“Live in the sunshine, swim in the seas, drink the wild air”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
EJ Wood didn’t plan on being a candle maker when she was growing up. But her love for the great outdoors, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking, climbing, and camping served as the inspiration and precipice to starting her small business, Untamed Supply.
EJ was born in the Ozark Mountains of Branson, Missouri, spending her middle school and high school years in the desert of Las Vegas, Nevada. She started taking college classes, then stopped for various reasons, three times. Between stints of being a college student after moving to Kansas City, EJ held many jobs. “Oh man, what jobs haven’t I had? I used to be a zipline guide, cell phone tower climber, I’ve remodeled homes, worked retail a lot. REI (an outdoor activities gear supply store) was my favorite retail job. I’ve been a graphic designer and a photographer.” On her third go at university at age 28, she was studying graphic design and needed to find a way to pay for her books and other expenses so she didn’t graduate with debt. Untamed Supply (formerly called Wood + Wick) was born in the kitchen of her college apartment.
“I never actually finished my degree because the business required so much of my time. I do hope to go back to school at some point. I believe you are never done learning,” Wood said. Why candles? Wood disliked buying a nice, higher-end candle in a scent she liked only to come home and when lit, it didn’t smell at all the same and burned poorly. She thought she could do better.
Her goal was to get a more natural, stronger scent and a longer, even burn. “I took six months to learn and conduct test burning on a candle/product that I am proud to stand behind,” she says. All of the scents she has created are based around an outdoor or personal experience closely related to nature. For instance, her Sweet Pipe Tobacco scent reminds her of her grandfather, described as “the warm, sweet and inviting aroma of an unlit pouch of granddad’s pipe tobacco is a memory of days gone by.” With notes of ambrosia, cherry, tobacco leaf, anise and tonka, this is one of Wood’s bestsellers. Another scent called Elevate is described as “an invigorating, botanical blend with prevalent layers of eucalyptus and spearmint, coupled with lavender, sage and lemon.” Redwood “will connect your spirit to the reverence of the spiritual church of the old growth Redwood parks. Let yourself be lost among the giants with hints of black tea, ginger, cedarwood, vetiver, amber and sandalwood.”
Through her love for nature came an intention to make sure her products were environmentally friendly. She uses 100% domestically grown soy wax, fine fragrance oils, cotton-core wicks, and no additives or dyes. “By hand we wick, pour, and label each candle to ensure unparalleled quality,” Wood says. She has perfected her recipe over the years and can now tout that each candle jar burns clean for 45 hours. She also donates 3% of each sale to The National Parks. “One of my favorite quotes is by John Muir, ‘I am well again, I came to life in the cool winds and the crystal waters of the mountains,’” Wood says. “I’ve always loved nature. Being outside brings me so much clarity and calmness. Nature has always been my church; it makes you feel so small in the best kind of way. I want nature to be available to those who come after me so they can experience nature on their terms. I feel that donating 3% of profit to the National Parks is a small thing I can do help make sure the parks are around for all to enjoy.”
When asked what she loves most about the Maker Movement, Wood says she loves that Kansas City is supporting more home grown businesses. “It feels like a resurgence of small business which has been the backbone of the economy. When we keep buying and supporting our neighbors, our local economy grows stronger and healthier,” she says. She has watched basement businesses turn into full-fledge brick and mortar locations right here in town. “The cliche but true statement, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’ has never been more true for me,” Wood says.
Her advice to up-and-coming-makers is to be original and stay true to yourself and to your ideas. Wood says, “People will think that you are crazy (you gotta be a little to run your own business) but don’t let that get in your way. The world needs creative, driven people.”
You can find Untamed Supply online here: UntamedSupply | Instagram | Facebook and at brick and mortar stores: Fetch, Opal & Gold, Blip, and in person at The Strawberry Swing’s “Spring Swing” May 11th.