Josie Bicknelle - Feb 22 2023

I started a business with my boyfriend

Ifeel like I've been telling this story over and over and over again for the past two years to every new person I’ve met - whether it’s a mutual friend I've met at a party, a hairdresser or my tattoo artist - and yet here I am, to tell it again. For any of you who haven’t already been told, this is the story of how my boyfriend and I started our small business together.

Rob and I met on the 25th of August 2020.

We were right in the middle of a global pandemic, and I’d therefore spent months on end sitting at home, sunbathing, bored and lonely. I was also working three evenings a week in a retail job, which was, of course, equally as boring.

Out of my boredom and desperation for more human connection, I, on a whim, downloaded Tinder.

That afternoon, I remember standing in my kitchen, aimlessly swiping left and right on men and women who I had absolutely no intention of going on dates with, until - Rob, 21, Worthing.

I’ve never been the sort of person to believe in fate, or manifestation, or soulmates, but for whatever reason, I saw his face and it was like I knew him.

I felt such a deep connection to this boy that before I’d even swiped right, I took a screenshot to send to my sister and my friends. I was so convinced that I recognised him from somewhere, but I couldn’t place it.

My older sister, Millie, and all of my friends on our quarantine group chat also recognised this boy, but none of us could figure out where from. When my mum got home from work that day I asked for her opinion, and low and behold, she recognised him too.

I found out later, of course, that none of us had ever met Rob before, as he lived in a completely different town to us and would have had no reason to cross paths with us, but for whatever fateful reason, myself and all of my loved ones just had a certain feeling about him that's still unexplainable to this day.

That same evening, in the middle of watching Toy Story 4, I got a notification on my phone. It was a match!

Rob had messaged me saying he liked my freckles, and around 5-6 messages later, I’d somehow ended up asking him on a date.

I had never, ever initiated anything with someone I liked before, so it really feels like the universe took the reins that day.

Our first date was, of course, magical. We got ice cream on the beach that he used to live next to when he was a child, and pizza, and danced in the dark next to the Upside Down House on the Brighton seafront. He insists that I kissed him first, but really it was the other way round - though he’ll never admit that.

Arundel double date - Sep 12 2020

Flash forward to October 24th, three months later.

I drive myself over to Rob’s house, and as soon as I get there, I can tell something’s up. He’s acting stranger and more erratic than usual, hurriedly cleaning up some candle wax from the kitchen counter. I didn’t think too much of it - he’d always been inherently chaotic in nature.

We proceeded to have a sweet and somewhat domestic day together, heading to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte - fatefully, the very same Starbucks where I’d had my first ever pumpkin spiced latte around five years prior.

We did some browsing around the charity shops - coincidentally, opposite the very first flat that we would move into together over a year later - and headed home to cook dinner. Rob made his ‘famous’ chilli (the only dish he knew how to cook successfully).

Coffee & charity shops - Oct 24 2020

It was when he said that he had a present for me, and proceeded to take a very hand-made looking candle out of the freezer, that I knew where the evening was going.

You see, he and his friends had been having somewhat of a competition to find the most creative method of asking a girl to be their girlfriend. A few months prior, his good friend James had gone to the lengths of creating an online QR code for the girl he was seeing to scan, only for it to take her to an internet page saying, ‘Will you be my girlfriend?’. I didn’t know how, but I knew that this candle had something to do with asking us to become official.

As we ate, Rob kept impatiently checking the candle every five minutes, letting me know it ‘wasn’t ready yet’.

Around two hours passed, and I was getting myself dressed and ready to head out to a drinks evening with my friends. Rob called me to his bedroom, and told me to look at the candle. If you’ve been following him on Tiktok since the beginning, you will have already seen what happened next.

In jumbled up plastic beads, the candle read ‘Josie, will you be my girlfriend?’. I didn’t say no.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Rob had recorded my whole reaction to the candle, and the process of making it that he’d been through earlier in the day. He’d always loved posting to Tiktok and creating content, so I didn’t mind. I doubted that anybody would see it anyways.

I was wrong.

In less than a day, the video had gained over a million views. Strangers were commenting, ‘if he wanted to he would’, and, ‘i wish i was Josie’, and most importantly, ‘how can I buy one?’.

Rob is the most determined and ambitious person I’ve ever met.

I envy and admire his unabashed courage and optimism every day, and so, of course, he saw an opportunity to turn his original idea of a ‘Hidden Message Candle’ into a business venture.

I remember the first trip that we took to Hobby Craft for him to buy things like candle wax, and scent oil, and thinking he was absolutely mad for investing this much time and effort into something that in my eyes, was a long shot. But that’s Rob for you - confident to the point of appearing delusional.

To begin with, he was taking requests for Custom Candles through his DM’s on Instagram, and managing to make and ship out around twenty candles a day, all on his own. In February of 2021, he launched the website.

Hundreds of orders began to flood in, and it became very clear very quickly that if he was going to get this business to become something long lasting, that he would need help.

Luckily, I was more than willing to leave my boring retail job that I’d been looking for an excuse to get out of for three years.

And here we are. We’ve been working on building and growing this business for the past two years together now, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Another coincidence, too - the first candle workshop that we moved into happened to be yards away from the spot where we ate ice cream together on our first date, which also happened to be right next to the flat that he grew up in as a child.

We’re both so ridiculously grateful to all of you for supporting our journey together, and for helping the business blossom and grow into what it’s become. I can’t wait to see what this next year brings for us!

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