Starting Your Own Candle Business: A Blueprint for Success - CandleScience
 
A Blueprint for Success

We might be a little biased, but a major benefit of candle making compared to other hobbies is that you can easily turn it into a part- or full-time business. Many creative crafters love the perks of the entrepreneurial life. You can:

  • Be your own boss
  • Have the freedom to do work you actually enjoy
  • Build and invest in something you own
  • Spend more time with your family
  • Determine your own schedule and day-to-day activities

Handmade crafts, like candles, are some of the fastest growing small businesses in the country. According to the National Candle Association, candle sales in the U.S. are estimated at $3.2 billion per year. Here are a few more reasons why candles are a fantastic business opportunity:

  • A thriving, high-demand market: Did you know 7 out of 10 U.S. households use candles? People love quality handmade products and supporting locally owned businesses. And uniquely branded candles are some of the most popular home decor items on the market.
  • Easy to start: You don’t need a lot of equipment or space to hit the ground running—just basic supplies, tools, and a workspace—and learning the process is quick and easy.
  • Easy to price and sell: What might cost you $3 to make you can sell for $9 or more. You can market your candles through gift stores, craft malls, and farmers markets; online through outlets like Etsy; or on your own website.
  • You’re never alone: When you launch a candle business, you’ve joined a community of fellow crafters and entrepreneurs where you can share resources and knowledge.

Feature Story: Aubry Panek ditched a 9-5 job in 2011 and launched her own candle business. Today, Witty Wicks Candles employs 10 women and has a storefront in downtown Camillus, New York. SEE MORE ❯

 
Planning for Success in 8 Steps

No matter the size of your enterprise, creating a business plan is essential. It helps you think about the future, establish the foundation of your brand, and build a framework for success. In this section, we’ll highlight 8 steps to build a terrific plan.

“Business plan” can sound intimidating, but don’t worry. We suggest keeping it short and simple. Don’t stress about getting all the details together perfectly.

Your objectives and business structure are likely to change and adapt over time, especially in the early months, so view this as a flexible blueprint to get started. To help out, check out these two downloadable templates.

 
BUSINESS PLAN TEMPLATE
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STARTUP CHECK LIST
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STEP 1. Develop your “pitch”

Write one sentence that describes the core of your business (“the who”) and the value you bring to customers (“the what”). Think of it as an elevator pitch. An example: “Puppy Love Candles Inc. makes unique scented candles with unusual, memorable names targeted to dog lovers.”

STEP 2. Define your target market

The first step in building your brand is deciding where your business fits in the broader candle marketplace. Consider developing your candle line around one of these three target markets:

  • Mass-market: Typical affordable candles found at many retail stores. These candles often use economical containers and packaging, and feature traditional scents like pine and vanilla. Price range: $5 to $8
  • Mid-market: Candles with broad appeal commonly found in outlets like Target, Macy’s, or even locally owned boutiques and gift shops. You can expect candles that have higher quality packaging, unique scent combinations (such as Green Tea and Lemongrass or Grapefruit and Mangosteen), and place a higher value on brand story and image. Price range: $9 to $14
  • High-end or “prestige”: Good examples are luxury stores that command a premium price like Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, or even upscale boutiques. Candles in the high-end market are typically prestige-level products that place a premium on packaging, fragrance, and the story behind the brand. Price range: $15 to $22+

To help identify which market to target, think about who will buy your candles, how they’ll buy your candles, and how much they’re willing to pay. Then you’ll have a better idea of what materials to use and how to craft your packaging and brand.

It’s important to start with a target in mind, but be willing to pivot and adapt over time. Successful businesses constantly adjust to better fit their market.

STEP 3. Find your niche

Now you know where your candles fit in the marketplace, so it’s time to identify your brand’s individual “niche”—what makes your candles unique and separates them from the competition. Here are a few common ways we’ve seen candle makers find the perfect niche:

  • Unique scent combinations
  • Special packaging
  • Clever or even whacky names for your candles
  • Charitable support for a good cause

In the end, your goal should be to sell candles so distinctive and unique that customers can’t get them anywhere else.

STEP 4. Create a clever brand name and identity

Decide what to call your business and design a logo, color scheme, and brand identity. Once you’ve landed on something catchy and memorable, double check that a domain is available for a website (a .com URL is particularly important) and run a trademark search. You don’t have to register a trademark right away, but you’ll want to have the option available as your business grows.

When brainstorming names, focus on what makes your brand unique, what you’re passionate about, and what resonates with customers. Don’t get too elaborate with your branding. Instead, focus on being personal and authentic.

STEP 5. Set a basic startup budget

We suggest creating a budget for your first two months in business. Estimate the cost of supplies, equipment, and overhead. Don’t forget to pay yourself an hourly wage for your time and effort as a business owner, too. Here’s a downloadable template to help out:

STEP 6. Develop an initial product line and prices

It’s best to keep your product line small and manageable. Think about which candles are most popular with your friends and family, and if they fit your target market. You’ll also want to determine how much each item costs to produce (in supplies and time), and what a reasonable price might be. Don’t be afraid to price your candles based on your time and effort. We’ve seen many candle entrepreneurs price their candles anywhere from $5 up to $30 (or more), depending on their target market.

STEP 7. Decide where to sell

Finding ways to sell your candles isn’t hard. Here are three markets to consider up front:

  • Local craft shows, gift shops, and farmers markets
  • Online marketplaces like Etsy
  • Your own website (we recommend Shopify as a great resource)

Also consider letting your personal network know that you’re now selling candles. Early on, your family, friends, and co-workers can provide invaluable feedback on your product line and can be some of your best brand ambassadors.

STEP 8. Incorporate, get insurance, and explore permits and licensure

Much of this depends on your location and individual business needs. You should contact an attorney, accountant, and insurance professional for guidance on incorporating and liability insurance. You also need to explore state and local permit and licensure requirements for small businesses. You have lots of options for business structures, including sole proprietorships, general partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), S corporations, and C corporations. Here’s a helpful IRS checklist for starting your own business and an article from Etsy on business structures popular with crafters. (*None of these materials are offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.)

One last thing…

We’ve covered a lot in this article, so you might be experiencing info overload right now. We get it. Starting a business can seem like a daunting task, and there is no perfect time to get started. But we’ve seen thousands of crafters—just like you—succeed at it time and time again. If you’re passionate about making things by hand, are a motivated self-starter, and are ready to learn, grow, and adapt, you’re ahead of the game.

 

TAKEAWAYS

Here’s a quick recap:

  • Candle making is one of the best small businesses you can start. It has low startup costs, doesn’t require much equipment, and can be done right from home.
  • Before you launch a business, hone your craft and get comfortable with the candle-making process.
  • Always plan ahead. Create a simple business plan that covers your products, market segment, and startup budget.
  • Remember, you don’t have to get everything right initially. Experiment and see what works best for you. It’s part of the process of being an entrepreneur. Start small and grow from there.
Remember, we're here to help.

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