Meet Melyssa Murray + James Murray (AKA Murr from Impractical Jokers) — an NJ-based couple who currently lives in Princeton with their dog. With a background in geriatric care, Melyssa found herself unable to work with patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and that’s how WithoutTheRoots was born. What started off as a woman-owned, moss art-based company has now expanded into selling candles. Plus, the couple is hosting a launch party for No. 95 Candles next Saturday, November 5th, at 18 Label Studios in Montclair. What’s more, not only will this be a night of drinking, dancing, and fun, but all proceeds from this event also benefit the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. Read on to learn more about Melyssa + James as well as how WithoutTheRoots came to be.
The Montclair Girl: Where are you originally from? Where do you live now?
Melyssa Murray: I’m originally from Philadelphia and James is from Staten Island. We met in the middle and now live in Princeton, NJ with our dog, Penelope.
MG: How did you two meet? How long have you been together?
MM: James was throwing a party for his first novel, Awakened, in New York City four years ago. It was a fun event for people to come out and celebrate with him and his co-author. I happened to be in the city that day and saw the event on social media. I decided to head to the after-party and we hit it off immediately. The rest is history!
MG: Tell us about WithoutTheRoots. When did you start this company + what were your goals for it?
MM: I started WithoutTheRoots in 2020. When James and I first moved to Princeton, I got a job in geriatric care. The week I was supposed to begin, Covid struck and the facility went into lockdown due to the high risk to the residents. So, I had to pivot. I don’t like not being productive or making a difference in some way, so I began getting crafty at home — and people loved it. James and the Impractical Jokers fanbase are so supportive and it’s all thanks to them that WithoutTheRoots is where it is today. I never thought this would become my full-time job, but as of a few months ago I have a full-sized office and fulfill dozens of orders a week.
View this post on Instagram
WithoutTheRoots started as a moss art-based company. My first creation was for our own home. When we first saw our home, the previous owner had a really cool living moss wall in their closet, and we wanted something similar. After doing research and finding that there was nothing under $1,000, I decided to try making it myself. One week later, I finished the wall (way under budget), and it has been hanging in our closet ever since. From there, the natural expansion seemed like candles. They bring a calming presence to everyone’s home just like the moss art. But it was tricky! It took a lot of trial and error to get them exactly the way I wanted them. But I’m so glad because they last longer and burn better than a lot of other candle brands.
MG: What gave you the idea to host a launch party for No. 95 Candle?
MM: I’ve done some small auctions virtually during Covid and had always donated to The Fisher’s Center for Alzheimer’s Research. Now that people are starting to travel and go out again, I thought it would be really fun to host in person. James and I love to host (and we’re pretty good at it) so the natural progression was an in-person event.
MG: We’d love to hear more about this upcoming event. What details can you give us? What can attendees expect?
MM: Well first off, I am so excited! I get a lot of questions about who I am and my interests since I’m a fairly private person on social media. I’m using this event to connect with my audience in a way I’m unable to do online. The whole theme will be geared toward things I love and am passionate about. Some examples include: catering from my favorite restaurant Nifty Fifties, desserts by Beez Treatz, James’ and my favorite wine, amazing raffle baskets containing exclusive experiences and memorabilia, all with themes such as Murder Mystery, gardening, games, and gift cards from my favorite stores. And of course, there will be a DJ for lots of dancing. We’ll have a fun station where you can make your own wax melts too. There is also an afterparty event where guests can play one of James’ and my favorite games with us. And the best part? All proceeds go to an amazing cause — the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
View this post on Instagram
MG: Have you hosted similar events before? How have they gone?
MM: I have never hosted an in-person event for business However, every year my husband and I throw a Fourth of July party with over 100 guests. We decorate and have catering and planned events. The day starts at 2PM and usually doesn’t end until midnight. It’s a lot of work but the payoff is so rewarding. I’m hoping this event goes the same way.
MG: You mentioned all proceeds are going toward Alzheimer’s research. Tell us more about that decision. Do you have any personal connections to this cause?
MM: Alzheimer’s holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve worked with geriatric patients, specifically with Alzheimer’s, and I’ve found that it is so rewarding. The stories these patients have are so incredible to listen to and I don’t think people give them the time of day. There is also so little known about the disease and how to treat it. The Fisher’s Center for Alzheimer’s Research is the leading research group in New York and the progress they’re making every day is truly incredible. My grandfather and James’ father have both dealt with Alzheimer’s, and I hope someday families won’t have to suffer watching their loved ones struggle with this disease.
MG: How come you decided to host your event in Montclair?
MM: Montclair is such a great town. It has beautiful charm and a fun sense of community. People who live there are so involved and supportive of local events, it just made sense. It’s also easy to access for me (coming from Princeton) and anyone who lives in the New York area. I think it gives everyone an easy commute to an entertaining event.
MG: What would you say makes WithoutTheRoots special?
MM: I think WithoutTheRoots and No. 95 Candle are such unique brands. The amount of care that goes into each candle can’t be done by big corporations. I hand-pour every single one of my candles. I’m the producer, marketing specialist, website designer, packer, and face of the brand, all in one. And I always take the time to perfect every piece. On top of that, the candles burn so much longer than traditional candles because of the high-grade wax I use. I also perfected my method of heating and cooling times so the candles always look amazing. And even though we are a small business, our prices are on par with the big-name brands. I also think we listen and cater to our customers and when they want something, we find a way to get it done. It’s also woman-owned and run right out of my home.
MG: Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
MM: My husband is my biggest support system. He is so encouraging with any project or venture I want to take on and helps me if I get stuck along the way. When I first brought up the idea of a small business, he made graphics for me and went live on social media to help promote it. He also helps me with packaging and post office runs. My friends also post and share all my creations to expand my audience. I think it’s so important to have such solid support and I am so lucky that I do.
MG: What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day starts out with coffee in bed brought to me by my amazing husband. Then we walk the dog for about a mile. Once we get back, I work out, make a smoothie, head down to my office, and get to work. I typically work 3-4 hours, and then while waiting for my products to dry, I go upstairs and make lunch. Of course, there’s a lot of puppy play in between. Then, back down to my office to package everything up and head out to the post office. Once that’s finished, I start creating marketing emails, and website updates, as well as brainstorming new scents. Then, it’s dinner time. When it’s time to wind down, my husband and I cuddle up on the couch, open a bottle of Pinot Grigio, and watch a bad movie. I think that’s my favorite part of the day.
MG: How has the pandemic impacted you and your business? What challenges have you had to overcome?
MM: The pandemic is actually how I started my business. I was upset that I couldn’t start in my original field of study (geriatric care) because the patients were at such high risk. When I pivoted to WithoutTheRoots (and eventually No. 95 Candles), it was really scary. My biggest challenge was reach and proving that my products are better than others on the market. It’s hard to start a company from the ground up, especially if similar products already exist. I’ve also had to expand my office twice and take over more of the house than I thought. But, it’s so worth it in the end because I think people are seeing how amazing these products are and the word is spreading.
MG: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
MM: Do it! I’m a big believer in changing and adapting in all aspects of life. I think a lot of people don’t get to fulfill their passions because they’re afraid of wasting time or starting over. But we should always be growing and chasing our dreams. And if you surround yourself with the right people, anything is possible. It takes a lot of work but happiness in what you do is more than worth it.