How We Grew Our Candle Business 50% And Reached $500K In Sales

Published: March 15th, 2022
DShawn Russell
Southern Elegance...
from Raeford, North Carolina, USA
started January 2016
Discover what tools DShawn recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hello! My name is D’Shawn Russell and I am the owner of Southern Elegance Candle Co. It is a Southern roots-inspired and developed home fragrance company that seeks to instill the timeless nostalgia and heart-warming feelings of growing up in the south and is redefining what it truly means to be a southern company. Our products include three distinct collections of candles, room & linen spray, jumbo wax melts, and diffuser with reeds. Although the heart of what the company does is steeped in southern traditions, Southern Elegance products are for anyone who wants their personal space to feel comforting and inviting.

Since our last update, we have increased sales by 50% ( approximately $500,000).


Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?

We increased sales by focusing on forming strategic partnerships. In our case, I completed training with The Workshop at Macy’s incubator (which allowed us to sell on, also participated in the CJ Walker Institute PACE Bootcamp which gave us access to the New Voices network, received free mentorship with National Center for Economic Gardening (NCEG) and appeared on multiple podcasts. The company was featured in several online magazines, appeared on Good Morning America several times as well as partnered with Paypal to create a video about how I use Paypal Working Capital to help finance the business.

The focus was to increase the exposure of the brand in every way possible. None of the press was paid, it was all completely free. Although, we are looking at paid PR opportunities for 2022. I applied for every incubator and accelerator and said yes to every new opportunity. We took several big risks that paid off.

I have found that partnering with other brands is one of the best ways to increase sales. We were able to leverage their platforms with little effort to gain brand awareness, drive people to our website and gain customers.

In addition to large corporations, we introduced an affiliate program and partnered with about 100 micro-influencers. We evaluate them every 90 days to determine if they are a good fit.

We also launched a TikTok channel for both myself as the owner and a separate one for the company.


What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Lesson #1) Running a business can be very unpredictable; control as many variables as possible and don’t stress too much about what you can not control. There were months where we did almost $400,000 and months where we did only about $50,000. This volatility is not good for morale. The difference came down to marketing and sales. You have to constantly have a plan to market the business and then ask for the sale. The months that I focused on getting the brand in front of as many people as possible were the months we had the most sales.

As a result for 2022, we created a marketing calendar so that we can track monthly and weekly campaigns to ensure we have a plan to create consistent revenue. We identified the slowest months and will ramp up discounted sales during that time. We will monitor how well each campaign performs as well as get more customer input to identify what they would like.

Lesson #2) When an employee has problems, the company has problems. Finding the right balance between empathy for employees and the bottom line for the company is tricky. There are no right answers, but the best answers at the moment. Finding great employees continues to be a struggle. In my case, there are no easy answers, mainly because I live in a very rural town with a population of less than 5,000.


What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

I mentioned moving into space last year, it is just now being completed. Production delays, an increase in the cost of goods, a steel shortage, and shipping issues pushed everything behind schedule for almost 8 months. We plan on moving into a new production space in the spring of 2022. It will be 15,000 sq ft and was built from the ground up. It is a huge investment and scary! But, we had no other option as there were no production spaces in our county to accommodate the projected growth for the next ten years. We had reached the maximum capacity for our current space (4,000 sq ft).

Get a good coach and hire consultants as needed.

I lose sleep over the increase in cost for the mortgage, lights, phone, security, etc. We are still in the grips of a pandemic and although we are continuing to grow at a rapid rate, the economy is still very unstable. For the first time, the company was hit with supply chain issues and was not able to get one of our best-selling jars. Also, the cost of our supplies has increased between 20% and 300%. I worry about continuing to hit revenue goals to ensure the growth of the company.


Have you read any good books in the last year?

I haven’t read any new books; in fact, I have watched tv for almost 4 years. I am too busy but let me list all my previous selections because these are the tactics I used.

All my books are on Audible. I listen in the car and whenever I have downtime.

  • The Purple Cow by Seth Godin Explains why you need to stand out in a crowded marketplace.
  • Clockwork Mike Michalowicz Helps to teach you how to automate business processes.
  • Crushing It: Inspirational stories from the experiences of dozens of entrepreneurs
  • Tribes by Seth Godin: It’s our nature. Now the Internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost, and time. Find your tribe and make some money.
  • The Blue Ocean Strategy: Blue ocean strategy is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand.
  • You are a Badass: Create a life you love. And create it NOW, Make some damn money already.
  • Start with Why: it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.
  • The E-Myth (Highly Recommend) Gerber draws the vital, often overlooked distinction between working on your business and working in your business.
  • Profit First (Highly Recommend) Offers a simple, counterintuitive cash management solution that will help small businesses break out of the doom spiral and achieve instant profitability.


Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

My one piece of advice is to get a good coach and hire consultants as needed. I have worked with coaches in several areas as my company has grown. I also apply to incubators and accelerators to make sure that I am keeping up with technological changes.

My first coach taught me the ins and outs of branding and wholesaling. Lela Barker of Lucky Break Consulting is one of the best in the business when it comes to building a brand. She has a wealth of experience and her diploma is from the School of Hard Knocks to empower other artisans and product designers. Southern Elegance Candle Company would not exist in its current form without her guidance.

My second coach focuses on selling on E-Commerce platforms. I have worked with Susan Bradley of the Social Sales Girlsfor the last 3 years and contributed a lot of my continued success to the fundamentals about paid ads, email marketing, and SEO I learned from her. The Social Sales Girls’ Inner Circle is a community built with a clear path to success and actionable lessons for business owners who want more traffic and sales on Shopify.

When I need targeted marketing expertise or just inspiration I use Kristi Jackson of Women’s CEO Project. I have worked with Kristi for the last 3 years also. Her strategies and information are so comprehensive that it takes 4-6 months to implement it all. She works with current and aspiring coaches and service professionals on crafting profitable business development initiatives, a focused sales strategy, and results orientated online marketing plan.

My third coach works with me on my mindset and for the last 3 years ensures my goals are big and audacious. Leah Rose Farber of Global Turnon Global Turn On LLC, runs a community of women committed to their greater impact in the world through business, leadership & circle. She trains, facilitates & supports by offering free & paid education, services & classes.


Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I would love to hire a creative director! My brain is exhausted from running the day-to-day operations of the company. A creative director is typically the head of the creative team. Having someone else make important decisions on what goes to the client and make important upper-level managerial and creative direction decisions would alleviate a lot of brain overload.

Where can we go to learn more?