30 Under 30: Sean Blishen gets lit (and nervously excited) with Kilig Candle Co.

A car crash in 2019 may have upended Blishen's career plans but it also served as an opportunity to build on her love for self-care.

Sean Blishen of Kilig Candle Co.

Credit: Kilig Candle Co.

Sean Blishen, 29

Founder, Kilig Candle Co.

Life Story: For Sean Blishen, suffering a serious car accident in 2019 proved to be a pivotal event. Raised in Vancouver, Blishen dabbled in marketing, journalism and fashion studies after graduating high school. She also worked at Aritzia until her mother, an immigrant from the Philippines who grew up poor and is now a nurse, encouraged her to try health care. So Blishen did the unit clerk certificate at Vancouver Community College and became a unit coordinator at St. Paul’s Hospital. Enjoying the work, she then spent two years in England as a personal shopper at luxury department store Harvey Nichols before returning to St. Paul’s. But the car crash “completely changed my life,” recalls Blishen, who has spent three years in physiotherapy. “I wasn’t able to go back to my hospital job.”

So Blishen, who has always liked making things and is a big believer in self-care, started Kilig Candle Co. out of her parents’ kitchen in 2020 with just $300. After giving candles to friends and family, she began selling them on Instagram and launched a website. Blishen saw Kilig—a Tagalog word that loosely translates as “nervous excitement”—as an opportunity to help others. So in early 2021, the company partnered with Toronto-based nonprofit Adhika, which feeds Filipino children breakfast at school. Kilig donates a meal for every candle sold.

Bottom Line: Vancouver-based Kilig sells its candles online and at some 35 North American retailers. Blishen, who sources all materials locally, makes most products herself, with help from an assistant. The company recently launched a self-care line consisting of lotion, soap and two roller-ball perfumes. Having built a healthy e-commerce business stateside, Blishen hopes to land more U.S. stores. So far, Killig has donated some 6,000 meals. 

Blishen, who hosts the Girl Gang pop-up for female-owned businesses in Vancouver, is also thinking about how to help her fellow entrepreneurs. “I’d love to find a way in the future, as we grow, to create some kind of bursary where we give back to people who want to start their own businesses, specifically female-founded businesses.”