9 min 45 sec

Eco-Friendly Candles Produce Smoldering Profits

A married couple stumbles upon a bright idea: selling candles with reusable containers to grow plants.
High Profit Manufacturing Product Sustainability

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What It's About

A lit side hustle that doesn't just blow smoke!

Business Model
Skills Required
Product Development & Marketing
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Find a problem to solve, and solve it, no matter how small it might seem. Sometimes the best answers are the simple ones. The next steps would be to save a bit of money, make a prototype and find some events to sell it and get customer reactions. Then go from there!

Fun Fact

Wax candles were invented by the Egyptians around 3000 BC. Back then, they were used purely to provide light but today people by candles for many reasons. They help change the mood of a room, alleviate stress and fill a home with beautiful fragrances. They’ve become so appealing that the candle market in the USA is now worth over $3 billion a year.

Notes from Chris

Episode 905
Cynthia and Chris Hileman met years ago during a job interview. They both worked in sales and Chris was interviewing Cynthia for a position at his company in Florida. They hit it off right away, and instead of just becoming co-workers, they ended up starting a relationship. A few years later, they got married and started a family.

When their daughter came along, Cynthia decided to take a break from work and become a stay at home mom. Chris kept his job, which by that time was as an account manager in the banking industry.

They’d talked for a while about starting some kind of side business, but none of their talks led to anything fruitful—at least until they moved from Florida to Ohio, where they had their big idea. It was brought about by the weather. Cynthia, in particular, struggled with the shorter days and long winters of the north. It became such a battle, that she suffered from a mild seasonal depression.

To counteract her down moods, she began researching how people lived in countries with similar climates. Denmark, in particular, had the same grueling winter conditions—and yet often topped the list of world’s happiest countries. She soon came across the concept of "hygge", a Danish word meaning to make yourself and your home comfortable.

It resonated, so she began trying to make their home cozier and warmly lit. A big part of that was making frequent use of candles. It worked, and in a short time, their environment was a happier place and winter became much more bearable. But it came at a cost... they were using a lot of candles.

With all those candles came a lot of wasted candle containers. Before long, empty glass jars, ceramic containers and porcelain pots were stacked all over the house. Both Cynthia and Chris, being environmentally conscious, didn’t want to throw them all in the landfill. So, Cynthia began planting flowers into the nicer looking ones and using them as pot plants.

It was recycling in its best form… not just chucking them in the blue bin, but repurposing and reusing. The process opened her eyes to a big problem. There must be millions of candle containers thrown away. What could be done to minimize that waste?

When an unexpected gift arrived in the mail, she and Chris found their answer. Cynthia’s friend sent her a seed embedded card. The type that you can simply plant in soil, add water, and the seeds will sprout into a beautiful plant. Cynthia was taken with the idea, but it was Chris who originally saw it as a solution to the problem of candle container waste.

They devised a plan to create their own candle brand, using ceramic pots for the containers. And here’s a key point that set them apart: they’d create a seed embedded label. So, when the candle was finished, customers could simply fill the container with soil, plant the label and have a beautiful plant to enjoy.

The idea had sparked, and they called the concept The Growing Candle. Chris and Cynthia started by making the candles in their own basement. You might say it made sense. They also decided to produce 100% soy candles, because they burn cleaner and fragrance can be added more easily.

Over the next year, things continued to grow. Due to the unique nature of the product, they were able to stand out from the crowd in the saturated candle market. There are literally thousands of people making candles, but no one else making them in a reusable pot that comes complete with its own plant.

The idea alone opened a lot of doors for them, brought in customers, and presented them with larger orders from suppliers. Throughout 2018, their seed cards weren’t the only thing growing. The business did too, exceeding five figures per month in profit.

The biggest problem at this stage was that Cynthia and Chris were burning the candle at both ends. It became hard not to talk about the business at all times, when at home and work. They often need to remind themselves to talk about and focus on other things, like the freedom and time they both have in their lives, including more time spent on raising their daughter.

They are working hard … and, in the words of Neil Young, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.


  • The Growing Candle: Learn more about this growing side hustle over on Chris and Cynthia's website
  • Shopify: Cynthia used Shopify to set up her site for The Growing Candle, and they're offering a 21-day trial and exclusive discount for all Side Hustle School listeners!


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"Find a problem to solve, and solve it—no matter how small or simple it might seem. Sometimes the best answers are the simple ones!"
—Cynthia & Chris Hileman #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau