Jenesis has always been a small company, but in the early days we were really small; three people in a one-room office small. But we had time and we had ideas, and one of our big fascinations was LEDs. We kept batting around all kinds of innovative ways we could use this tiny light source. Most companies were gravitating toward flashlight applications but we didn’t see the creativity factor in that. What could we do that wasn’t obvious? Finally we struck an idea: candles.
At the time there were really just two battery powered LED candles on the market. One had a long battery life but was so dim you could barely see it. Another company produced a product that had an annoying blink rather than a flicker. In fact as we worked on the candle project, company president Brad Jensen kept one of these candles on his desk to encourage him to make something better. Looking into the blinking “flame” of this candle we couldn’t help but think “surely this isn’t the best thing that can be made.”
So we outlined our requirements for what constituted a “good” battery powered LED candle. First we wanted it to have a long battery life. Our goal was to be able to put the batteries in at Thanksgiving, and have the product run until New Years. Obviously we had to come up with something that had a realistic looking flicker. No dim strobing dots for us. We also wanted something that would be aesthetically pleasing overall. Something you would be proud to put in your window or on your table.
To solve the battery life problem, we went straight to C batteries instead of using AA batteries like everyone else. This immediately doubled our battery life and allowed us to be much brighter. But right away it created a new problem: hiding those big lumpy batteries in an attractive package. As we attacked this hurdle we went through several major design iterations that forced us, on more than one occasion, to look at what we had created and simply decide “ok…let’s start over.” The design we ultimately came up with not only hid the batteries well in an attractive candle holder, but because it was long and narrow it created a perfect stable base for placing the candle on a windowsill as a holiday decoration. And to this day that product still doesn’t look like its big enough to hold C batteries, even to us.
In search of a more attractive aesthetic for out candle we took a different approach to the flame itself. Where previous designs put a bare, glaring bulb on top of a pedestal in imitation of the old plug-in incandescent window candles, we wrapped the LED in a diffusing material that caught the light and scattered it with a warm, soft glow. Now instead of blinding you with an exposed light source, we had a flame that really seemed to be alive with light.
As we developed the candles further, we began introducing features that have since become industry standards. We derived our inspiration for many of these features from the fact that, in order to avoid going around his house to turn on all his Christmas lights, Brad had gone to the trouble of cobbling together an elaborate remote control system. As a simpler solution to this problem, we created a dusk-to-dawn light sensor that would turn the candle on and off as the light levels changed. We also created a timer that allowed the candle, once turned on, to run for a set time, shut itself off, then turn on again at the same time the next day without the customer needing to touch it. And along with that aforementioned window-friendly narrow base we developed several absurdly simple clips to hold the candle in the window, something no one before us had taken the time to execute effectively. All of these features have since become hugely popular and every candle that uses them can trace its origins back to our design.
The flicker itself took quite a bit of time and effort. It wasn’t enough for the light to blink or flutter, what we were really going for was something that was in some ways better than a real candle flame. In searching of a way to make a realistic flickering LED candle we discovered dozens of patents describing elaborate methods for making an electric light that simulated a flame, but none of them were ever going to be commercially viable. We’re quite proud of the solution we ultimately developed for creating that vital twinkling light. It proved not only practical, but utterly convincing.
In fact, we had a favorite product demonstration we used frequently while we were testing our design. We would invite people over to our office and light a bunch of pillar candles and set them around a darkened room. The trick was, one of those candles was actually our LED embedded in a wax cylinder. We then asked our guests to pick out the electric candle among the array of real flames. We ran that demonstration dozens of times, and no one ever got it right. And to this day if you go to the store and find a real wax LED pillar candle you are looking at one of our design that was born out of that very product demo.
When our battery powered, flameless LED candle was finally introduced, it was revolutionary. There was nothing else like it on the market. And for years our products lead the category, and in many ways defined the category, while everyone else scrambled to imitate our innovations.
We had changed what an electric candle was worth. Everyone before us assumed a candle should be cheap, which meant no features, no battery life, and a crummy flicker. We stepped in with bigger batteries, truly useful and intelligent features, a better overall look, and most importantly a really good flicker. And the customers proved us right. People were willing to buy our more expensive product, and they kept reusing them year after year, putting our twinkling electric candles in their windows.
Ultimately flameless candles are a very simple product, but no one else before us had really taken the time to figure out how to make a good one. That’s why we’re constantly asking ourselves “What is something that doesn’t exist? What is something that would be better than what is out there today?” We have no shortage of new product ideas. There are products that don’t yet exist that we know could be made, and would be useful and valuable to the consumer. And with the help of you, our customer, we hope to eventually make all of these ideas into real products that create real value for you in your home.