Part III: Early Essence

As you read in Part II, I always knew I wanted to go into business for myself. I wasn't quite ready to dive in full-force yet and kept the comfort of a day-job (income) to fund my side hustle, Wicked Candle. A business is like a living organism. It's born, it grows up and then, matures. Each stage of the business development requires a different skill-set to nurture and continue that healthy business growth. 

Once I made the decision to use Wicked Candle as a pilot to peek into the life of a business owner, I had a number of things to do to really set up the business. I sought out help in many areas and there is absolutely NO shame in seeking help from others to guide you on your pathway to success (honestly, check out our Peer Advisory Group — it formalizes that support!). Just use common sense and logic when seeking and taking advice and get a few opinions before you make any critical decisions! 

Here are a few things I had to figure out to get Wicked Candle up and running:

  • A business name. I might be creative with regards to some things, but naming thing is certainly NOT one of them. I reached out to some of my trusted personal contacts and shared my business idea with them. I sought their help in creative brainstorming. The name, 'Wicked Candle' was developed by one of my closest friends.

  • Then, I registered my business with the state of Massachusetts. I'll give that state some serious kudos, as it was a very seamless process I did online in about 15 minutes.

  • From my academic and professional experience, I knew the importance of branding. I needed a professionally designed logo. I explained my business idea to a designer friend from work and asked if he would design a logo for me (of course, I paid him) that embraced some of the vintage aspects of my brand. Check it out (below).

  • I also wanted to set up my business properly and contacted my friends to see if anyone knew any good accountants in my local area. That accountant was able to register me to submit state sales taxes pretty easily online (again, kudos to Massachusetts for making this super easy).

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Building the foundation for my craft product business

Wicked Candle was a product-based business, so if you own a service based business the next few considerations might not apply as much to you. Comment below if you'd like me to write about some of the considerations for a service-based business, as I went through a very similar process for D&Co!

After I found a relatively inexpensive materials supplier (e.g. wax, wicks, etc.), I got to work on building the foundation for Wicked Candle. There are a few things I did at this very early stage of my business: 

  • For my product:

    • I sourced my containers from local thrift shops. It was great, because it was an inexpensive option and they cleaned up very nicely. However, it was kind of hard to detect the actual material that the container was made from (FYI, don't make candles in crystal containers. Oops).

    • My initial packaging was all over the place. This was largely due to the fact that I had so many different sized containers. I bought boxes from the local Michael's store. I added ribbon that was aligned with my brand colors. This was not really sustainable in the long-run.

    • My first product tags were my logo cut out and glued onto blank gift tags (which I also bought at Michael's) *cringe*. Again, crafty but not really sustainable if I were to be making orders with 100s of candles.

    • I used my iPhone to take product photos. The shots were okay, but lacked professionalism.

  • For promotions:

    • I promoted the hell on my personal Facebook account and focused a lot on free social media tools. For the first year or so, my friends and family were my main customers and supporters.

    • I forewent a company website for a long time and used existing tools, such as Etsy to sell my product.

  • For placement:

    • I shipped everything via USPS but the weight and predicting the shipping amount varied significantly from piece to piece (Side note: for all those Etsy users now, Etsy didn't yet have the shipping weight calculation feature and even if they did, my product was so inconsistent in size and weight at that time).


Key Learnings

Generally speaking, at this phase of my business I spent a considerable amount of time worrying about making everything (particularly the product and packaging) look good (can we say creative avoidance?!). The time required to reproduce those kinds of results was not scalable and my product still had significant issues with consistency. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're selling one-of-a-kind works of art. But I wasn't. I was making candles at comparable price points to Tar-jay. I didn't have the economies of scale that Target has to keep my materials costs low, which meant that I really didn't see to many profits. And again, that's not sustainable for long term growth. Bear with me, I was learning! 

Because I was so wrapped up (no pun intended, ha) with the packaging and product, I took my eye off of the prize and lost focus on one of the most important things at this stage of the business lifecycle -- selling my product! I'd advise any new craft business owner to not be afraid of the big S word (i.e. sales) and don't leave it as an afterthought. If you aren't selling, you're not really a business. It's back to being a (very expensive) hobby. You need to make a living, don't forget that. 

What steps did you take to set up your business?