One year anniversary 🎉 !

by Safaa C

A year ago, I launched my candle business with $100, and I made 25k in total sales. 

I always dreamed of making/selling something, anything! I finally did, a year ago, and I thought it would be helpful/empowering to anyone who wants to start a business or to simply give you the backstory of Geeky candles. 

Why candles? 

There is a big market for candles, and the product is validated. The process of making them is easy to learn and you don’t need a special expertise to come up with great scents, many free resources are available to help with that.

You also don’t need a lot of capital to get started, and it’s an easy business to run from home. 

My goal was to find the most convenient cost effective product and to build a brand around it. This way, I won’t find excuses for myself and spend months ruminating about the perfect product. 

How did I brand my candles?

A candle with a story and a purpose is more appealing than just a scented candle on the supermarket shelf. 

I branded my candles around my personal hobbies, I thought of my daily activities and how a candle could fit in there.

The first idea I came up with was candles to light when watching a movie, the scents will be based on classics such as the godfather, pulp fiction etc. 

But then, I realized that I should come up with a broader use case for my candles, that’s how the idea to base the candles on movie genres was born. 

I kept brainstorming about my hobbies and I came up with candles for each hobby I had, gaming candles, bookish candles and as I was learning web development at the time, coding candles. Now, I had to choose one of them to brand my business around, it was a tough choice and I wasn’t sure which one would be more attractive.
From there, I thought why not create a brand around the combination of those hobbies, as a result I came up with the name geekycandles, candles to empower the nerd in all of us. 

Now I had to decide how many candles should be in each collection, pick a name and a combination of scents for each one to test. 

Starting with $100!

Now that I have a clear idea of my product. It’s time to actually test the scents I brainstormed for each candle. 

I went to a candle shop, bought fragrance oils ($60 for 12 different fragrance samples) and 2 pounds of soy wax ( $7 for 1 pound). 

Wicks were cheaper on amazon ($10 for 100 units) then to the dollar store to buy glass shots (4 boxes of 6 for $9). 

At this point, I have all I need to start making my candles and testing the combination of scents I brainstormed for each candle. 

The shot glasses are used as containers, after pouring the wax and fragrance oil in the glass, I would give the candle 3 days to cure, then light it in the bathroom (a small space), close the door, give it a good 15 minutes for the fragrance to spread, then enter the bathroom to smell the candle. This is how the testing was done. Now my product is ready! 

Click here to see a picture of my testing candles. 

Creating the website:

I can’t recommend Shopify enough, they offer 3 months free of charge and it makes the whole task easy! So many great tutorials are available on youtube to help you understand the whole process.
I took a day or two to look at other e-commerce websites, especially candle websites to get some inspiration. I wanted a clean, straightforward website and I found the right template on Shopify. It took me a week to build the website, add each product and its description. 

Candles pictures were made on photoshop, so was the label. I am no expert, but tutorial videos and forums did the trick. (I can give more details on this part if you are interested)

Selling the product: 

Before I dive in, I wanted to make clear that at this point, I absolutely had no supplies. I didn’t want to spend money on a product that is not validated yet! 

My idea was to make a list of my suppliers and their shipping delays: 

  • Jars and shipping supplies would arrive a day after ordering,
  • Fragrances, wax and wicks can be bought from the store on the same day (i can’t stress enough the importance of trying to find suppliers that are in the same city! Shipping can be unpredictable) 

Alright! My website is ready, I am ready! Let’s try and sell those babies. 

As a reminder, I moved to Canada a couple of months before, I didn’t have a social circle to help me spread the word. 

So I started with creating my social pages, IG, twitter and facebook. 

Nothing came out of it, but I was happy with getting a few followers. 

Then, I created a 20% coupon code and shared it in Reddit, facebook market and some facebook groups. That’s how I got my 5 first sales in one day!! 

I was over the top! At this point, I was clicks away from ordering the supplies to make my candles.

The day after my first orders, I had all my supplies, and made the candles. I shipped them two days later, taking the time to pack them and sort out the shipping process. 

Growing the business: 

In my experience, the most challenging part of starting my E-commerce business is to drive relevant traffic to my website. 

I started to post picture of my candles on relevant subreddits, and recurrently (no as recurrent as I should) posting on my social media. I also made sure to start a newsletter, offering a 10% coupon to anyone who would subscribe. Today, I have around 500 subscribers and I make sure to not spam their inboxes, emailing them only when there is a promotion or a new product. 

I am still struggling with emailing my subscribers, it’s unclear to me how frequent should I email them and what content would they be interested in. 

I also went through the influencer path, Dm’d couple of instagramers and asked if they’d be interested on sharing my product in their page. I received many positive answers but didn’t get enough sales, one sale from a bookish instagramer with 24k to whom I sent three candles. The sale covered the expense of the product and its shipping. Atm, I stopped focusing on influencers, I might reconsider this path in the near future. 

I also emailed bunch of retailers who might be a great fit to resell my product and in one year I was able to sell to 6 retailers. I am not doing enough in this department, I could have contacted more retailers and got more wholesale orders. I am planning on doing that more, specially that I received a great feedback from my retailers.

I created an Etsy store halfway through the year, it barely had a cost and you can take advantage of Etsy’s algorithm to gain some exposure. I made 3k in Etsy alone, for a very low cost.
You only need to pay $0.20 to list one product for 4 months. So yeah, totally worth it! 

Luck:

Here are some beautiful events that just happened. I have to admit that being a local business and offering a sustainable clean eco-friendly product helped a lot. 

  • My local hospital got in touch with me to buy my candles for their nurses, they simply googled local businesses and found out about me, I sold them 60 candles. 
  • My domain provider featured my business in one of their newsletter and it got me a huge amount of traffic with a great conversion rate. 
  • My local library foundation found out about my business through a google search, they purchased 100 bookish candles. 
  • A journalist included my website in an article written in yahoo, as a sustainable environment friendly business.

Mistakes: 

Firstly, I am not consistent on social media, and it’s because I am intimidated by taking ”instagramable” pictures of my candles. I am working on that, and searching budget friendly setups for taking good pictures. 

Secondly, I turned my back on paid ads, and that’s because I’ve invested around $300 in google facebook and IG ads. I didn’t get any sales from those ads and gave up on them. I am well aware that paid ads take time and money to figure out, I just felt like I can market my products using free channels as a starting point and once I generate some profit reinvest a chunk of it on paid ads. 

Thirdly, I don’t have clear strategy to communicate with my subscribers. I email them when there is a promotion running or a new product. I feel like I can build a stronger, closer relationship with them but I still didn’t figure out how to do that! I should probably take some time and do some research in this area. 

Lastly, I don’t reach out to retailers as I should have, I’ve had a great response rate from previous emails sent to potential resellers, but for some reason (mainly procrastination) I didn’t stick to a specific number of retailer to email on a weekly basis. 

I wish I had more online presence, and report more often on my progress, successes, failures, lessons and mistakes. It might be helpful for anyone who’s trying to build a business and also it will make me accountable to my audience and thus STOP PROCRASTINATING!

If you have any questions about my journey, or want to chat, please reach out, I will be more than happy to share and help. Also, any critic or feedback is welcomed, I am learning and always will! 

Click here for screen shots of my total sales.