You may be familiar with The Really Useful Group, especially if you’re a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Australian theatre performer Debora Krizak has given the impressario a cheeky nod while responding to the government’s ‘non-essential’ stamp over the creative industries, through the launch of her new business venture.
Krizak has founded a handmade candle business during the government-enforced lockdown, making the most of an unfortunate situation.
“The idea to start this business was created during the dreaded COVID-19 when performing artists across the globe found themselves out of work and out of hope that many of us would ever be able to return to the theatre in the foreseeable future.”
“Many artists were ineligible for government support but still had mortgages to pay, children to feed, and bills that didn’t just go away when everything went into lockdown.”– Debora Krizak
the versatile creative
Krizak is one of Australia’s most versatile and recognised performers. Hailing from Adelaide, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Performing Arts before being cast in her first musical – Mel Brooks’ The Producers! in 2004. A multiple Helpmann nominee and Sydney Theatre Critics Award winner, Krizak’s most notable credits include playing the role of Sheila in the 2012 Helpmann Award winning musical A Chorus Line.
Other professional engagements include Titanic – a new musical, Respect the Musical, Squabbalogic’s Sondheim On Sondheim, Hayes Theatre’s Sweet Charity, Opera Australia’s Anything Goes, Jerry’s Girls for The Production Company, Cabaret, Lola Montez, Razorhurst, and most recently Mamma Mia at Riverside Theatre.
This industry professional was not about to let the pandemic quash her creative spirit. She searched for an outlet and a way to express herself. She desribed lockdown as “a time where I felt pretty useless and struggled to find something that could quieten my mind amidst all of the noise and uncertainty.” After some soul searching, she came up with the name – The Really Useless Candle Co. It was a fitting name aptly reflecting Krizak’s simple love of candles and her need to fill her creative soul. To Krizak, candles represented “something quiet, reflective and soul nurturing, very different to my life as an entertainer and as a mum to twins”.
“[…]I lost two show contracts and had nothing to show for it but an empty diary.”– Debora Krizak
The creative challenge was in finding a niche. Krizak asked herself ‘how could I combine my love of music and theatre with something as simple as a candle?’ Ultimately, she came up with a range of black and white slogans to put on the candles, and an overarching company motto ‘speaking your mind’, as she explains.
“Some [slogans] were designed to give a nod to our industry, like the famous ‘What Is It You Can’t Face?’ (yes, THAT line from The Sound Of Music) to Debby Boone’s hit 1977 song ‘You Light Up My Life’ as well as one of my most popular sellers ‘F U Covid-19’. Then there’s the Porky’s classic ‘Have You Seen Mike Hunt?’, for those with a cheeky sense of humour, alongside the classic sign off ‘C U Next Tuesday’. There’s even a nod to one of the world’s biggest theatrical producers in my company name (The Really Useful Group).”
Each candle is handmade here in Australia and Krizak’s children chose and described each of the featured scents, lovingly articulated on her website.
“I’m not pretending to be a company of creative fuelled chicks who hang out sipping Moet at the end of a working week in a corporate office over looking Sydney Harbour. Because to be completely honest, right now it’s just me, myself, and I … and a whole lot of candle wax and funky scents coming straight to you from my kitchen stove!”.– Debora Krizak
Krizak’s first week of production saw over 30 orders and a reach of 10.5k viewers on social media over a 36 hour period. It was then that she thought ‘I might be onto something here!’
“After doing some initial road testing, I started to expand on the slogans to include some more “PC” branding but ultimately my aim was to create a luxury, scented, all natural soy wax candle that speaks your mind and has an [unapologetic] #DGAF attitude.”
“While the concept is nothing new, I stand by the feeling that creativity comes in many different forms and sometimes it’s as simple as ‘making the simple, awesomely simple’. A lot can come from adversity, I guess, and I hope that my customers will enjoy being a part of not only my journey, but theirs too – in a world that has become far too PC for my liking.”
So what’s next for this entrepreneur mum? Aside from continuing to fulfil candle orders and nurturing her family, 2021 will see Krizak return to the stage in Packemin’s production of We Will Rock You, playing Killer Queen, along with a season in Melbourne for 1998’s production of Stepping Out.
If you’d like to support Krizak’s business, please visit her website at http://www.reallyuselesscandleco.com.au and place an order. You can follow her on social media at @reallyuselesscandleco. She is yet another example of the adaptability and resilience of Australian artists.