Chatting with Shivansh Patel, Founder of Leta Wares

Chatting with Shivansh Patel, Founder of Leta Wares

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See the transcript here: 

Sam: Hello everyone. Thank you very much for tuning in today to learn about me and Shiv. My name is Sam. I'm the founder of Humankind Candles, and I'm collaborating with Shiv to make some wonderful candle holders. Shiv, tell us a little bit about yourself?

Shiv: Yeah, definitely thanks for having this idea, Sam. My name is Shivansh. I go by Shiv. During the day, I work in software sales. I work at Shopify. And during the evenings, I like to do woodworking.

It's pretty much the opposite of what I do during the day. And as someone who's just always liked working with their hands, I just think that it's a really good It's a way for me to kind of get that into my day and also kind of flex those creative muscles and just kind of get that reward that you get from building something, which I don't always get from my day job.

Sam: Nice. So we decided that we're going to do this in a “we're not really strangers” format. So we'll be going back and forth and taking turns asking each other a question. Do you, do you want to ask me the first question? Do you want me to ask you the first question? 

Shiv: I can go first. Sure.

Go. Okay. So Sam, how did we meet? 

Sam: How did we meet? We met in college. We were on the same floor. We lived right across from each other. Like my door faced your door. And we were also in these themed dorms. And we were in the entrepreneurship dorm. So that's, that's how we met. 

Shiv: Yeah, I think that pretty much sums it up.

I still remember the very first day, like when I, when I moved in, I think you were literally the first person that I met, the first friend I made in university, dropping our stuff off in our dorms and then going to get food yeah, 

Sam: That was good. We're in a big group, like a big pack of young students going to get food.

Alright. Okay. So what ignited your passion for for woodworking? 

Shiv: Yeah. So, I mean, as I mentioned earlier, I've always loved working with my hands and My dad, we lived in a fixer upper growing up, so I helped him do a lot of the renovations. And so we always had a lot of the tools that you need for woodworking or contracting doing any sort of work around the house, so that I was kind of like, familiar with that stuff. And my 1st business that I started when I was 15 was actually a landscaping business. And I just kind of had a lot of the tools laying around and I always knew that, you know. If I needed help, or if something went wrong, if I made a mistake, then I had my dad to kind of fall back on.

And I think as a result, I was just willing to kind of say, yes, and take more risks than the average 15 year old might when it comes to running their own landscaping business, just in terms of, like, the size of the jobs that I was accepting, like I was doing. Driveways and porches creating, like, concrete steps, things like that.

So that was kind of like my 1st foray into entrepreneurship, but I had to shut that business down when I went to university and I knew that, when I graduated, I was going to get a normal job, but I also want another business that just let me work with my hands and, allowed me to build physical products.

The only thing that I want to change, though, is that I did want something that was a little bit more scalable or just incorporated more of my interest. I want to do something that's a little bit more technically challenging or just kind of incorporated my interest in tech and, you know, as we can discuss later a woodshop is a little bit different from the traditional shop, just in terms of the tools that I have. And also just my reason for creating it. 

Sam: Yeah, you've always been really crafty and really hands on too. So I'm glad that you finally found your thing, you know? 

Shiv: Yeah.

Right. I should ask the next question. What piece would you say holds a special place in your heart? 

Sam: I think every piece holds a special place in my heart because every piece is a planned iteration and it sounds kind of crazy but I, I think I've made over like 250 candles by now and I've iterated 40 times and there's like 9 or 10 different variables that you have to adjust for. And take notes on every single candle that you make in order to make the best candle that you can.

So I wouldn't say that there's one that is particularly special, but they're all special because they're all different and they're in flux and they're changing. And I think that's why I enjoy it so much. And that's why I want to work really hard on this and, and iterate a lot and try my best.

Shiv: Okay, that makes sense. 1 question that's not on our question list. I was just curious. Did you ever find that when you were manufacturing just near the beginning? Did you ever jump the gun in terms of thinking that, you know, you had done your experimentation and you kind of found what worked and then found out that it actually didn't work which resulted in just, you know, reduced efficiency or wasted material or was there anything that you learned about the actual experimentation in the R&D process?

That's gonna allow you to more quickly get new candles to market like faster in the future. 

Sam: So I think you know this, but I fucked up with the tea lights because I was when I packaged them originally, I put them right next to each other with no padding. And I thought that the wax was hard enough to withstand shipping.

And we had tested shipping, but as you know, when, when it got to my dad's house, my dad sent us photos of the candles, they're kind of banged up. And you were so kind as to give me the idea to put the crinkle cut paper between the two lights, and that's what I've been doing now, and I think it's a lot better.

So I'm very grateful that you gave me that idea. And I think that's it's not something that I jumped the gun on, but I just didn't anticipate. I just didn't anticipate it. 

Shiv: Yeah, no, that totally makes sense. The example that I was thinking of in my case was that I had made my first small batch.

I think it was literally just three candle holders that have like a small scrap piece of wood. And I was like, okay, great. Now I have like this big piece and I'm going to, fit, you know, as many candle holders as I can on. And I think I fit like 11 on it and I just put them all right next to each other.

And then I started milling and then I realized that some of them were a little bit too close together. And so the router, but that was like cutting, it didn't have enough space between two candle holders. And so once it cut 1 when it was kind of 1 beside it, it would actually damage the previous 1 that had just cut and so I was like, okay, no worries.

And, you know, after that happened, I reduced the size ever so slightly just by a couple of millimeters to prevent that from happening. However, that caused me to have candle holders that had slightly different sizes. And when it came to, finishing them, I have to put them in jigs to create.

Parts of them, and they were no longer lining up like the jigs that I'd created before. And so it just kind of created a set of problems that, I think just wouldn't have happened had I just kind of started off with much smaller batches. So, I think it's definitely a lesson there in the future.

And I think it's similar to yours as well. Right? I think that if you had learned the lesson about, you know, making sure that there's adequate packaging between the candles inside their box it just would have resulted in, more efficient delivery, 

Sam: Yeah, more problems causing more problems, right?

Yeah, I think it's my turn. So can you share the most meaningful piece that you've ever created for someone or for yourself? 

Shiv: Yeah, I'd say that my most meaningful piece was definitely the first one that I created was actually just a Pittsburgh Steelers sign. What I did was I found an old whiskey barrel head on Facebook marketplace. It actually wasn't one head. I guess it had been split up into all this individual pieces. And so I was looking around this lady's storage locker trying to find all the wooden pieces.

There was enough wooden pieces to create, like, at least a dozen barrel heads, but I was trying to find the correct ones to make the one specific one that I wanted and I ended up, you know, I can share a picture of this with you as well, but I ended up charring one side of it, and then having the, having my CNC machine just engrave that Pittsburgh Steelers logo onto it, and then just the contrast between the fresh underneath and then the charred surface made for a really unique look, but I was just shocked at just the amount of issues that I ran into and the amount of mistakes that that project has.

There were so many inconsistencies with it, and you know, I thought that it just wasn't something that I even wanted to show anybody else. However, when I showed other people, you know, I showed it to people that normally have, like, pretty pretty keen attention to detail, you know, an eye for detail, but most of them were not able to spot the majority of issues like that I had seen and I think it's just 1 of those lessons, that you just remember that what other people who are not woodworkers or, you know, people who, are buying a product are going to look at your product in a different lens and what's important to them can be a little bit different from what's important to you.

And I think it can really alter just, you know, where you spend your time like the decisions that you make. And the 2nd lesson was just that, just realizing that, you know, every step was going to be just a little bit harder than I expected it to be.

And things are going to take a lot longer. And when, when you're trying to do something like woodworking, trying to work fast and be efficient isn't always the answer. A lot of these things just take time. And when you try to rush them, it usually just ends up slowing me down. 

Sam: Yeah, that makes sense.

I think, you know, when, aspeople who create things, we tend to find a lot of flaws in what we make. And then when we, and we get self conscious about it, and then we, but when we present it to other people, people are like, Oh my gosh, this is amazing. So I really like that story because it just shows your growth about, you know, when you first started and where you are now, is it, is it my turn?

Shiv: Oh, actually, no, I think it might be mine. So, so what would you say is the moment of inspiration that led to the creation of your shop? 

Sam: So it wasn't a moment of inspiration, but it was seeing other people around me make some really cool stuff. So like my friend Andy and my boyfriend Carlos, they're all working on projects that were really meaningful to them.

And I, I wasn't, you know, I've worked for a few startups, like seven startups, and I've always been in this venture funded mode. And something I didn't realize is that I can actually make a pretty good small business, or I think that I can at least, and that I don't have to slot myself into this box of being venture funded.

And that was a moment for me where I was like, Hey, you know what, maybe I don't need to onboard the next billion users or build the next B2B SaaS project to IPO. So that was a big learning moment for me. And then it was just this past summer spending a lot of time with Andy and Carlos that I realized I really like candles.

I use them all the time, but I constantly buy them over and over again. And it, if my consumers are the type of consumers like me that always buy candles and always need candles and have it as part of their routine, then I should probably make a candle company. And that's what I decided to do.

So I think it was a long journey of looking within myself and pushing myself out of different boxes in order to make something that was really meaningful to me. So no, no, no inspiration, but lots of introspection.

Shiv: Yeah, no, I think that's a good reason. 

Sam: So how does it feel to make candle holders in other woodwares? 

Shiv: I would say that it feels pretty damn rewarding. I mean, just having the idea to think of something I want to make something that was really simple, but just use high quality material and, something tha was still unique, you know, in it's design. Yet could kind of fit into homes of all different sorts with different interior design elements and to have a prototype, put a product out there and then to actually have customers that want to order it and try it out. And the idea of seeing it in their homes is extremely rewarding for me and with this, like, latest batch of orders, like, the number of candle holders that we had to create just a level of consistency between the holders as well. It's definitely been a really rewarding experience. Usually, I will do larger items, you know, like, I might have cutting boards or charcuterie boards that are much higher value items and I'll do them in much smaller batches versus in this case, the candle holders were much smaller. Lower value items, but having to create so many of them and to keep it consistent, I think, was just something that was new for me. Very cool. So, next question, Why did you pick the areas that you did when it came to sustainability?

Sam: So for me, I believe that sustainability is not just about helping the environment, but it's also extremely cost efficient. So in all my packaging, there's virtually almost no plastic except for the cellophane window and potentially the stickers, the sticker lining and the rest of it is craft paper, metal, recyclable, or wax.

So I try to incorporate sustainability into, like, every single part of the candle business. The waxes are sourced from the Midwest America. So they're sourced, like, and in Canada, so they're sourced sort of locally. They don't need to be shipped very far, so that saves on carbon costs.

And because they're natural products from soybeans and coconuts, I don't know if they're from coconuts, but they're from like another vegetable or fruit. It creates a very clean burn, and it's also a lot healthier for the person that's using it and for the environment. All of the fragrances I use are phthalate and paraben free so they also contain no chemicals as well.

In terms of the package, the rest of the packaging, all of the packaging is made concisely to fit into the smallest possible package to, again, save on carbon costs and everything that every candle that goes out is made by me. So it's ethical, all of the ingredients are clean and in terms of the supply chain, I'm also trying to make sure that it's sustainable as well.

And I learned all of this at earthsuds, which is another sustainable enterprise that I worked at. And I thought that was really helpful with this new venture. So that's why that's all of the different functional areas I chose to implement sustainability and in my business. 

Shiv: No, that's really cool. I did not really realize the complexity of like the formulas that goes into even just the simple holders that we see the ones that are unscented in a lot of department stores. Like, when you look at it, you know, it's like, oh, you know, just must be wax. At least that's what I think. Right?

Seeing you manufacture these and go to the process of like, sourcing your various ingredients definitely been eye opening for me as well. I would say that for me, I try to think from a 1st principles, like, basis, like, where waste would come from, , in the manufacturing process of goods, , like, just in working and not necessarily something that's made in a small shop. 

So I think that 1 place where a lot of, with shops that, are run as businesses, they, need to optimize just for efficiency and a lot of times if you have a furniture shop that's making larger pieces like coffee tables and dining room sets they’re, they're going to have smaller off cuts that they don't use because they could only be used to make really small items that just aren't that high value.

Important to them and their business model, but a lot of these, usually end up getting wasted, or they go into much lower quality uses. They'll end up getting, turned into wood chips, you know, used as mulch or maybe even use this firewood and I was actually able to create a lot of the candle holders that were shipped out just using off cuts that a lot of these factories use.

So, that's , 1 interesting place that I was able to incorporate, more sustainability. 1 more thing I would say is also, especially when you're mounting, like, smaller pieces, just on the cnc milling machine that I have a lot of times people use pieces to mount would to the surface or the bed of the machine.

And that's 1 place we're just using clients and securing the objects physically using tools like that, as opposed to using adhesives as well, can just eliminate or reduce the use of plastic, right? Just instead of using something like double sided tape. And lastly, I'd say just even the chemicals that were used to finish the candle.

I think if you look at a lot of furniture stains. Just the cans of them, they usually have like a skull and crossbones on them, you know, like a flame symbol. They're definitely not things that I think, you know, you want to be touching on a regular basis and obviously, you know, once they're cured, they're a lot safer.

But, you know, I just thought, you know, why, why incorporate something like that? And I'm sure the manufacturing process for those goods is not that sustainable either, and, you know, if you don't need to incorporate something like that, why, why would you use that? Right? So a lot of the other pieces that I make are things like coasters and cutting boards things that don't always necessarily come in contact with food, but things that you're going to have in and around your house that you're going to touch while you're eating food. So I decided to just use that same finish on these candle holders as well. It's just a combination of beeswax, coconut oil, mineral oil and vitamin D oil as well.

And yeah, it's completely food safe. If you ever find that. The candle holders are trying to look a little bit older, dry, or, you know, if you stay in, I mean, you just have to give them a wash and it looking a little bit try after that. You can always just recode them yourself with oil that you have at home.

I would just recommend something that's not organic like canola oil or olive oil, just as those things can go rancid after a couple of months just choosing something like pure mineral oil or baby oil would be what I recommend.

Sam: recommend. Cool. Yeah. Thanks for sharing. I think it's, it's nice that you know, we're thinking about the things that we're sending to people that will be in people's homes, and they're going to be inhaling it, they're going to be using it, they're going to be touching it and it's important that we're mindful of all these things around us that could potentially harm us, but can also benefit the environment, right?

So I think the next question is for me. I mean, for me to ask you what were some challenges in the woodshop?. 

Shiv: So I'll just talk about one. The main 1, the biggest 1 was the fact that circles are really hard to build jigs for. So, essentially, like, the process for cutting out, like, the basic shape that the candle holder has CNC mill, just for some people who are listening or might not be, might not be aware, a 3D printer essentially stacks layers of plastic on top of each other to create a 3D image, while a CNC machine is just the opposite. You start off with a solid block and you remove material. So it's basically just like a robot carving machine, but essentially can only carve top down, or at least the one that I have works like that.

And so I would have to carve the base and then make a kind of a profile cut to cut out the shape of the candle holder. And then I would have to flip the work piece and then create the actual hole that the candle sits in on the other side. And, after I do the 1st, 2, creating the base, and then the cut out, I usually take the candles out and then I have to mount them in the reverse way just while the CNC machine is drilling the hole that the candle is going to fit in and that circular holder for that candle, even if it's off by 0.2 millimeters, I just found that it was really tight tolerance and if it was too loose, the candle holder would start spinning inside just because it's a circle and eventually it would be ejected from the mold really violently.

And if it was a little bit too tight, even just by again, point 1 or point 2 millimeters, then it would fit in so tightly that it did not want to come out after the machine was done. So just kind of finding that sweet spot and, you know, sanding every piece to make sure that it was going to fit in snuggly, but not too tight was definitely the most challenging part of making these.

Sam: It's pretty interesting. Like you also, I think I'm not sure you mentioned this, but the candle holders are one piece. Right?

Shiv: Yeah, exactly. So. You're right. I think that the process would have been a little bit simpler. If you know, I had like the base, it was kind of like a separate inner piece and I was just kind of like sticking them on, but, you know, I definitely think that keeping them as 1 solid piece is the way to go.

Just in terms of the aesthetic and the way that it feels when it's in your hand, and when you can see, like, the lines of grains that are going along the side of the candle holder and continue into the base or into, the whole as well, just seeing that it's all just 1 piece. I think it's just cool.

Sam: Yeah, it is cool. It's special and I think it's unique too.

Shiv: Okay, so the next question what other products would you say you see yourself making in the future?

Sam: So I see myself making maybe soaps, but for now I feel very focused on candles. I think it's like chemical science, right? And I find that really interesting. And I, I just believe that if you do the same thing every day for 20 years, like Paul Graham said, you're going to get really good at it.

And I would like to do the same thing for 20 years and see if, see how good I can get at it. I also want to be really laser focused on, on my mission, which is making really great candles because I like candles. So I think, you know, for now. Just candles, but I can definitely see myself expanding into things like lotions, soaps and, and other like perfumey or smelly items.

Shiv: That's really exciting. I think yeah, your, your scents were great as candles, but yeah, like the more places that can get your scents, the better, you know? 

Sam: Yeah, totally. I think this is the last question. Where do you see this partnership going? 

Shiv: I mean, I have so many ideas for different types of candle holders that I can make, and not just like tea light holders, but ones for like, votives, you can make ones that hold like, a bunch of different candles.

I mean, you could put on a dining table Candle holders, especially ones for like those longer, like Roman candles. Like, I don't know how many people actually keep Roman candles in their home anymore, but honestly, I feel like if you made some really cool Roman candles, I feel like people would buy them, you know, like, I think that they can be cool.

And I certainly have cool ideas for candle holders that I can make them. And I think that candles are just one of the most fun things to design because. They are simple enough in terms of function that they have to achieve and just in terms of technical requirements as well. But as a result of that, you have so much freedom in terms of what you can do, like whether it's having some candle holders that are just literally tree branches and, or I would say, you know, like, it's, it's very hard to communicate this like over a podcast, but or just over audio. But yeah, I mean, what else would a woodworker say? The possibilities are endless. 

Sam: Yeah, yeah, like, you're right. The function is simple. But like, they're gonna, I think they could be like pieces of art. Like I do, okay, I do want to do some meme-y ones. Like I want to make a mega big candle. Like a 10 wick. Like a huge candle. In like a fat slab of wood. I think that would be a lot of fun. But I also think they could be individual pieces of art, by themselves, right? I can just see, see you in the future having candle holders, and every year you're going to have, like, the most popular candle holder, and they're going to get more and more and more complex, and I'm really looking forward to what you come up with.

Shiv: Yeah, no, Definitely going to make you a big candle. I'm gonna make you a tree stump. 

Sam: Tree stump? Okay. So I think that is basically the end of all of our questions. If you want to learn more about my candles or purchase my candles, you can go to It's the same handle on Instagram and on TikTok. Shiv, do you want to provide your socials? 

Shiv: Yeah, definitely. So, for now, I just have Instagram and you can find me at @letawares. That's L E. T. A. W. A. R. E. S. I have a lot of content that I've recorded, but I just recently started posting and I'm still trying to figure out the format in which I want to post. And it's a key priority for me for the upcoming year. 

Sam: Great. Thank you everyone for listening. If you've made it this far, I hope you have a wonderful weekend and happy Friday. Bye.

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