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May 23, 2018

How to sell your candles - benefits and drawbacks

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The 'En-Light-ener' Candle Making Newsletter
May 2018
FAST FACTS FEATURED PROJECTS CHANDLER'S CORNER
 

The candle market offers myriad options to sell candles, and each one offers a number of benefits and drawbacks. As you start and grow your business, the key is to find which one best meets your needs from the standpoint of time, available resources, growth potential and skill set.

 
ONLINE PRESENCE

In today’s internet age, many find establishing a simple, inexpensive, easy-to-set-up website to be the best way to begin. No matter where you take your candle business, you’ll need a website to support your products.

Advantages
  • The cost of initially setting up your website can be relatively low. You can take your own pictures, set your own prices and create any looks you may want to achieve.
  • You can set your own hours. Since the website is accepting the orders, your only need is to make and ship your candles in a timely manner.  
  • You can keep your inventory of finished candles to a minimum, since, unlike a retailer, you do not need to have candles on the shelf to sell.  
  • Accepting orders from the website also allows you to customize your candles. Since you don’t necessarily need stock to sell your candles, you can make the candle after you receive an order. However, make sure you have the materials on hand to make your standard and custom candles so that they ship in the timeframe you have outlined on your site.
Disadvantages
  • Establishing a website does not guarantee any type of sales. Competition in this category is fierce, and you must find ways to drive traffic to your site. Ways to do that include using pay-per-click advertising (PPC) or email marketing (by purchasing a data base or using your own collection of email addresses) or by following up on earlier sales.
  • While the initial set-up of your site can be relatively easy, driving visitors to the site involves a continual expense and one that must constantly be monitored.
  • An important issue that should not be taken lightly is choosing your domain name. This can be a factor in search engines allowing customers to find you. From the beginning, be sure to "brand” your line so you can start experiencing customer loyalty when they like your candles.
 

Another option that exists to sell your product is to use websites such as Etsy, eBay, Amazon and multiple other sites.

Advantages
  • The startup costs associated with any of these generally are minimal, with nothing up front in many cases.  
  • These sites are heavily visited.
  • They have established credit-card processes and payment methods.
  • A site like Etsy is great, because all items have to be handmade.
Disadvantages
  • As is the case with all online shopping, competition for candlemakers is tough. The key is finding something you have that is unique. It will be necessary to find a way to differentiate yourself through some type of customization, such as offering unique jars or services, or by finding other ways to begin to have customers find and like your product.
 
RETAIL STORES

A number of years ago, one of the few ways to start selling candles directly was to open a retail store. These days, this option is probably the least-used method of starting a candle business.

Advantages
  • Since you are making your own candles, you can achieve the highest margin.
  • In the right location, customers will notice your store.
  • You can have direct interaction with customers
Disadvantages
  • Opening a retail store is very capital-intensive and requires a decent-sized investment. A security deposit for rent, store fixtures, inventory and some type of reserve if business starts out slowly will all require some funding.
  • A retail store also can require long hours, depending on where your shop is located.
 
CRAFT SHOWS, FESTIVALS, AND EVENTS

On the other side are the most chosen options for any home craft business to start with: craft shows, festivals, flea markets or any event lasting several days, or, in some instances, weeks. These events can be great ways to get started for someone with almost any size budget.

To ensure a successful event, it is definitely important to do some homework before choosing the shows in which you wish to participate. Small craft shows usually don’t require a great deal of research, because getting into the show is generally not that expensive, so your risk is minimized. In general, the bigger the show, the more costly it is to get into it and the more research you should do before deciding to participate.

When deciding which show to do, it is helpful to have some experience or connection with the show. The experience can be just attending and observing. Check out how many other candle vendors are in attendance, speak to some of the exiting vendors, and take notice of the price points customers seem to be gravitating to. The more information you have, the better your chances of finding the show in which you can achieve the most success.

When researching shows, be sure to consider all costs and possibilities. If you need to travel, how far? If the show is two days, and you’re traveling far, be sure to check what a hotel room may cost. Are meals going to be expensive? For a two-day show, you might be eating out for up to seven or eight meals. If you’re traveling far, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to arrive and set up. You don’t want to be running late and not be able to set up properly. Does the show provide tables, or will you need a booth? Does the show provide electricity?

The location of your booth can be an important consideration. Be sure to ask the event organizer where your table will be, and check out where all the venue’s entrances and exits are. In almost any show, the location you are assigned will be a big factor in your success.

Choose shows that can be a good fit for your product line, and be sure to bring inventory that will reflect the audience you will be marketing to. If it’s an apple festival, be sure to bring all the variations of apple items you might have. If it’s an Earth Day event, bring your soy candles, and, if the show is a "budget show,” be sure to bring candles that are priced appropriately.

With the above said, you can also have huge success thinking outside the norm as well. I will never forget a conversation I had with one of our larger customers who told me the best shows for her business were cigar shows. They had huge success, because a candle is a good way to cover the smell of a cigar. Also, if customers were picking up their cigars but did not have time to pick up a gift for someone else, they would grab a candle. The same holds true for pet shows. Candles can be a great way to mask pet odor. It may be surprising to find how many types of shows there are where candles can do extremely well.

Once you’ve selected the show(s) you are doing, do everything you can to prepare properly, and even prepare for the unexpected. Have a detailed list of everything you will need, and be sure you have all of the items ready and functioning. If you are accepting credit cards, make sure your card reader is functioning. Also, have plenty of change for customers. You don’t want to lose out on a sale because you could not break the customer’s $20 bill. Have business cards and/or brochures on your product. (No detail will be too small. If you are anything like I am and cannot do anything without reading glasses, what if you were to forget these and try to work all day?) If you have a secure garage, load your vehicle the night before, if possible. This will ensure that everything you want to take will fit and also allows you extra time to arrive at the show.

Lay out your display days before, and solicit feedback from friends and neighbors. This will give you time to find the little extras to help improve the display. Presentation is the first step in the sales process. Don’t just lay all the candles on the table. Add some props that can enhance the look. Be sure you have your best sellers or the ones that may be most "show appropriate" in the forefront.

Get creative, and have that little something extra customers may not receive when they purchase a candle in a traditional store. Since you are selling candles, take matches, and place a label with your company information on the cover. Have a nice organza bag you can pack the candle in. Find something unique that can help the purchase stand out.

Be sure to pay attention to the weather forecast, but do not totally rely on those reports. Even if they don’t call for rain, PREPARE for it. If you’re going to be directly in the sun, be sure to have something to protect your candles from direct sunlight. On a personal note, if you’ll be in the sun, be sure to have what you need, such as sunscreen and plenty of liquids. More than likely, you will be outside in excess of 10 hours.

One of the hardest things about your first show is knowing what inventory to bring and how much. You certainly don’t want to bring so little that you run out, but, at the same time, you don’t want to overload. Have several contingency plans in place. If it’s not too hot, maybe keep some candles in your vehicle, so that, if you sell out, you can always get the additional inventory. If a show is close, see if you can have someone available to bring additional product if everything sells. At the extremely large shows that can go on for a week or more, controlling your inventory can be challenging. As you gain experience in this area, this definitely becomes easier.

When possible, bring a companion. Working a show solo can be difficult when it comes to restroom breaks and meals, and, if the booth is swamped, having an extra set of hands there can prevent lost sales. Also, having an extra person in the both can allow you to walk around and check to see what your competition might be doing.

Little things can go a long way. Be extremely pleasant to show organizers and anyone involved with the show no matter the situation or conditions. This may help if any type of situations arises. Maybe a vendor with a better spot doesn’t show. Perhaps show organizers may be able to move you to that spot or provide extra space for your inventory. Offer a sample of your product. If they like it, they may be inclined to recommend you to the attendees. The show’s organizers are usually local and have many acquaintances in attendance.

Another important aspect is how to handle customers. You definitely need to be engaging but not come off as too pushy. Welcome customers to your booth and let them know you are there to answer any questions. You will certainly get a read on how much engagement the customer may want. Use the show as a way to find out what customers want in your product. Also let them know you can provide custom sizes, fragrances and jars. The feedback you get can help shape the direction you take your company.

As anyone who has done shows in the past can attest, expecting just to show up at a show with a couple hundred of your candles and expecting success is unrealistic. Researching, planning, preparing and organizing will lead to more successful shows. This article should be a good resource to help get you started, but be sure to do all the homework necessary. There are many great shows that our customers have done that have helped propel their businesses to the next level.

 
 
FEATURED PROJECTS:
No Melting Required

As the summer rapidly approaches, many are planning activities for summer camps, vacation Bible schools and school-year-end carnivals. While standard candle making and/or soap making may be too extensive for these events, there are still many activities you can engage in to introduce these crafts and help spread your name with very little cost.

 
100% Natural Candles with Rolled Beeswax

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of beeswax sheets, they are exactly what they sound like – sheets of beeswax, and they come in a variety of colors.

Typically, a square braid wick is used for rolling beeswax, and the type of wick depends on the size of the finished candle. I recommend that you get a roll of small and medium to start (4/0 and 1/0).

We have a great video on how to make this fun summertime craft.

WATCH VIDEO
 
Materials needed for project:
Square Braided Wick Spools
Recommended: 4/0 and 1/0
as low as
$10.62
Honeycomb Texture Beeswax Sheets
Pack of 10 Red
$23.50
per pack
Honeycomb Texture Beeswax Sheets
Pack of 10 White
$23.50
per pack
Honeycomb Texture Beeswax Sheets
Pack of 10 Cobalt Blue
$23.50
per pack

Not sure which beeswax sheets to try?
I suggest getting a sampler pack of mixed colors and textures. You do not have a choice of color or style, but these packs usually contain a good sampling across the board, and they come with a free book.

Beeswax Sheets Sampler Pack
RANDOM ASSORTMENT of 8"x16" Beeswax Sheeets
$25.00
pack of 10
 
 
Wax Art Crystals Candle

Wax art crystals, or granulated wax, is a wax that has been formed into tiny beads slightly larger than sand. The product is available in myriad colors. What makes this product so easy to use is that the wax does not have to be melted. It easily can be poured into any "candle safe" container. For anyone who has seen sand art, the concept is identical, except, when you are finished, you have a candle that can be burned.

WATCH VIDEO

Once you have selected a proper container, take a completed wick assembly (one with a base) and place it into the glass container. The best wick for this application is going to be something like a 34-40 paper wick.

The best way to get started is to select several colors, and gently pour them into the glass container with a spoon or other dispensing tool. You can take multiple colors and layer them in the glass to the desired height. For ultimate effects such as waves, you can take a long, narrow pointer such as a knitting needle and slide it down the side of the glass container. This will create "waves" in the wax. This is a project any age child or adult can enjoy. This is a great project for cub scouts, girl scouts and camping trips. The candles can even be used as wedding favors.

The true advantage to wax art crystals is that they may also be melted and poured to make votives, pillars and even small containers. The wax art crystals are easy to handle and can be melted in any type of double boiler. The colors are slightly more concentrated, so white wax art crystals should be added to any color to lessen the intensity. What is nice is you can mix, match and melt the crystals to achieve any color shade you desire. Wax art crystals should be considered by any candle company that is interested in trying to learn how to pour and make candles.

 
Materials needed for project:
Granulated Candle Wax Art Crystals
Recommended: multiple colors
starting at
$3.01
per unit
Standard Candle Wick Assembly
Recommended: 34-40 paper wick
starting at
$6.50
per unit
Glass Candle Containers starting at
$6.50
per unit
 
CHANDLER'S CORNER Hi. I'm Chandler.
I am very interested in making candles but do have a limited budget. Do you have any suggestions?

There are definitely things you may have already in your home that can be incorporated into your craft/hobby. Many candy and chocolate molds can be used for making tarts and similar smaller candles. However, be careful about pouring temperatures. You do not want to melt your molds and have the wax leak out. Dixie cups, quart milk containers and other similar items can serve as molds. If you have PVC or aluminum tubing from a home-improvement project, they also can be used for molds. If you have a candy thermometer, this can be sufficient when making candles. Just be sure to clean it thoroughly before making candy again.

Initially, if you just wish to play around with candle making, you can melt old candles down and reuse them. This can help you appreciate the process, but it can be difficult to find the proper wick, because you will be mixing several different melt point waxes together.

Something you should not do – especially if you want to make quality candles – is melt down old crayons. (They have pigment dyes that can clog the wick and not allow it to burn properly).

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