Q&A with Lana Gronwald: Transforming a space through fragrance

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa alumna Lana Gronwald is the owner of Jules + Gem Hawaii, a Hawai‘i lifestyle brand that handcrafts clean and natural hand-poured soy coconut wax candles along with other bath and body products. Fueled by her passion for creating, Lana founded Jules + Gem with the hopes that her products will transform everyday spaces and provide a relaxing escape from the demands and pressures of every day life.

Read more about the origins of Jules + Gem, the creative process behind each and every product and how Lana's UH education has helped her along the way.

What inspired you to start your own business?

Since I was a young child I was always interested in running my own business. I was one of those kids who would open a lemonade stand on a hot day, make crafts and sell them to friends, etc. As I was working for a corporate company, I realized how much I needed to work for myself. I also realized that I needed to work in a creative environment and that I needed to see my work tangibly in my hands at the end of the day. So I began brainstorming ideas for my first business. Candles fell into my lap after my husband bought me a candle making kit from a local craft store.

What do you love most about your work?

What I love most about my work is seeing others enjoying and appreciating what I’ve created. I make candles and fragrances products to help others relax in their home and intimate spaces. I love candles and it thrills me that the candles I make are being shared with other candle lovers.

What types of collaborations have you done with other local businesses? How did these collaborations come about?

We have collaborated with many local businesses in Hawai‘i by creating exclusive fragrances for their brands. Eden in Love Boutique was our first collaboration where we created an iconic fragrance, the Guava Eucalyptus, for their store that their customers would smell in all their stores and be able to enjoy it at home as well. After the first exclusive fragrance was created, we expanded into a whole line of Eucalyptus blend fragrances for Eden in Love. Another collaboration we’ve done was with Dolkii, a graphic tees brand. Dolkii is well known for their love for Hawai‘i and their colorful playful designs, such as the Aloha Love Club, Wahine, and Mama designs. We created a Paradise fragrance that was a new blend of almost every flower you can find in Hawai‘i with a little hint of mango and papaya. There are so many other collaborations we have done in our history that there are too many to mention. They include jewelry designers, hotel resorts, spas and more.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when you create a signature scent?

My inspiration for Jules + Gem HI fragrances comes from my childhood growing up in the islands. Many of the fragrances we have are fruits and flowers that remind me of home and my family. When it comes to inspiration for creating collaborations signature fragrances, those are guided by a general idea of what the client is looking for and their brand. I like to walk into the stores, hotels and spaces of designers to get inspiration from their brands. Many times I will blend a fragrance together based on what I see or smell in their spaces or designs.

What exactly is a clean burning candle? What are the benefits of using candles made of natural wax and fragrance oils?

A clean burning candle is a candle that is made with materials that when burning are not putting harmful chemicals into the air you breathe in your environment. There are waxes that are made from synthetic chemicals, candles that have harmful additives in them to make the fragrances stronger or the wax prettier, and fragrances that are made with harmful chemicals like phthalates, vanillin, or parabens. When you use natural waxes made from plants like soy wax, coconut wax, palm wax, and fragrance oils that don’t contain those harmful chemicals, you will have a candle burning that doesn’t pollute the air in your home. You may notice that some candles you burn will give you a headache or make you light headed. When you are enjoying a candle burning, you are most likely trying to relax and enjoy the fragrance and light of flickering candle. It’s difficult to achieve that if your candle is hurting you and others in your space.

What’s been the most rewarding aspect of starting your own business?

The most rewarding aspect of starting my own business is seeing our customers using our products everywhere. When customers tag us on social media, sharing their stories of lighting their candles or other products, it makes me happy. It validates that we are achieving our mission of bringing quality and amazing smelling products to the world! I have to say that I get really excited when I see our car fresheners hanging in people’s cars across the state.

The most challenging?

The most challenging part of starting my own business was the first couple of years, when as a business owner I was wearing all the hats in the business. Having to do all the work especially when growth was increasing at fast rate, left me with little to no time for self-care. I was sacrificing a lot of time with my family which I regret and I stopped taking care of myself. If I could go back and do it again, I would tell myself, that I really need to prioritize self-care and still be successful. One of my missions at Jules + Gem Hawaii is to remind our customers that self-care is so important. When we take care and love ourselves, we have so much more love to give to others.

How has your UH education helped you in your career?

My BA was in Psychology from UH. It was in my last year at UH that I realized that I had an interest in Marketing. I was taking a business class to fulfill a requirement and I loved it. With my background in Psychology, I was drawn to Marketing. It was then that I decided that I would go on to apply for a Masters in Business Administration and begin thinking about starting my own business.

To learn more about Jules + Gem Hawaii, visit https://www.julesandgemhawaii.com/ or follow Jules + Gem on Instagram and Facebook.

University of Hawai‘i Alumni