Founding and operating a candle making business makes you both an artisan and an entrepreneur. Are you ready to put your creative skills and business savvy to work to grab a piece of that market? This start up guide provides both the steps and resources needed to launch a candle making business.
Define Your Product Line
Decide what kind of candles you want to make and sell. Your designs are limited only by your creativity and materials, but do yourself a favor and start with a limited product line. A few options include:
- Candles made into custom shapes, like animals or sports figures
- Church candles, with colors to match the liturgical seasons
- Candles with embedded jewels or other treats
- Unity candles, for use in wedding centerpieces
- "Good luck" candles
You can also distinguish your product line based on the materials you choose.
- Make your candles from beeswax, soy wax, paraffin, or gel.
- Embed ribbons for wicks, inserting them either upright in tall candles, or lengthwise in shallow candles.
- Make container candles, using barware, antique glassware, shells, or decorative tins.
- Develop a scent that is all your own.
- Create specialized colors.
Learn which candles are your best sellers, and expand your product line from there. Whatever design choices you make, be sure to write down all your recipes and formulas. You will need to be able to reproduce your winners to precise specifications.
Set Up Your Workspace
You will need a heat source that does not rely on open flame, a well-lighted workspace, room to set up an assembly process, and adequate storage space for your supplies. You will also need a climate controlled environment for storing your finished candles, as well as an area designated for packaging.
Be sure to purchase the correct type of fire extinguishers, or a fire-suppression system. Hot wax is volatile, and an accidental spill can quickly become a consuming blaze!
Stay Safe and Legal
Become knowledgeable about your city's zoning laws as you plan your workspace, and stay legal. Because you are working with flammable materials, extra caution is advised. Research your city fire codes, obtain all necessary permits, and speak with your insurance representative. If you should have a fire and authorities determine that your business was operating outside the law, your liability could be great.
Make a List of Supplies
As an accomplished candle maker you may already have a number of your supplies on hand, but you will still need stock up on quantities. Consider the following shopping list of supplies and adapt it as needed.
- Double boiler
- Luster spray
- A scale
- Measuring instruments
- Leak-proof containers for candles
- Packaging materials
Identify and Select Supply Vendors
At first you may elect to purchase your supplies from a local hobby store. As your business grows, however, you will want to seek out quality wholesale vendors. Placing larger orders with select vendors is generally a more cost-effective way to procure supplies.
You will also find that vendors' new offerings are good indicator of industry trends. Your vendor should also be able to provide the quantities you need, in the timeframe you require. Popular candle making suppliers include:
- Candlechem offers a broad range of products including seamless molds, braided wicks, warning labels, and more.
- Candle Making Supplies carries a wide range of waxes, containers, and molds. The company is also known for its palette pricing.
Gain Industry Expertise
Your customers -particularly those who are resellers- will look at you as an expert in the candle manufacturing industry. They will feel more comfortable buying from you, and consequently become more loyal, when they perceive that you "know your stuff." They will be eager to hear about product trends, fresh marketing ideas, environmental efficiencies, and more. The following organizations can help you to stay on top of industry knowledge.
- Candle Cauldron has recipes, tips for throwing candle parties, formulas for figuring candle burn times and many other tricks of the trade.
- The International Guild of Candle Artisans offers information, a gallery of amazing candles, safety tips and a suppliers index.
- The National Candle Association is a wonderful membership organization devoted to the art and safe use of candles in the home.
Establish Your Business
Just as some aspects of your business relate specifically to product creation, other facets are common across all types of businesses. A few of the steps to starting a small business include:
- Naming your business
- Selecting a legal structure
- Registering your business with both the state and IRS
- Establishing accounting practices
- Buying business insurance
Write Your Business Plan
Writing a good business plan is the linchpin to establishing almost any successful small business. You will need to include market research and financial statements, as well as organizing and formatting your plan in a manner that is familiar to potential lenders and investors.
A solid marketing strategy and advertising plan are critical components of any good business plan. Sometimes the marketing plan is written as a component within the business plan, and sometimes it's a separate document. Be sure to include details, such as the types of media advertising channels you plan to use.
Budget and Finance
It's no surprise that start-up budgets for candle making businesses vary. Shoestring Profits estimates that you will need an initial investment of only $200-$300, while Entrepreneur suggests a starting budget of $2,000.
Many people fund small start-up businesses out of their own savings or take an advance on an existing credit card. Others seek out investors, lines of credit, government loans, or grants.
Once you have accounted for all your expenses and know exactly how much it costs to produce each candle, you will be able to set your sale price. A good rule of thumb is to double your costs and charge that amount to your wholesale or bulk customers. For direct sales you will want to triple your cost.
Check your competitors' pricing to determine whether your prices are competitive. If your prices are significantly lower, you may want to adjust them upward. If they are slightly higher, you'll need to explain why your products are worth more. Perhaps your candles burn longer, or cleaner, or feature some other property that your is unique to your brand. People value what they pay for, but your marketing must help them to justify the expense.
Small business owners routinely wear a lot of hats, but no one can be all things to all people. Seek outside help when you need it; build it into your budget, and incorporate it into your pricing structure. It's okay to hire an accountant or contract with someone to build and maintain your website. That isn't working less; it's working smart.