Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Brittany Taylor, and I’m the owner and Chief Candle Designer of Black Luxe Candle Co. I started Black Luxe Candle Co. almost two years ago, in April of 2019. Currently, I run Black Luxe with my husband Julius, but when the business first started, it was just me! I always tell anyone I encounter that “ I didn’t choose this candle life; it chose me!”
Our flagship items are luxury candles, but we focus on creating a luxury experience with our candles. Our customers are people who love the “treat yourself” culture and we’ve been building our base of customers by showing candles in a non-traditional way. I always say the candle collections we display are pieces of my personality as they have always been focused on uplifting and self-care.
In my first year in business, we made a total of $4,800 in the year 2020; during a pandemic, we made a total of $40,000; we also netted $12,000 in sales in November to close out our holiday season.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My personal journey of creating this business goes back 5-6 years ago when I started the process of self-care and healing. In 2015 I had just graduated from college, but I was also pregnant for the very first time. When it was time for our 20-Week appointment, the doctors discovered that I had dilated and I would be going into labor soon and there was nothing they could do about it. Thereafter I was stricken with deep grief and sadness. My grief and sadness had persisted for months. So, one day I decided that I would pursue positivity and gratefulness even if I didn’t believe it. That change in mindset led me to Black Luxe.
Black Luxe didn’t start with the intention of being a business. It started as a way to provide gifts to family members. I was so tired of spending money on physical items I began to craft some items for Christmas. One year I made body scrubs and body butter and for Christmas 2018 I decided I wanted to create candles. I had personally used candles to uplift my mood and to put me into a tranquil state of being.
I bought a kit on Amazon but I didn’t like the tins that came with it, so I bought some jelly jars. I also wanted to create a “relax kit” so I paired the candle that I was making with a small bottle of wine and chocolate. The gift was well received and I posted the candle online just to show everyone the gift I had made. I, then, started to get many inquiries from people curious about how they could purchase a candle from me. The people I had gifted them to were wondering if I was going to make more of them anytime soon. I was even asked if I was going to have classes on how to make the candles. I didn’t have a business yet it was just a quick Christmas hobby.
However, I thought about it for a while and told myself that I could create a business, and see how this may go. I started the process of creating a business in January 2019. When I first started Black Luxe, I was employed full-time, so I was able to bootstrap Black Luxe. Black Luxe has always been an excellent way for me to express myself creatively since I wasn’t able to do it at work.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
In the beginning, I still wasn’t sure if starting a candle business was a good idea so I started to test candle combinations, watched a bunch of youtube videos, and did a lot of research. I quickly discovered that I was pretty bad at making candles. And, unlike my candle kit with the predetermined ratios, creating the ratios on my own resulted in a completely undetectable scent.
I had to enlist the help of my math pro husband. I told him the fragrance load I was attempting to achieve and he created a formula for me to follow. The formula - tested multiple times with multiple scents - worked! It had the strong scent throw I was looking for. Once I had the formula together I did test runs with family and friends.
I joined a bunch of Facebook groups to learn more about the candle making business. So from the very beginning, I started with insurance and did a trademark search to see if my name was available, and began the process of branding. From the Facebook group, I was able to find suppliers and everything I needed to get started.
One secret about Black Luxe is when I first started playing around with different designs for the candle, I didn’t have a color printer to test labels or design styles. What I did have was a black and white laser printer. So I started creating the aesthetic of Black Luxe based on the tools I had at my disposal. To me, Black Luxe is simple yet chic and that was determined by the printer I had available.
Describe the process of launching the business.
By March 2019, we began to think about a full business launch, since we had tested the product and our candle testers were well receiving it. My initial investment to get Black Luxe started was between $1,000 and $1,500. I decided to keep it really really simple and offer only one type of product (the 4 oz. tin) that was available in 8 different scents. I actually dabbled in heart-shaped wax melts that I sold to a handful of friends and co-workers but decided to keep it simple for the public.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself people will resonate with you, and if they don’t that’s okay too!
My background in Marketing and Advertising coupled with my degree in visual communication gave me the edge and sense of confidence I needed to push forward. With this, I had the experience necessary to launch new products into the market. We had decided we needed a simple introductory cost of $9 for 1 candle or 3 candles for $20. We figured $20 wouldn’t be too much for people to spare. That thought in our process was hugely successful as we sold almost $1,000 worth of product before our official launch date of April 9th.
One of the things I learned while launching is you must have your inventory in order. This was an area where I had to work really hard to maintain. Although I did not have any shortcomings when it came to the inventory I had on hand, I learned that if I build it, they will come. I wasn’t sure, at first, if anyone would purchase. But my first wave of supporters showed me what Black Luxe was capable of.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
What has worked to attract customers is our ability to show candles differently. What has retained customers is our dedication to customer service. What I have learned is this… BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF! We have sold out of collections multiple times because I’m committed to delivering an experience and not just a candle.
Prior to the pandemic and shutdowns across the nation, we sought out to expose our products to the masses at numerous local vendor shows. Julius proved to be quite the salesman, convincing people to smell our wonderfully fragranced candles at every show and encouraging me to engage with the people. I could say that this was his first foray into the selling of the product. These interactions got people to follow us on social media, as well, and we began to be recognized by friends of friends and local patrons of our products. One thing I learned from this is that word of mouth can be a powerful marketing tool.
At the beginning of 2020, we were planning and preparing to expand. I was encouraged to fly out to California to attend conferences such as “Create & Cultivate” to learn even more from others. I looked into connecting with people to get Black Luxe Candles placed in retail shops and mind-meld with other minority small business owners in the local area.
By the end of February 2020, we were wrapping up our first specialized collection for Valentine’s Day. It was the best month of sales we had ever had up to that point. We made a strong online push that month in conjunction with a vendor show we signed up to sell our products from. It was also the first time I enlisted outside assistance in the form of a videographer to help launch the collection with a sensual Valentine’s Day video featuring the candles. We sold the Black Luxe experience and I saw it as a huge success!
Then Covid-19 rocked the country. By mid-March, everything came to a halt. Conventions and shows I planned to attend were being postponed indefinitely and canceled altogether, and we had decisions to make, hunker down and wait it out or keep plowing forward. Obviously, we decided to plow forward. Honestly, Julius wouldn’t have had it any other way. He never lets me quit anything I set out to do. We then had to adjust and adapt to the new world we were living in and I gave everyone watching a glimpse into what was to come.
Now that I think about it, this process took place rather quickly as we brainstormed ways to continue to introduce Black Luxe to the masses. We launched our next collection just in time for our 1st anniversary. This was coupled with an anniversary sale to promote our first year in business and encourage new and returning customer engagement and a willingness to buy and try our products even though they couldn’t smell them from the comfort of their homes. Emphasis on being descriptive and painting a picture of what the Black Luxe experience is like became that much more important.
Julius began promoting the business online quite a bit more as well at this time tagging everything with #blackluxecandles. He said that he figured he should expose Black Luxe to all of the people he knew as well. April managed to produce sales 50% greater than February. We knew then that we had to have been doing something right. In May, we pushed through by partnering with a local florist, The Flower Bar, and having a Mother’s Day Giveaway. I knew that people would love free stuff because I love free stuff. Giveaways and raffles took place more than a couple of times to keep those existing customers engaged. I must say, I think I was onto something.
June truly showed me that people were becoming believers in the Black Luxe experience. A wave of growth hit us faster than we were actually ready for, more than doubling April’s sales. This was the stepping stone I needed to truly elevate my goals. The road to a 10k month was getting clearer by the minute.
The majority of our traffic comes from our social sites with Instagram currently having the most authentic engagement. I don’t post a lot on Instagram. I’m more of a Facebook status poster and I really didn’t know how to translate my personality to Instagram. But I was attending a digital conference and had an aha moment the speaker noted to have at least 10 Instagram stories at any given time. When I started to implement that strategy my engagement skyrocketed and so did my sales. I was able to showcase not only my product but my personality, as well, through Instagram stories. The majority of my clients on Instagram know me by name and that’s because I have dropped my personal Instagram account and started using my business Instagram as an upgraded personal page.
Additionally, a good percentage of sales also come from email marketing. Whenever I send emails I tend to always get sales. I really try to personalize the experience. I don’t want our message to come off as a mass message. I always want the message to feel personal like I’m talking to them face to face. Personalization has helped a lot!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The future of Black Luxe is something I think about often. In April of 2020, I was laid off from my full-time job and I shifted into giving Black Luxe my attention to give me solace. I told myself if I can achieve a 10k month in sales I would dedicate a full-time year to my business. We achieved that in November, reaching over $12,000 in sales for the month. It took nearly $2000 in ad costs, the mapping of our customer journey through the Black Luxe experience from start to finish, making some hard-to-reach connections to be able to sweet-talk a couple of celebrities into promoting our product, and a massive increase in inventory purchasing over the course of 5 months, but we managed to do it! Since I was able to achieve my goal, I’m now in the process of committing to this full-time journey.
At the end of 2020, we were profitable. Now that I have committed to a full-time year I’m in the process of signing my first lease for a candle studio space. So we begin this journey in the red!
Through the majority of this past year, our store has been restricted to e-commerce almost exclusively, but we have partnered with a couple of brick-n-mortar small businesses to sell some of our products. One goal is to expand in this area as well. We are also getting more inquiries for partnerships within the private label sector.
Another set of goals is to continue to expand our local territory as well as increase our traffic from our social channels and increase our customer base. So continuous brand awareness is on the agenda.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One thing I learned that showed itself to be advantageous is being able to work with someone who works differently from yourself. This will allow for different perspectives to be explored and the merging of ideas to be implemented. Julius and I work in opposite ways. I’m a big picture, hurry and get it done, sprint to the goal type of person. However, I take great care in tending to the digital aspect of Black Luxe. He's detail-oriented, measure twice cut once, take your time and get it right the first time, type of person.
We clash from time to time, leading to tense conversations, but cooler heads always prevail and our compromises always lead to a better quality Black Luxe experience. I had no idea customers paid attention to the little details Julius puts into candle production and packaging until I saw so many people mentioning it in the reviews. The little things really do add up!
The other gem of knowledge learned from this experience: Communication is KEY! Having a business will get frustrating so learning to take a step back before you respond to messages can save you. And we never leave a customer hanging. Reaching out to them means a lot to them as well. Being true to yourself and saying no when necessary is also key. But you also have to know when to be accommodating. Kindness can go a long way. Lastly, Research! Continue to research and practice to make your business better.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Shopifyhas been the best decision for my business. The amount of 3rd party apps you can use is endless. Additionally, Klaviyofor email marketing and Stamped.io to solicit for reviews. More of my favorite apps to use is pageflyfor website customizations and pirateship for shipping.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I listen to daily motivational speeches on youtube. It's what helps to keep me going. I have learned a lot from Facebook Groups such as DIY For Candle Makers, Product Boss, and Product Boss Podcast. The groups I’ve joined have been invaluable to my growth where I can learn from others and what they are going through as a business owner.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
The advice I would give is to be easy on yourself! It's ok if you make a mistake and it's okay if everything isn’t perfect. One thing I’ve learned or have started to implement is the Nike slogan “Just Do It.” Every day I have to get up and move forward and sometimes I have to make hard decisions but I just tell myself. Just do it. This motto has helped and has pushed me further in my business.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to be yourself people will resonate with you, and if they don’t that’s okay too! I’ve studied a lot of small businesses that are doing well and one of the things I continuously see is a willingness to share themselves and how they run their business.
And finally, KNOW YOUR NUMBERS! Julius emphasizes this heavily. With understanding where you want to go, you can calculate what you have to do. He has helped make sure formulas were put together correctly, inventory is abundant but not overly abundant, and all of our calculations add up. Knowing how to manipulate the numbers can easily make or break a small business. If this is an area you struggle, seek out the support of someone who can assist or guide you in this area. This way, you won’t be afraid to take risks because they’ll be calculated risks weighted against any potential drawbacks. When you know your numbers, you understand your business’s true value.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes! I’m actually looking to hire a virtual assistant that could assist me with email marketing. As production demands increase, we will also look for one or two people locally who can assist with production.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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