scented candles would be something the public wanted, the team had a soft launch in November 2019 with just 2 scents.

They opened a small pop-up store with a creative market at a mall and received positive feedback from customers.

Customers were also asking for more scent choices, so they went back to the drawing board.

It took them 3 months to create more unique scents before they were ready to market their products and eventually launched in March this year.

Like any other new brand, they struggled with creating awareness for their product. 

Apart from on-ground events and digital ads, they also had to debunk a stigma towards their upcycling process.

“We had to educate and change public mindset on how we could upcycle used cooking oil into scented candles, which was not easy,” he said.

One of the ways we did that was by getting influencers to do live sessions on how they could make these candles themselves in 5 minutes with OiLilin’s DIY Kits. 

Blueberry DIY Kit for customers to make their own at home / Image Credit: OiLilin

Then again, these would generally be the target market buying such products in the first place.

If one chooses not to create a new candle however, Redza recommended to simply soak the jar with warm water and wash it away with soap till it’s no longer oily.

That’s not the only use for the kits though. 

Ever noticed that a finished candle tends to leave behind some oil residue? 

Redza said that’s where their DIY Kits come in. 

“You can mix the leftover with the new oil and play around with the scent,” he said.

The team created these DIY Kits to ensure a continual usage of the candle jars and used cooking oil even in their customers’ homes.

Of course, this would require a high sense of social responsibility from their own customers.

Redza also shared that the peak period for courier deliveries during the MCO also caused them issues with dented jars and melted candles received by customers.

“This forced us to improve our packaging. All of this was a good learning curve for us to keep improving our process in order to receive greater customer satisfaction and feedback,” he said.

For now, the team is focused on getting their scented candles out in the market. 

“But hopefully in the future, there will be more people buying the DIY Kit and upcycling their own used cooking oil at home. 

Bottom line: I think their DIY kits are a really cute concept, it can be a fun activity to do among families. I do hope the team would come up with more calming scents like mint or lavender in the future, as most of their options now are gravitated towards sweet, fruitier ones.

  • You can learn more about OiLilin here.
  • You can read about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: OiLilin

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