A Playa Vista Entrepreneur Creates the Scent of Authenticity
By Robyn Paris
Entrepreneur, Playa Vista resident and mother of three, Effie Tanji launched Bodewell Living after an acquaintance took one look at her successful jewelry business, trussedfun’d (which she runs with her best friend Aleia Ramsey – trussedfund.com), and was so impressed, she said, “I love your designs. You should get into candles!” Initially a bit put off, Effie responded, “Why candles? I’m doing jewelry!” But about three years ago, inspiration hit.
Over the course of about two weeks, she did extensive research on the candle business, designed a simple yet elegant label using construction paper, a ruler and a Sharpie, and conceived of the name “Bodewell” and the unique scents. She found a manufacturer in Inglewood and had her first prototypes produced. She started selling the candles out of the back of her car at her daughter’s soccer practice and within about two months, she had sold 600 candles just through word of mouth. She knew she was on to something. Effie expanded production and before long, she landed accounts with Anthropologie, J. Crew, Madewell, Ojai Valley Inn and many others.
In the crowded candle market, Effie found success with her unique approach and brand. Bodewell Living candles are each created with a specific memory from her life in mind. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, many of the scents are inspired from her childhood. In fact, one candle that I had the opportunity to try, called V.IVRE: radiant, described as having notes of white grapefruit and balsam, reminded me so acutely of my childhood summers spent in Cape May, NJ (just down the road from rural PA) with my grandparents, I almost felt I was back there again in that yellow kitchen in the house by the beach.
Other candle scents are inspired by Effie’s memories of the summers she spent in Greece as a child with her paternal grandparents. Still others trace her move to Los Angeles and her life as a wife, mother and businesswoman. Each candle features a brief poetic story on its packaging – meant to transport the
experiencer to another time and place. Effie explains, “It was important for me that the product resonate and touch people very deeply and move them so that their own memories are triggered as a result of experiencing the candles.”
She explains that her business was booming and rapidly scaling just before COVID-19 hit, but it’s slowed since. As a one-woman operation, she notes that this period has been a blessing in that it’s given her time to pivot, regroup and figure out how to scale and grow the business at a manageable pace. She adds that sustainability is important to Bodewell, along with collaboration with other female entrepreneurs and charities. Effie recently designed her “Human” candle, featured on the Bodewell Living website, to raise money for the Los Angeles LGBT Youth Center, which has suffered during the pandemic.
Part of Effie’s brand success has derived from the authentic, honest approach she takes on the company’s Instagram account @bodewellliving. She features simple, creative snapshots of the products, along with photographs of herself, her three children Ella (9), Nico (6) and Lexi (3) and her husband, a Japanese-American LA County firefighter who is stationed at the Marina del Rey Station 110 on Admiralty Way. In reference to a recent IG post on the Bodewell account where Effie challenges the smoke and mirrors of social media perceptions, she notes, “My children are half-Asian and I’ve been asked if I’m the nanny several times. I feel like as a Caucasian woman who lives in Playa Vista, there are a lot of assumptions made about me, dismissing me as to who I am and where I come from… I grew up in the welfare system and my father came from Greece illegally… and he was deported. He didn’t speak English and people made fun of him. In our tiny town in PA, we were considered outsiders… We make all of these judgements based off of a boiled down caricature and I feel that it’s so important to just stop. And look. And listen… We are all human beings who have suffered and who continue to grow and make mistakes and learn.”
To buy one of Bodewell Living’s beautiful and unique candles, visit the website at bodewellliving.com where most retail for $36.