Selling Over 4,500 Candles

Published: March 20th, 2018
Kevin Gillespie
Founder, Headline Solar
Headline Solar
from Schaumburg, Illinois, USA
started March 2019
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Who are you and what are you working on?

My name is Kevin Gillespie, and along with Garrett Le’ Tourneau, we created Wax & Wick, the 100% soy candles with wood wicks.

Our product is the opposite of a traditional candle - our candles burn clean, even, with no additives, no paraffin blends, no artificial colors or dyes, and are virtually smoke-free. We combine modern minimalist aesthetics with simple soy wax and natural wood wicks.

Some notable differentiation between Wax & Wick and traditional candles is that our branding is simple, the style of the candle will fit with any decor, and we use only 100% soy wax and Fsc-Certified wood wicks. Our impact on the environment is intentionally small.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The black residue you find on the side of most candle jars is soot. This soot is the solid particle that results from incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels.

I noticed dark black marks on my wall behind my desk from burning a traditional paraffin candle with a cotton wick. This struck a chord with me and I decided I could do a better job bringing a candle to market.

In order to provide the best product - we had to do it ourselves.

My business partner, Garrett Le’ Tourneau, an entrepreneur and businessman from Northwest Illinois, joined the company in December of that year. He helped grow the business from a marketing and social media standpoint.

Describe the process of creating the initial product and getting it to “launch”.

After the initial idea, creation began with finding a wholesaler to buy samples from. The sample quality from the original wholesaler was subpar. This proved one thing; in order to provide the best product - we had to do it ourselves.

Our launch was soft - really soft. We sold one candle and had a difficult time getting the candle ready to send. We had been so preoccupied with sending the perfect candle we hadn’t thought about how difficult our ingredients were. To make matters worse we were working with clear jars which showed every imperfection possible.

We had no business plan, no social media plan, and no high-quality photos. We designed the product ourselves, and branding was handled by a design company that was as amateur a venture as you could possibly imagine.

If you fail, don’t give up and never stop moving forward - you’re going to make a ton of mistakes and learn from them. Each mistake is one step closer to being successful.

Everything that needed to be done we did. After practicing making candles in my mom’s kitchen for a year, we ran with it until January of 2016. At that point, we had another problem, but this time it was a good one, we couldn’t keep up with demand.

We made the switch to modern jars, found a co-packer to pour candles, and act as our distribution center. This proved we could continue to grow the business without worrying if we’d run out of room in my mom’s kitchen, and without fear of a bigger company running us out of business. After all the small mistakes and tireless nights, we knew now we had the perfect opportunity to succeed.

What have you done to grow the business to where it is today?

We attempted some brazen guerilla marketing campaigns using Reddit as our vehicle and a couple other forums to infiltrate as consumers, slowly drop links, and then outright ask leading questions until it got us some traction.

Although some groups didn’t respond well to this tactic we still increased our revenue. Our only caveat was our margins were thin and as amateurs do, we gave away product with hopes of turning those freebies into potential contracted retailers. Because of this, we found ourselves in debt.

We were, however, able to utilize hashtags related to Shopify and blast them on social media in order to be featured on their Shopify Masters podcast, and this was a huge win for us. We also utilized social media influencers like bloggers and well-known Instagram accounts to run small contests in order to boost our reviews.

If you could go back, would you do anything differently?

Most companies start selling their products on Amazon and gradually move to Shopify. Unfortunately, we did the opposite causing the growth and scale proses to take twice as long. This was a difficult and costly mistake. Since then we have refined our process and have a firm understanding of how to move forward and reach our goals for 2018.

Some other things we would do differently would be to find a co-packer right away, push as much of our budget that we had available to target marketing with a tangible plan in mind, and when the company was able to afford upgraded packaging and outsourcing jar production we should have acted immediately.

Where you are at now and what are your plans for the future?

When Wax & Wick started in 2015 we were making $1,000 per month, and in 2017 we were bringing in around $20,000 per month during our third quarter. This company has proven that we can deliver the highest quality candles without any manufacturing errors, that’s extremely important when you’re talking about customer satisfaction and saving on cost.

In this next quarter, we plan to add ten more scents and a premium sized jar that will help scale us past the $50,000 per month mark. Our hopes are to market and capture Amazon customers with our unique candles and marketing campaigns, these new customers will help exponentially in our future growth.

Together, we have built a lasting brand that has changed the way people think about traditional candles. We have become real competitors for the traditional candle company.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

What we’ve found to be most successful are; Amazon, Cash Cow Pro and Instagram.

We also use Shopify and their preloaded tools to increase our name and branding. The more frequently people hear Wax & Wick the better our business does.

What’s the most influential books/podcasts/websites for your business and why?

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Your mindset plays a huge role in the journey. Wake up each morning thinking of the most important task you can accomplish that day, be positive and don’t doubt your dream.

If you fail, don’t give up and never stop moving forward - you’re going to make a ton of mistakes and learn from them. Each mistake is one step closer to being successful.

Where can we go to learn more?