Many years ago, Leo Chan first came to Canada from Hong Kong as a young student.
However, soon after completing his studies, home called as he found his way back to Hong Kong.
For 15 years, he worked and lived as a typical Hong Konger before political instability in the country brought him back to Canada a year ago.
Unsure of the what the future held for him and his wife, Ponette Lung, in Canada, Chan and Lung started playing around with candlemaking and soap art.
The couple turned to local candle suppliers and got their small business off the ground within about two months of their arrival in Canada. Alpaca Studios was born. The couple now makes handmade artisan soap bars and candles, created as a treat for the eyes, nose, and skin.
However, as appealing as their designs would look, it is advised to avoid devouring their inedible but certainly-looking-real dessert candles.
Guide to Holiday gifting
Alpaca Studio's wax candles and soaps come in fun shapes and scents like creamy macaroon soaps and creamy cake candles — which can be hard to resist devouring.
For those entering the dating game or celebrating an anniversary with a nostalgic memory, they offer a "First Date" candle with a subtle floral and sweet scent.
For the outdoorsy people in your life, their "Canadian Bush" has a fresh and earthy scent that can give you a feeling of walking in the woods, surrounding by tall trees, grass and flowers.
Tired of the winter? With their "Surfing" scent, you can be transported to a beautiful island — the sweet coconut scent with a touch of an earthy tone will give you a feeling of enjoying the sunshine in a beautiful island.
Last year, they also introduced solid perfumes, aimed at travellers. "We thought it's nice idea to have a perfume that is not liquid and easy for travel," Chan said. "But our senior customers said they used to use this back in the day, so it reminds them of their memories."
Small business hurdles
Like any local artisans going through their ups and downs, Chan and Lung also had their share of struggles, they said. They had to go through a lengthy process of trial and error. Lung said she has a lifetime supply of soaps from all the design mistakes she's made with her soap art. But they learned from those mistakes, she said.
"I feel really amazed when people feed back on my product," she said. "They say, 'This is the prettiest soap that I have ever seen and it's quite encouraging.' That's why we like to do markets instead of just selling online. We like to meet people, we like to get feedback from people, and we get a lot of encouragement from them so it can push us to do more to design more unique."
With the holiday season, the pair is busy creating desgins for the upcoming Christmas markets. Their products can also be found at the Nooks Canada shops in Burnaby and Gastown.