Koselig has your candles for your koselig moments
The cozy scents of a close friendship
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
After spending his days pouring concrete, Matt Kruger pours the ingredients to make candles as relaxation. A hobby has become a business.
“We turn on some good music, maybe mix in a good drink,” said Kruger, 31, who has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa) and a master’s in civil structural engineering from University of Minnesota.
“It’s a methodical process. For me, it’s definitely a release from the day’s stresses and calms the brain down before I head home.”
The “we” includes Blake Anderson, 31, his best friend since they were 3 years old. Koselig Candle Company, with a storefront in West Bear Lake, Minn., a “cute, small, quaint town,” has its share of anecdotes.
Koselig is Norwegian for “creating a cozy, relaxing atmosphere,” similar to the Danish hygge. Anderson’s wife’s Grandma Ardis grew up in Norway and now lives in Fort Myers, Fla. When she would visit and “go into a room with lit candles, a fire in the fireplace and the smell of baked bread from the kitchen,” she wanted to explain the warmth she felt inside.
“Det er så koselig her inne.” “It is so cozy in here.”
She’s their biggest—and proudest—fan.
“I am always asking, ‘what does that mean?’” said Anderson, who has a bachelor’s degree in relational communications from Bethel University (Arden Hills, Minn.), but is a graphic designer. “When we were thinking about maybe making this a company, we asked ourselves, ‘What should we name it?’ We thought that Koselig was the perfect name for a candle company. That’s what we’re trying to convey. When people burn or light our candles, we want them to experience that simple warmth that gets brought on. Whenever I see her, she’s always saying, ‘I tell all my friends. I was the one who gave them the name.’ She has lots of our candles.”
Kruger, however, is mostly German. Anderson has some Norwegian, but mainly Swedish in his DNA. That doesn’t mean they don’t have koselig memories.
“My wife’s family does a lot of traditions,” Anderson said. “I’m an adopted Norwegian. Now, we have this candle company. Since I’m a designer, I’ve always loved the simplicity of Norwegian and Scandinavian design. That’s why we chose to go black and white with the candles, a minimalist feel and something recognizable. It’s conveying that warmth we try to portray through the candle.”
“Living here in Minnesota, it’s cold and dark a little over half of the year,” said Kruger. “There’s a lot of Scandinavian heritage in Minnesota. We realized how much we already embraced. It just fit the warm things we try to do during the cold, dark winter months to keep the spirits up and get through it.”
During college, Kruger burned candles, then got curious about making candles. He connected with experts at a shop in Idyllwild, Calif., where he purchased his candles. They told him how they got started and where he could buy inexpensive supplies online.
“When I graduated college in 2015, I was just looking for a hobby to do after work,” Kruger said. “I bought a starter kit, which gave me everything I needed. Basically a couple jars, some wax wicks and some fragrance oil. They walked you through the process. It’s pretty mathematical and a bunch of ratios, which I enjoy.”
He approached his friend to help with branding. Anderson went all in.
“I thought this is kind of fun,” said Anderson. “Maybe, we should do this together. It was in his parents’ basement at the start. We were freshly graduated college kids, just kind of hanging out, and this was the product of doing that.”
Most great ideas have started in someone’s basement or garage.
The candles are made to last through multiple koselig moments, with their 11-ouncers tending to last 35 to 40 hours.
During this past holiday season, they sold a Christmas candle, a 24-ounce double wick with a 60- to 70-hour burn time. “A Koselig Christmas” is in green on the front. The rest is screen printed Nordic imagery. On the back there is a message for the season.
“A couple of years ago. Blake was getting creative, and we were getting introduced to screen printing on glass jars,” explained Kruger. “He came up with a really cool Norwegian design. Then, we basically took our balsam fir and clove candle, which is one of our top sellers, especially around the holidays, and added in Wassail (mulled wine, orange, cranberry). It’s like a mulled cider, wine scent to give it that Christmas zest.”
“The plan was to create a tradition where each year there’s a different scent, which makes it a collector’s item,” said Anderson.
There are also travel candles. A free matchbox comes with each order.
The candles are made with the environment in mind.
“We use 100% soy wax, which in the candle industry is one of the cleanest waxes you can use,” explained Kruger. “The ingredients are naturally derived from soybeans. We’ve got a lot of soybean fields around us. It’s cool to know where those ingredients come from. We’ve got cotton wicks, which are lead free. All of our fragrance oils are phlalate free. Our supplier deems all the scents that we burn as certified clean scents.
“People like to hear that the candles are made from clean ingredients and produce less soot and smoke in their home.”
Koselig is not an official family business, but there is plenty of involvement, encouragement, and help.
“We launched with six scents,” said Anderson. “Those first few weeks, we had a focus group of our family members. We tried to have natural smelling scents across a range of different scent profiles. The scents are a seasonal blend. Sometimes, an idea for different scents sparks us. Sometimes, we’re pouring candles and say. ‘Let’s do a couple testers of these three or four and just see what happens.’”
“When people return to the shop, they’ll ask, ‘any new scents?’” said Kruger. “We need new scents to bring people back to the store.”
They haven’t yet mastered international shipping but have received interest from Norway they can’t fulfill.
“My wife went to a boarding school in Fergus Falls, Minn., and there were a lot of Norwegian kids,” said Anderson. “With her family and friends, there are all these connections in Norway. They’ll visit and fill their suitcases with our candles. Every time I post on Instagram, this woman, Therese, messages me ‘Still no shipping to the motherland’ and a frowny face.”
There’s some contemplating about making Koselig a full-time venture. What has been rewarding is their ongoing friendship.
“There are days where it’s stressful at work and it’d be nice to be pouring candles,” said Kruger. “I like to do something different every day. Construction definitely has that. Construction is one of my passions. Like Blake said, it’s also just a fun way for us to hang out together amid busy lives and growing families.”
Learn more at koseligcandleco.com
All photos courtesy of Koselig Candle. Co.
This article originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.