Making Good Scents – The Palm Beach Collection

For the creators of The Palm Beach Collection, it’s always been about the coast. Inspired by their love of the beach and outdoors, the brother and sister team hoped their scented candles would remind people of that great family seaside holiday, epic coastal road trip or the feeling of freedom that comes from diving into the ocean. Coastbeat chats to the woman behind the range, Kirsten Walker.

The Palm Beach Collection, which now includes candles, soaps and diffusers is from Kirsten and her brother, Mike Grey, who had an idyllic upbringing on the northern beaches of Sydney. Kirsten describes it as a ‘wonderland’ – boating adventures on Pittwater, bushland to explore, creeks to splash through and an abundance of flowers and native plants surrounding them. Jasmine from their grandmother’s garden is just one fragrance inspiration.

In late 2009, Kirsten and Mike made the decision to walk away from their secure, full-time roles (she in the retail industry and he as a carpenter) to establish a business together. Sure, it was a huge leap of faith, but the timing was right. Or so they thought.

Kirsten Walker with her children Indigo & Hudson
L to R Indigo, Kirsten & Hudson Walker

Kirsten handed in her resignation at General Pants after a decade with them as a buyer. The very next day, she discovered she was pregnant with her first child and the pair’s best-laid plans went out the window. After all, who in their right mind balances a new business with a newborn?

“It was utter madness, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was very naïve as a first-time mother to think I could juggle it all”, Kirsten says. “I thought ‘Oh the baby will sleep all the time and I’ll just work when the baby sleeps’ but when Hudson arrived, it was a shock. Neither of my kids (daughter Indigo arrived in 2012) slept much through the day. My husband and I were convinced our kids would fit into our lives, but it seems that we fit into theirs!”

From the outset, the business grew quickly with the siblings juggling all elements of production from pouring the candles to selling and delivering their products. Trying to do everything with a new baby made it even more difficult. “The business was so young though and needed my attention, so I had no choice.”

Within a couple of months, Mike and Kirsten had 30 accounts across the northern beaches. “We thought we’d made it but then, in early 2010 we took on some agents and that’s when we really saw growth. With their help, we could get all over Australia.” Kirsten says before adding, “We’ve continued to grow every year.”

The Palm Beach Collection is now available in 600 stockists across Australia as well as in New Zealand, Singapore and Japan. “Never in our wildest dreams did we think it would turn into what it has,” says Kirsten. “Mike and I just thought we’d give it a go.”

Pal Beach scent sticks

It’s fair to say that not everyone is up for working so closely with those they love but it works for these two. “Our partnership took us to a whole new level. Family is our bond. I can’t imagine doing this with anyone but Mike.” In fact, the family connection even extends to Kirsten’s husband Toby who also works full-time in the business. Toby and Kirsten sit side by side each day.

It helps that all three individuals have quite separate roles within the organisation; Mike handles production and operations, Toby is National Sales Manager and Kirsten is responsible for marketing, branding, product development, online store and financials.

“Of course it’s not always rosy but we know the boundaries and how far to push. There’s absolute trust too, so we can be completely honest with one another and still be sure that that person has your back, no matter what.”

Range of Palm Beach products

When it comes to time away from the business, the Walkers are likely to be beachbound, “We’re all really happy by the ocean,” Kirsten tells me. “My husband and kids love surfing and fishing and it’s great to explore the coast. We’re not long back from a great break in Byron Bay and we often get down to Huskisson on the south coast too. Next on the list is a family trip to Port Macquarie.”

Not surprisingly, moving out of the city and residing somewhere with a more relaxed pace appeals to Toby and Kirsten. “We love the idea of getting out of Sydney and relocating to a regional spot on the coast.”

Wherever she may find herself, chances are that there’ll be a store close by with the gorgeous Palm Beach range available, including her new favourite scent, Sea Salt. And like any business owner well aware of all the love, sweat and tears behind the success, Kirsten’s heart will swell when she sees the products on the shelf.

“I still get excited when I see our range. I don’t think that feeling ever leaves you.” Of course, she’ll then straighten up any boxes out of place.

And so, with a spring in her step, Kirsten will be out the door to enjoy those things she most loves; family, friends, good wine, yummy food and sunshine, all of which makes for a beautiful summer by the sea.

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Lilly & Sapphire in Coffs Central stock the full range from The Palm Beach Collection.