CANDLE-maker Essence of Harris has embarked on a drive to ramp up its exports to the US and start selling into Germany.

The family-run company employs seven people on the Isle of Harris and two in Inverness. It has recently hired two US-based sales representatives – one in North Carolina and the other in South Carolina.

In planning its international expansion, Essence of Harris has used Bank of Scotland’s international trade portal, which is aimed at identifying and prioritising the best overseas opportunities for companies’ products or services. Bank of Scotland is also supporting the expansion drive by Essence of Harris with funding of £15,000, which will support the search for new customers and allow the company to invest in stock.

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The Harris firm, which has a factory at its Tarbert base, was launched by Jamie McGowan and his wife Deenie as Buth Bheag Candle Co. in 2015. It has this autumn undergone a rebranding to Essence of Harris.

The company makes hand-poured candles using 100 per cent soya wax. It also makes home-fragrance products.

Bank of Scotland noted that the company’s products were “both inspired by, and named after, the Isle of Harris’s world-renowned beaches and scenery”.

Essence of Harris has two shops –one at Tarbert and the other at Inverness Airport.

It supplies 46 retail outlets across the UK. It also supplies two overseas retail outlets– one in Thailand and the other in North Carolina. Bank of Scotland said the exports to Thailand had arisen from the company’s use of the international trade portal.

Jamie McGowan, director at Essence of Harris, said: “As the popularity of scented candles increased, we saw a gap in the market. We started out by experimenting with natural scents, mixes and ingredients in our kitchen. Now we’re looking to sell our creations on the other side of the world – it’s an exciting prospect. We’re proud not just of the products we make, but also of the employment we have created for a small island economy.”

He added: “Exporting to new markets is the next step for us to keep the momentum going. Most of Harris’s tourists come from Germany and America so these countries are an obvious choice for us – they have a natural affinity with our wee island.”

Lindsay MacLeod, relationship manager at Bank of Scotland, said Essence of Harris’s products, coupled with its “energy and drive”, made it an “ideal candidate for exporting”.