For thousands of years candles have been used for practical and aesthetic reasons, personally I love the soft light and gentle fragrances. There's just something about a candle that is soothing and relaxing that people are drawn to. If candles are something you love, maybe you've thought about making your own as a hobby, for gifts or perhaps as something you could sell to family and friends, or most likely if you're here, you're wondering, how do I go about starting a new candle business?
Going from an idea in your head to a business may seem unattainable, but when broken down into steps and goals, it's entirely possible. A quality product can sometimes sell itself, it's just all about getting to that point.
If you're just starting out and figuring out how to put in motion a new candle business, it's sometimes hard to keep track of all the things you need to set up, accounts to make, paperwork to fill out, but it will all be worth it in the end, I promise!
Below I have a few tips for you on where to start with starting a new candle business. Hopefully my experience and missteps can help you along in the process.
Getting Started: Conceptualize and Plan
- Consider what exactly you want to sell and who you are selling it to.
- Who are your competitors and what are they doing? Is there room in the market for your business?
- If possible, think of an idea to pull someone into your candle business- is it a specific ingredient, neat packaging, a tagline that speaks to people?
Understanding the market, your competitors and starting to think about a brand identity are good places to begin. Starting a new candle business is always about the candle; however, establishing a strong foundation on which to build your business is going to make the overall process run more smoothly from the start.
There is a big market for sustainable, natural goods in our world as people become more eco-conscious and are seeking a connection to the things they buy and bring into their homes. This is how Effuse Candles was created, I had a vision of a more sustainable alternative to soy and paraffin candles, and something that could be scented in a natural way.
Other ideas could be creating animal themed candles, or perhaps unique scents- popular now we’re seeing tobacco, whiskey, and other non traditional scents becoming popular. Unique packaging or inclusions like Diamond Candles are a big hit (be safe, don’t put anything flammable into a candle), or even themes like candy, toys, or anything nostalgic.
Supplies and Costs
Once you have an idea of the product you are looking to sell, start to figure out what it would take to create it. A home candle business is pretty forgiving on the pocketbook for start-up, but the little items add up pretty quickly. Is what you're picturing in your head feasible?
- How much do containers (and shipping, don't forget that!) cost?
- What kind of wax will you use and how much will it cost?
- Where will you purchase your supplies?
- Fragrance oil or essential oils? Keep in mind essential oils are much more expensive and depending on your wax you may need more of it than you anticipate.
- Labeling? Shipping costs? Equipment costs?
- Where are you going to sell your candles? Are there any transaction costs?
I am all about the numbers, figuring out costs and ways to make a profitable product come easily to me, but that isn't going to be the case for many people. However, it's a necessary step. Making candles as a hobby is something I enjoyed doing, but when I started to think about turning it into a business I went straight for the practical side- could I make money doing it? Maybe you want to start with the product itself- that's perfectly fine! I'd recommend sitting down to do some of the math early on though, you don't want to end up with something that costs $10 to make, but sells for $8 in the niche you're working in, that's not worth your time nor energy.
Another thing to consider when calculating costs and profit margins is how well your business will scale. In many cases you'll be starting small, purchasing small quantities of materials leading to more frequent shipping costs and typically higher per item costs. Finding materials that have discounts available as your company grows will drive down costs, making your candle business more profitable in a year than it was when you started.
Product Creation and Testing
This may be where you start, or something you feel you’ve already got covered. If you’ve been making candles for some time already and consider yourself an experienced chandler you still have a few bases to cover before you start cranking out candles to sell. If you’re still starting out and figuring out your product, test test test. You could spend days, weeks, months starting a new candle business; but if your product isn’t up to snuff you likely won’t see the business you want, or get the feedback you need to be successful.
- Create some candles in the intended packaging with the intended materials.
- Conduct burn tests to see if the fragrance is what you're looking for, if it is strong enough/ too strong and to see if the candle is burning at the appropriate rate.
- Ask friends or family to test out candles for you and give you some feedback!
Burn tests, while tedious are going to become your new best friend (or enemy). Any time you change something with the formula of your candle, you should conduct a burn test to see how the final product is affected. New wicks, new fragrances or new concentrations, new wax, different vessels; they are all dependent on each other and will affect your final product. Our Focus candle went through several iterations before landing on one that burned correctly and had a pleasing scent.
Bulk Apothecary is a great resource for information (and supplies!), they have an excellent blog with more pointers on how to set up your candle business. Here is a link from Bulk Apothecary to another post with information for you on how to start your candle business.
Finding a wholesaler for your materials can sometimes be tricky, vendors I have used and liked are New Directions Aromatics for essential oils, and Northwoods Candle Distributing for wicks, and of course Candle Science for containers.