When I was a kid, the antique Singer sewing machine was always buzzing. Our house was never quiet because sewing was how my single mom made a little extra cash, designing skating outfits for the other girls in my skating club. I was taught from an early age you should always have a creative outlet to off set a stressful day job. For my mom, after her eight to five shifts as a secretary, she would sew. For my grandfather, his basement was regularly filled with ceramics and woodworking projects. So, after landing my first job as a reporter in television news, I knew I needed a hobby to balance the high-stress environment of deadlines and disturbing headlines. I was looking for something fun, something creative and something with color. I stumbled into candle making, and now more than 20 years later, I’m lucky enough to say that hobby has flourished into a career.
The early days weren’t pretty. I would plug the giant drain holes on the bottom of terra cotta pots, paint them with bright colors and pour wax inside. They were ugly by today’s standards, but boy, was I hooked on the process. That first year, everyone I knew got a candle for Christmas. A couple of years into my hobby and I was pouring paraffin pillar candles. Pillar candle molds were tricky, and wax often leaked out the bottom of my molds. Needless to say, I never got my security deposit back from the apartment where I poured my first pillar candles; the kitchen countertops took a beating from layers of leaky wax. But, with candle making, mistakes get melted, and you are afforded another chance to make something fantastic.
I often think about candle making as an antidote for life—frequently something amazing materializes while you are recovering from a mishap, misstep or mistake.
I sold my first few candles at the insistence of a co-worker. I enjoyed the process of candle making so much that I had a bundle of candles just sitting around my apartment, though I was mortified at the thought of selling my creations. What if no one liked them? What if my co-workers thought I was strange for having this hobby? After a big nudge, I did it. I packed up 40 candles and took them to the television station’s cafeteria. Not only did I sell all the candles, but I also took orders for 40 more. My business was born that day. Not only did I love making candles, but suddenly I saw this hobby as a potential way of making a little extra money.
Dandles Candles grew as a side business for more than a decade, slow and steady. The phrase “side hustle” wasn’t in our vernacular back then, but Dandles Candles was definitely my side hustle. As a local television anchor, I would often be called “that news lady” in public, but funny enough, as my business grew, I had a new public persona, “that candle lady.” Taking the plunge and quitting my day job was the scariest decision I made on this long journey. Though to this day, while Dandles takes up a lot of my time, I still work as a media and public relations consultant as well. Media is still near and dear to my heart and always will be.
My candle making production space went from those laminate countertops in my first apartment in Spokane to the garage of my first home, and later to two different basement studios. Now, I feel fortunate to operate Dandles Candles from a studio built next to our home, just outside Spokane’s city limits. I manufacture thousands of candles a year, but still love the art of candle making. There is nothing I like more than a full day in the Dandles studio, even during the busy holiday season. From designing my own labels to pouring all the candles, it is joyful work for me. That said, I’m always facing new challenges. Right now, I’m trying to decide how to grow Dandles Candles. It’s a boutique candle company, but when do you grow it bigger? Or, is it better to stay small? How do you strategically grow in the right way? I’m always searching for the best answers to an endless list of questions.
5 Tips to Glow
- DREAM BIG. I love having a daily to-do list but also have a journal with my big dreams in print. Someone once told me that if you write down your dreams, you release them into the universe and ultimately, you can make them come true. I believe that!
DO WHAT YOU LOVE, AND THE MONEY WILL FOLLOW. If you’re trying to make money as an artisan, the likelihood of you getting rich is slim to none. Be okay with that and love the process. Eventually, you will start making enough money to make your dreams work as a career.
CONFRONT AN ISSUE BEFORE IT BECOMES A FULL-FLEDGED PROBLEM. Addressing a problem will leave you thinking, “That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”
NEVER GIVE AN AUTOMATIC “NO” TO A NEW OPPORTUNITY. Often “No” is merely a response out of fear. So, give a “Maybe” instead and mull over your options.
TRUST YOUR GUT FEELING—YOU KNOW YOUR CRAFT. It’s been my experience that when I chose to ignore my gut feeling, a project has greater opportunity to go sideways.
Self-doubts are paralyzing. But, comfort zone, what happens next.
My mother passed away 26 years ago. She was already gone when Dandles Candles got started. She often said she could never make sewing her full-time job, even though her talent would have easily made her a good living. It was a different era, and she was a single mom, and taking such a risk wasn’t something she was willing to do. So, in some ways, I feel like running my own business is a dream I’m fulfilling for my mom and all the women out there who are scared to pursue a passion. Be brave, the first step is the scariest. Along the way, you may feel defeated and disappointed, but the moments of accomplishment, satisfaction and joy will make the journey worth every step.
When you reach beyond your may pleasantly surprise you.