Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Hayley Clarke, Co-Founder of CandleXchange

Hayley Clarke is co-founder of CandleXchange, a novel circular economy venture on a mission to stop 1 million empty, single-use ‘home fragrance’ containers and 100 tonnes of packaging waste ending up in landfill by 2030.

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To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

My career has taken many twists and turns – starting at 18, working in sales and marketing at an IT startup, before landing a role, two years later, as marketing manager with global tech giant, IBM. At the time, my ‘dream job’, as a bright-eyed 20-year-old, keen to live and work overseas, while also feeling energised and captivated by a disruptive and transformative industry set to change the world.

Looking back, there was never a dull moment. However, after two decades in such a fast-paced environment (including living and working in Singapore) – and not wanting to reach the point of burnout – I took a leap of faith, co-founding the world’s first ‘burn-and-swap’ circular economy home fragrance venture, CandleXchange, in 2021. On a new mission to change the world, for the better, one candle at a time.

With an unswerving focus on natural materials, zero waste and container reuse, CandleXchange’s Burn & Swap solution is a sustainability no-brainer. You return containers. We hand-pour new, natural candles. Burn. Breathe. Repeat.

What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I’m up by 6.30am to get my daughter to school, then head straight to the workshop (based in Sydney’s Northern Beaches) to pour candles and play around with new fragrances and product ideas.

After lunch, I hit the computer to catch up on emails and business ‘must do’s’, before visiting local suppliers or making deliveries to CandleXchange retail stores.

After dinner, I kick into study mode. I’m in the process of this year completing my MBA program in Circular Economy from the UK’s University of Bradford. Notably, the world’s first distance-learning MBA of its kind, developed in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

We’ve all heard the mantra, ‘Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life…’ While starting a new venture and juggling personal commitments as a working Mum is no easy task, I don’t consider what I do as ‘work’. To me, creating a startup in the circular economy space feels more like a purpose, and an example I want to set for my daughter.

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In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Yes. I’ve banned myself from looking at emails and social media as soon as I wake up in the morning. My new routine is to get out of bed, enjoy a cup of tea, and mentally reset before launching into work mode.

Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

My all-time favourite podcast, which I listen to religiously, is How I Built This with Guy Raz, serving up incredible insights into what makes some of the world’s best-known entrepreneurs tick. My favourite book of all time is Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E Frankl, chronicling life as a World War II prisoner in Nazi concentration camps.

If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Jane Goodall or Ellen MacArthur.

Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Concerted effort is needed to prevent plastic pollution choking our planet, involving each and every person ‘saying no’ to our throwaway culture. Put simply, we need to stop single-use plastic being produced and put the focus on eco-friendly, reusable alternatives.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.