Welcome to the farm!
Who are the faces behind the candles? Theresa, and my trusty co-worker Ruger!
I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I make soy candles.
Actually, I am slightly obsessed with candle making, from the first time I ever tried it, back in December 2019. I had started thinking about it back in 2018 as I was getting ready to say goodbye to my last horse Coco, who was older and failing. I was feeling a bit bereft and not much like a “farmgirl” anymore. I would no longer have my horse around, no longer need to go get feed, work in the barn, etc. for a long time, if ever again. What was I going to do to keep that feeling and that part of my identity alive, with just 2 dogs and a cat? My husband was encouraging and reminded me that farmgirls do more than care for animals and grow gardens. Hearing that made me reflect on my love for canning and junking and crafting, but I pushed all those thoughts under the stall mat, so to speak. Life went on, and I grieved the loss of Coco and 2018 quietly passed by.
Enter December 2019. I was laying low for the winter, spending quality time in the house with our beloved blind and old dog, Remy. Her story was entering the final chapters and I did not want to drag her around in a jeep in the snow, she was uncomfortable being far from the couch. She needed comfort and care, so I snuggled up with her on the couch and caught up on my reading for a while. But I was missing something. I was feeling like I needed to do something with my hands. I’m a creative cook, and I enjoy it immensely, but I knew that whatever I cooked, I would eat it all too. I needed a plan B.
I thought about those candles again.
I whipped out my smartphone and started googling soy candle making. I was most definitely interested. How hard could it be? Maybe even fun. I could make a few, give them away for Christmas that year.The kitchen was 10 feet from Remy and the couch, I could take good care of her too. Easy Peasy.
I told my patient husband that I was going to just go get a small kit, see what all the fuss was about. It just so happened that there was a candle making supplier a half hour away from me. Great! Off I went. I came back with not a small kit. And I made candles. Then I gathered up every stray container I had in the house, and I made more. I went back to the supplier again for more supplies. I made more candles. Repeat. On the third day, the owner of the supply house congratulated me on becoming a small business owner. I laughed out loud. I have a full time job, one that I find rewarding. Small business? Forget about it. She laughed back at me, and said “Nope, you’re going to do great, I can tell you enjoy it. You’ll be in business in no time.” I got a kick out of it and thought no more of it.
One week later my entire dining room was filled with about 300 candles. Now what? My husband was giving me the side eye as I came home with yet another round of supplies. I needed to start getting some of these creations into the hands of women I knew. See what they had to say. I had already been burning them non stop, all kinds of scents, I loved them all! I started with my favorite coffee stand, with six or seven ladies on deck. I happily handed them out and asked them to use them, enjoy them, and give feedback. I did the same with my handful of friends and family. Everyone told me they loved them, and that I should sell them. I was very surprised that I found myself in this position. After all, this was just an experiment, right? Something to do to pass the time in winter, that would not cause me unwanted weight gain. Plus, perfecting the candle making process would give me even more to do.
As soon as I cleared out enough to justify more supplies, I went for it. I was still not thinking about selling them, I just wanted more new scents to try. After that round, I started thinking about the money that I had spent on this “experiment.” I decided that I would have an open house in my dining room, to let the ladies see all of them and then if I sold enough to pay for my supplies, well that would be great.
Needless to say, it was a raging success. Now what?
I told myself 1) Just go for it, and 2) Get a business license.
February 2020, I was in Business. I had no idea how I was going to do it, I just knew I wanted to do it, badly. It made me feel good to make others happy with my candles. It made me feel even better inside my head and heart. I wanted more of whatever this feeling was.
I went for it, right up until the Covid shutdowns. I did my part staying home, staying safe, away from others. That is when I put the thought into the label, jars, and mission. I had already named the business as a nod to that farmgirl identity I needed to keep. I would put Coco on the label. I had ideas pouring out of me into a big notebook, I was furiously trying to get it all out. What was my goal? What did I want my jars to look like? How was I going to brand my product that would be true to my personality? What would I do with the proceeds? Lots of big questions floating around those quiet months.
Then Mothers day 2020 came around. It was time to fish or cut bait. I had my jars, lids, labels, the whole thing was ready to launch. My table was stuffed with beautiful jar candles, time to get them out there. I delivered or dropped off a bunch of them, and I was thrilled. I was on my way for real, selling to paying customers that I did not know! EEK!
My favorite coffee stand was my first wholesale client, carrying my candles on the windowsills.
It was May! I was beyond excited. I was not even thinking about the possibility of selling wholesale yet. That gave me the courage to go to another coffee stand, and then another, and on from there. They were as excited as I was! Before too long I was able to say that my candles were stocked at about 8 local locations where I live, and the surrounding area. A couple of those had actually found me for once, and I was thrilled.
Fast forward through Summer 2020 where I stayed steady enough selling wholesale to procure supplies for the Fall season, which I would discover is the busiest season for candlemakers. I had cleared out a space for a studio, which had display shelves that I could just fill to my heart’s content. I had an open house in October, and that was successful enough to procure supplies for the Christmas season, and another open house in December. I expanded my studio space to accommodate pouring bigger batches of candles. I made notes in my big notebook on what worked, and what did not. I started doing custom scent blends, like most candlemakers end up doing to keep that creative spark going.
I entered 2021 with a grateful and proud heart, my little business had been able to pay for itself in bits and spurts. What next? I wanted a website. I wanted a home office to discipline myself to do the necessary busywork and paperwork that comes with the territory. I wanted to help other people and causes, a few dollars at a time as I could. I wanted to expand the studio to be more efficient. I wanted professional pictures of my candles.
Slowly, I’ve been able to accomplish all of these things, and more. I have more ideas and dreams in my head to bring to fruition this year and beyond. I have truly discovered and uncovered a passion for candle making and for small business, and I did not realize how much I needed it, until I had it. It feeds my creative soul, allows me to help others, and gives me an outlet for grief and healing that stretches back decades. It has been an unexpected gift for my mental health, especially since I launched it right before the pandemic. It has helped me cope with all that 2020 and beyond has continued to be. It has truly been a blessing to meet so many good people on this path, and I look forward to meeting many more along the way. Most of all, I still feel like a farmgirl, and I will always have this gift to remind me that it isn’t just owning livestock or growing crops that defines what a farmgirl can be, she can be many things, and do many things, that belong in a farm setting and elsewhere. And my love for animals, gardening, canning, and rusty farm equipment is present in every candle that I pour. You can feel it clearly, along with the scent and wax, my gift to all that pick one up. Thank you for coming along on my journey!