Interviews

The Interview — Abigail Cook Stone, Founder of Otherland

Founder of Otherland

Welcome to Talking Top 10, a recurring series in which we feature the founders, CEOs, creators, and leaders who are shaking up their industries. Ahead, read our Q&A with Abigail Cook Stone, and keep scrolling to shop her Top 10 must-haves.

In 2017, Otherland Founder Abigail Cook Stone set out to build a different kind of candle brand. Inspired by her lifelong passion for art and interiors, her moderately healthy obsession with candles, and her family philosophy of finding small ways to elevate everyday life with “extra verve,” Otherland was born.

From morning meditation to late-night business school study sessions at her apartment, Abigail realized that candles were a constant in her life, but she struggled to find a brand that fit her lifestyle. The best smelling candles were often too expensive, while budget-friendly options often had ultra-sweet fragrances and lackluster design. Recognizing this gap in the market, she sparked the idea for Otherland, a modern candle brand that transforms your home into an immersive world that never stands still.

To create Otherland, Abigail married her backgrounds in art, e-commerce, and venture capital. While attending Columbia Business School, she was an associate at Founder Collective, a seed-stage venture fund, and a partner at Dorm Room Fund, First Round Capital's student-run VC fund. She has an MBA from Columbia and previously worked at Ralph Lauren in Art Acquisitions.

Catch up with Abigail on Instagram and be sure to check out Otherland's Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter while you're at it.

April 6, 2020

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R&S

Tell us about how Otherland got its start. What inspired you to dive into the candle market?

Abigail

I’ve always been a lifelong lover of art; it’s something that was instilled in me by my mom at an early age. Flash forward to when I was in business school in my 20s, and candles became part of my everyday self-care routine. I realized that the brands I gravitated towards—the ones with fresh, sophisticated scents and designs—were too expensive. So I saw an opportunity to build a brand that combined unique scent combinations with design and transportive storytelling while also bringing candles into the digital age. Hence, Otherland!

R&S

How do Otherland’s candles differ from those of other brands?

Abigail

We’re a modern brand with high-quality fragrance at an accessible price and with a focus on art. Think of us as a consumable, experiential objet d’art (visual, olfactive, tactile) that incorporates storytelling and community through digital channels.

View Abigail's Essentials

R&S

Most people like to smell candles before they buy them. How have you navigated that challenge given that you sell your products online?

Abigail

We’ve always taken a visual-first approach to selling candles online, working with different artists to create unique designs for each candle. To overcome the challenge of getting customers to purchase a scent online, we also recently launched a Scent Sampler to take some of the guesswork out. It’s a kit of pretty, printed “Scent Coasters” that provide our customers with a unique try-before-you-buy option of our five Core Collection scents. 

R&S

Otherland’s candles have already reached cult status after just a few years. What do you attribute the brand’s success to?

Abigail

We’ve been so lucky to see Otherland resonate with our millennial audience right off the bat; watching the brand grow since we launched in 2017 has been one of my proudest achievements. Because Otherland combines art and scent to tell stories around the different collections, people gravitate towards us to achieve their own transportive, at-home experience.

R&S

What does the creative process for a new candle look like?

Abigail

Each Otherland scent is inspired by a vision or nostalgic memory, creating complex, unexpected scent combinations that naturally lend themselves to storytelling and artwork. I often like to start by collaging together moodboards for future Otherland candle collections. We also work with master perfumers to develop the fragrances behind each scent!

R&S

If we were to buy one Otherland candle, which one would you recommend? Do you have a favorite?

Abigail

It’s impossible to pick a favorite—it’s like choosing a favorite child!—and I have heart for every single candle we’ve created from our year-round Core Collection to our limited edition offerings. We just launched our first decade-inspired collection, Carefree 90s, which, as a child of the 90s, I’m particularly proud of. But for a first-time Otherland customer, I’d point them to our top-seller, the dreamy sandalwood-infused Rattan, as a starting point.

R&S

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Abigail

No day is the same! Whether I’m meeting with my team to discuss an upcoming campaign, testing fragrances with our perfumers, or reviewing artist portfolios to create our next collection, there is truly no such thing as a “typical” workday, which I love. 

R&S

Besides candles, of course, what do you think is the best way to spice up a home?

Abigail

My mom’s favorite saying inspired me to start Otherland: the extra verve of the added touch. It’s all about a little extra effort that elevates the every day, like buying clementines and putting them in a bowl. It’s simple, but makes a big difference! Small touches to spark joy.

R&S

Otherland’s branding is instantly recognizable with its pops of color and pretty packaging. Would you say the brand’s vibe aligns with your personal style?

Abigail

Absolutely. As a maximalist myself, we are all about maximalism at Otherland! We combine expressive color, pattern, and design to communicate the experience of each Otherland scent.

R&S

What’s next for Otherland? Any new collections in the works or plans to create other products besides candles?

Abigail

Otherland has a bright future ahead! Two weeks ago we started doing Fireside Chats everyday at 6pm ET on Instagram Live to connect with our community and I’m interviewing special guests like Rebecca Minkoff, Sophia Amoruso, Haylie Duff and more! We’re making a donation from orders to support the Food Bank for NYC, and working on some other philanthropic ideas to support our community. And finally, we just re-released our Awakening Collection in time for spring, and with more to come! Stay tuned!

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