12 January 2024

Riverina Made: The candle-making evolution of Billy and Bear, from curiosity to handmade success

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Norman Phillips and Mark Wilksch

Billy and Bear owners Norman Phillips and Mark Wilksch. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Who are you and what is your business? My name is Mark Wilksch. Our business is Billy and Bear.

Where did you begin? I started making candles when I was about 14 to 15 years old. I was always intrigued about how they were made, and I learned how to make them myself. I knew I wanted to make them the way I wanted to and thought, why not make handmade products here instead of an overseas brand? Co-owner Norman Phillips and I opened Billy and Bear almost four and a half years ago in the [Neslo] Arcade. We started in a single-unit shop further down the arcade, and in May 2022, the double shop became available and we moved into that. Before opening the store, we did markets and pop-ups.

Wax melt

The wax melts are hand poured by Mark. Photo: Billy & Bear.

What do you produce? We make candles (pillars), bath salts, bath bombs, bath milk, lip balms, room sprays, body wash and room diffusers. All our candles and wax melts are hand poured. We do a beeswax range and use Australian beeswax. We are about to launch our new body butter.

What do you sell that makes a great gift? Besides our (Billy & Bear) products, we have a unique range of gifts as well as homewares. We try to source smaller Australian brands rather than huge companies. We have products that no one else has in Wagga.

Bath bombs by Billy & Bear. Photo: Billy & Bear.

What would you make if you could do anything? I would like to expand the business and have a high-profile visual shop because we are tucked away and people find it difficult to find us.

How would you promote the Riverina? The Riverina is great. It is easy to get around and great things are around to do. There are great cafes and shopping, people need to get out of the city and come to town and have a look.

Bath Milk

Billy & Bear’s bath milk. Photo: Billy & Bear.

Where’s your favourite place for a cuppa? We like to go to Jardines.

Who is another local producer you admire? Rosemary Thomas from Junee. She makes ceramic flowers, frogs, insect trays and a other few little bits and pieces.

READ ALSO Riverina Made: Tanya makes the most ‘yummiest cookies’ for everyone

Learn more about Billy & Bear.

Region Riverina is committed to celebrating our local producers and creatives and encourages everyone to buy local.

If you’re aware of someone who’s making something amazing, let us know!

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