Chatting with Witty Wicks Candle Co.
Aubry Panek is the founder and president of Witty Wicks Candles in Warners, New York. Like many entrepreneurs, she decided to ditch a conventional 9-5 job to pursue her own business. From small beginnings four years ago, she has grown Witty Wicks into a full-time candle business with a team of ten associates. We caught up with Aubry to learn more about her business and candle making journey.
- Interviewed December 21, 2015
How long have you been making candles and what inspired you to start a candle business? I just celebrated my 4th year in business. I have always been a hard worker. I took a few years off of work when I had my children and when my youngest started preschool my husband said “next year you can go back to work." I didn’t want to go back to conventional work in an office 9-5. A friend of mine had started a soap business and I would go to her house when I dropped my son to preschool and help her. Every day I would leave her house and think, “I could own my own business.” I decided on candles because I thought it went along with soap and we could help each other.
How did you come up with the name for your business? I knew I wanted to do a beautiful looking and natural smelling candle that would fit into any decor. I also wanted the names of each candle to make you smile or laugh when you read them. My husband and I sat down and made two lists; one list of things having to do with candles and one list having to do with laughter, etc... We came up with Witty Wicks!
What do you love most about creating your products? I love the reaction from my customers. I love when someone comes to my stand, and is skeptical, and gives me the “what makes your candle special” question. I love when that customer buys a candle and then comes back the following week and raves about it and starts selling them to other customers. I love knowing that I have created something that not only has changed my family’s financial future, but has given ten other women jobs.
That's great to hear that your business has grown to employ 10 women. How were you able to expand to a point where you needed the additional help? What areas do your coworkers support you? I have two women that work with me in the workshop. They prep and finish everything. They can pour candles as well if I need them to, but I do most of the pouring myself. I have eight independent party consultants. Like any other organization like Pampered Chef, Thirty One, Silpada, etc... the reps purchase a candle kit from me consisting of every scent available in travel tins, catalogs, postcards, order forms. They book their own home parties and submit the orders to me. We fill them, ship them, and the consultants get 20% commission on all of their sales.
Don’t go crazy right away! Start small. Pick a hand full of scents to start with. It gets overwhelming when you see how many amazing things there are out there. Master what you are doing and then expand.– Aubry Panek
What are some of the biggest challenges you and your business face? Space and technology. We have a workshop in the basement of our house about 500 square feet. We built the house three years ago and thought the space was huge. I just did a major overhaul of the space to make it more usable but an actual workshop facility will be our next move, and that is terrifying. Technology, I have to pay someone to do my website and that annoys me. I wish I was more tech savvy.
How long did it take for you to master your candle making process? Not long, maybe a week or so. I definitely experimented with the oils more - seeing how much I could scent the candles without messing up the look of the wax.
Do you feel that larger containers candles are the most popular with your customers, or have you seen more interest in wax melts and tarts? Yes, I definitely sell more of the larger containers. I use Libbey Square jars and the 7.5oz is my most popular, followed closely by the 14oz. I have noticed an increase in wax melts especially in this past year.
Which scents do you find are the most popular with your customers? Fresh Coffee all year long, Christmas Hearth, Pumpkin Soufflé, Egyptian Amber, and Cinnamon Stick
What do you love most about running your own candle business? I love working in my PJ’s. I love that my house always smells amazing and I never light a candle.
What role does social media play in your business? What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media? Social Media is my only source of advertising. It has absolutely grown my business. My customers interact with me every day on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. It is essential to my business.
Based on your early experience, what advice would you give to other candle makers that want to start their own business? Don’t go crazy right away! Start small. Pick a hand full of scents to start with. It gets overwhelming when you see how many amazing things there are out there. Master what you are doing and then expand.
Do you have any other advice or tips for beginner or aspiring candle makers? I speak to a marketing class at Syracuse University every year and I tell them “There isn’t anything special about what I do. Everything I make hundreds of other people across the country make. You can buy the glassware the oils the wax at any candle making website. The reason I am a success is that I take pride in what I do, I treat my customers with respect and kindness and I have integrity in my business. The only thing special about my business is me.”Find something you love and do it the best that you can do. Treat people with kindness, respect and honesty and you will do well.