753
7 min 37 sec

Bank Employee Kindles Candle Profits

When her favorite candle shop leaves town, a Portland woman lights the way and starts her own.
Arts & Crafts Branding Product Retail

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What It's About

A candle lover fans the flame on a new side hustle.

Business Model
Product
Skills Required
Candle Making & Brand Development
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
High

Words of Wisdom

Chelsea had some wonderful advice on the subject of branding:

“My advice to anyone wanting to start their own business is to start off on the right foot by establishing strong branding before you launch. Anyone can make candles, soap, jewelry, etc. Strong branding is what will set you apart, what will make consumers pick up your product in the first place.”

Fun Fact

Did you know that there is such a thing as a "Candle Snuffer"? Some candle authorities believe that you’re not supposed to blow out the candle. And if you left all your sets of snuffers at the beach house, you can use the tip of a screwdriver to tuck the wick under the wax, therefore extinguishing it, and then untuck it so the wax doesn’t harden over it.

Or you could just blow it out. Basically, what I’m saying is that some people take candles really seriously.

Notes from Chris

Episode 753

Chelsea Arvesen’s side hustle idea ignited when her favorite neighborhood candle shop closed up. Normally, it might not be wise to replicate a business that has closed. In this case, however, the owner simply moved out of town.

While working full-time at an investment bank in Portland, Oregon, Chelsea took the opportunity to fill that gap. She partnered with her sister-in-law to start up their own candle-making operation. They loved the candle shop that had been in their community and first tried to buy the business from the previous owner. When that didn’t work out, they decided to start from scratch.

After work and on weekends, the pair built their brand, Bridge Nine Candle Co., with about $2,000. The startup costs were mostly for supplies.

Chelsea found a base formula for making soy candles online and made her own tweaks from there. She then hand-poured the candles using a double-boiler system in her sister-in-law’s kitchen.

It was an exciting day if they made 200 candles in an 8 hour period. Eventually, their system improved so they could produce 450 candles in just 3 hours. In the early days, they spent at least 30 hours a week pouring candles and “pounding the pavement” to get them in stores.

Chelsea has learned that strong branding is key to setting her product apart. There are a lot of candles out there, so you need to think about why yours will be different enough to drive purchases.

Today, the candles are sold in over 25 brick-and-mortar gift shops and boutiques, primarily in Oregon. Most shops set up a wholesale account with Bridge Nine and purchase products at 50% of retail. She has also built an online store—a move she wishes she had made sooner. And she’s expanded through new products, like aromatic sprays, as well as partnering with gifting companies—the kind that sends out monthly subscription boxes.

A big turning point in the business was when Chelsea met with a business strategist. For the first few years, she took almost no income while reinvesting back into the growth of the company. Around the 5th year, she sought guidance for her online marketing, and things really clicked. She credits that outside guidance for her light bulb moment.

Here’s the key thing she learned. She needed to sell a lifestyle, not a product. Previously, she had been pushing the product itself and trying to advertise to too many different people. Once she was clear on her core audience, she could focus her efforts. She added lifestyle content to her social media feed, feature topics like decor ideas, ways to style candles, and photogenic tablescape images. She also made sure her social media and website were more cohesive in look and feel.

The month after adjusting her marketing strategy, online sales went from $300 to $1,500! From then on, she saw 20-30% growth each year. It was 7 years in the making, but this past year’s sales were around $100,000.

Eventually, Chelsea plans to leave her full-time job and work solely on Bridge Nine Candle Co. Meanwhile, she’s thankful to be employed while building the side hustle because it means she won’t have a huge debt looming over her business when she does make the transition.

It just goes to show: when one candle shop flickers out, it might be time to fan a new flame.



MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:


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Yours in the revolution,

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Resources

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Quote of the Day
"My advice to anyone wanting to start their own side hustle is to start off on the right foot by establishing strong branding before you launch. Anyone can make candles, soap, jewelry, etc. Strong branding is what will set you apart, what will make consumers pick up your product in the first place."
—Chelsea Arvesen #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau