Capri Blue And Thymes Parent Company Curio Acquires Blazing Candle Brand Otherland
Otherland is venturing to another business land.
The sizzling candle brand has been acquired by Curio, parent company of Thymes and Capri Blue, for an undisclosed amount. Otherland’s tight distribution and product range gives Curio an extensive runway to expand the brand’s reach. Launched in 2017, the brand has stuck to only candles to date and broadened distribution carefully from direct-to-consumer to Sephora, Nordstrom and Anthropologie.
“There are so many possibilities,” says Abigail Cook Stone, a former art buyer at Ralph Lauren who founded Otherland with Sayyid Markar, an ex-Deloitte manager who was on the finance teams at Birchbox and Dia&Co. “In home, we have taken a very visual-forward aesthetic approach and now to be able to put that design spin on other products will be absolutely huge for our customer base. In this next step, the evolution of Otherland into its journey with Curio and having access to their platform, the growth trajectory is incredible.”
In a statement, Curio CEO Anne Sempowski Ward says, “We are thrilled to join forces with Otherland, a direct-to-consumer powerhouse brand that inspires remarkable passion from millennial and gen Z consumers. We have admired Otherland for its beautiful design, evocative fragrances, and progressive direct-to-consumer marketing approach. Capri Blue and Thymes were also founded by entrepreneurs and have experienced the joys and challenges that come with rapid growth, so we are especially excited to partner with Otherland on this next phase of their dynamic journey.”
Curio’s products are sold in 11,000-plus doors, including at big chains, independent specialty stores and international retailers, providing Otherland entry into a broad network it can plug into. The brand opened a New York store last year, and additional branded permanent retail locations and pop-ups are being considered. As for assortment extensions, Cook Stone lists dry shampoo, laundry detergent, hand soap, bubble bath and diffusers as among the numerous options on the table for Otherland to build upon the equity it’s fostered with its candle scents.
Currently, Rattan is Otherland’s bestselling candle. Developed with Frank Voelkl, senior perfumer at Firmenich and the nose behind Glossier You and Axe body spray, its scent has notes of sandalwood, golden amber and warm musk. Otherland partnered with Voelkl on Fallen Fir, too, and it was a hit. The sold-out limited-edition candle’s scent has notes of balsam fir, musk and winter spice. Candles in Otherland’s everyday collection are $36 each, although limited-edition candles have had higher prices.
Otherland won’t discuss its exact sales, but an online estimate from B2B data company Zoominfo figures they’re $27.2 million and industry sources told fashion and beauty trade outlet Women’s Wear Daily they were $10 million in 2022. Cook Stone revealed to publication Glossy that Otherland’s sales have jumped 250% annually since 2020. DTC is responsible for about 85% of the brand’s sales, and Curio intends to learn from Otherland’s digital prowess.
In 2019, the brand raised $2.7 million in seed funding from firms Lerer Hippeau, Fantail Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Cleo Capital, Fernbrook Capital Management and Correlation Ventures, and individual investors Venmo co-founder Iqram Magdon-Ismail and Dia&Co co-founders Lydia Gilbert and Nadia Boujarwash. In advance of its launch, Otherland secured friends and family funding. It declined to divulge the friends and family funding total.
Social media has been an important driver for the brand. It has 82,000 followers on Instagram, and 23,100 followers and 1.9 million likes on TikTok. Candle care has been a central social media content theme for Otherland. As it’s pushed into retail, the brand has been busy translating its digital storytelling to shelves by, for example, informing customers that its products are nontoxic and paraben- and phthalate-free, highlighting scent notes, and featuring a message from Cook Stone on its packaging. “It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a huge challenge to think through the consumer experience in a different way,” she says.
“In this next step, the evolution of Otherland into its journey with Curio and having access to their platform, the growth trajectory is incredible.”
Cook Stone started Otherland in the kitchen of her sixth-floor walk-up apartment in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood after burning candles became an essential part of her daily routine during her time in business school at Columbia University. Once the pandemic arrived in the United States, candles increasingly became an essential part of gen Z and millennial consumers’ daily routines—and Otherland’s sales surged.
Cook Stone explains that a consumer phenomenon she describes as “interiential,” a portmanteau of “interior” and “experiential,” gained steam amid the pandemic and hasn’t slowed down. Market data resource Statista estimates revenue in the global candle segment at $10.6 billion in 2023 and projects it will advance at a compound annual growth rate of 3.15% from 2023 to 2027.
“There became a focus on the home as this next frontier on social,” says Cook Stone. “Fashion had been the focus, on your outfit, your arm party and other accessories, but that moved into the home, with the home being for the younger generation more of a status symbol and a way to express yourself.”
Asked about intriguing behavior by candle consumers today, she mentions practices involving rituals and intention setting. “They will take a toothpick and carve an intention word into the surface of the wax, light the candle and mediate on that and have an association with it,” details Cook Stone. “The rituals have brought comfort to people, and it’s something that the younger generation has really grabbed onto.”
Curio was formed in 2016 by the merger of candle companies Thymes and DPM Fragrance, maker of the Aspen Bay and Capri Blue brands. Capri Blue is known for its Volcano fragrance, and Thymes is known for Frasier Fir. In 2014, the firms Castanea Partners, RCP, Stanfield Capital and Northstar invested in Thymes. Curio has offices in Minneapolis and Starkville, Miss., where Thymes and DPM Fragrance were located, respectively, prior to the formation of Curio.
Friends Leslie Ross Lentz and Stephanie Shopa established Thymes in 1982. Tom Reed, a partial owner of a candle manufacturer, purchased Aspen Bay Candles from founder Walter Stubbe in 2001 to get into branded candles. According to media property The Dispatch, Stubbe had “based Aspen Bay Candles on…Roberta Mann’s basement-based operation, Candles by Bert.” Candles by Bert was founded in 1976 and renamed Aspen Bay Candles in 1990 before becoming DPM Fragrance. Reed was a Curio director from 2016 to 2021.
Cook Stone and Markar are staying on at Curio, and Otherland will remain in New York. The brand has six people on staff. Cook Stone will guide strategy and execution, and Markar will support operations and supply chain. With Otherland under new ownership, Cook Stone’s entrepreneurial ride at the brand may be ending, but she doesn’t rule out a return to entrepreneurship in the future. She advises fellow entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs not to be afraid to act on an idea.
“And share that idea with as many people as you can. I would tell a nurse at the hospital, my Uber driver, and I would get feedback from them. Create your minimum viable product, get feedback and iterate,” says Cook Stone. “The journey is incredibly rewarding. Someone asked me today, ‘Would you do it all over again?’ Absolutely.”