Handmade businesses are becoming the fastest growing in Australia. Throughout the crazy year of 2020, we’ve seen endless talented makers begin pouring their own unique candles. With the perks of being your own boss, choosing your own hours, being able to work with children and get as creative as you like, there is no wonder many of you have chosen to make this hobby your business.
It’s not as simple as creating your gorgeous candles, selling them to people on Facebook and calling it a day. There are several steps you need to get through before truly launching your dream candle business. At AUZi, we get to chat with some pretty awesome candle makers on the daily. So, we put together this little guide on how to start a candle making business.
How to start a candle making business
1. Do your industry research
Whether you’re a candle making veteran or lockdown sent you on a road to candle making discovery, there are several aspects of your business that require you to conduct extensive research.
Rules and regulations
There are so many aspects that go into a business of any kind. Without understanding the rules, regulations and the general gist of the industry you are heading into, your dream may be over before it’s even started.
The candle industry although not strictly regulated at present, still has many regulations and rules to follow. Candle Safety and Labelling is always a hot topic for Candle Makers. It should always be done in accordance with the law. Did you know, every single candle you sell must be coupled with a care card? And that there is a strict criterion for containers to be used as candles? It’s all the little things like this that could land you in hot water if missed.
Using your home as a place of business means you need to comply with particular state, territory and local government regulations. The registrations and licences you need for your business will vary depending on your industry. Check with local councils to ensure you are even able to run a business or manufacture from your home.
Make sure your Home & Contents Insurer and Landlord are aware of your business if you are running it from your home. Please also check with any other relevant Insurer you have. Your products must also comply with the Australian Consumer Law so the ACCC will be a pool of information for you on the do’s and dont’s.
Before you go in all wicks blazing, remember that the candle making industry in Australia is vast and competitive. Are your products identical to someone else’s? Do they align with the current expectations of your target market? You have permission to go nuts on an Instagram stalk. Take note of what is trending – what jars are people using? What scents? Novelties? Consider all of this and compare it to your idea and vision. Do you have a unique point of difference yet still align with industry trends?
Another way to research here is to create a survey on SurveyMonkey. Fill it with questions like ‘do you expect candles to be made with cruelty free ingredients?’ ‘Vegan?’ ‘Sizes?’ And everything you want to know. Simply join one of the huge business groups on Facebook and ask the members to fill it out for you. There you have some free feedback already! Now work your magic and take it on board.
Experimenting and testing
If you’ve been perfecting your candles for years then this step might be a brief one. Perfecting a product that is worthy of your local gift shops shelves can take years. On the other hand, it could take a few weeks…if you’re very lucky. If you are thinking of having something ready to go tomorrow, this might not be the line of business for you. Like they say practice makes perfect.
With a plethora of different waxes, oils, wicks, containers and dyes out there, you’re going to want to try out several recipes, modifying and tweaking until you and your guinea pigs have simply fallen in love. Remember, this isn’t a one-time thing. You can continue to experiment and improve on your product in the years to come.
You have a duty to ensure the products you make and sell are safe. You will be batch testing over and over, trying new wax blends, new wick bands and sizes, new containers, new oils and new colours. Keeping batch records of your testing is crucial.
2. Tick off these candle making business essentials
What does your business plan look like?
Oop, you don’t have one yet, do you? Sometimes you need more than just a whim to embark on your journey. Planning is crucial. Business plans should be implemented for all small businesses. Plans help with estimates for turnover, budgeting, compliance, disaster recovery, workplace health and safety and the general outcomes and expectations of business.
Crunch the numbers – put on that accounting hat
It’s time to throw it back to that year 10 math class. Channel your inner Cady Heron, what on earth was on the blackboard behind that cute jocks head?
Sort out your cash flow, accounting and payroll. That does sound scary. But, the chances are you may not even need to remember much from year 10. Today, we’re lucky enough to have access to several free or cheap software including Xero and Quickbooks (starts at just $7/month) that will help you crunch those numbers.
Don’t forget the Tax Man! Home-based businesses have specific tax obligations that you need to know. You’ll need to know what expenses you can claim and whether you have to pay capital gains tax when you sell your home – what? Yes, we said it before, research is so important.
You can perfect your care card with clear instructions on when those beautiful gems, botanicals and other pretties need to be removed. But, unfortunately this doesn’t always mean the customer will follow them.
You’re creating a product that is literally lit on fire and placed among your customers most dearest home possessions. So…candle making insurance is super important as a candle maker. It is not mandatory, though considering the many risks involved between perfecting every order, dealing with the general public and the lit candle itself, the benefits of having insurance truly outweigh the costs.
3. Establish your marketing and branding
Many business owners underestimate the power of impeccable branding and a solid marketing strategy. We could go on forever here but we will keep it simples
Your business name
To have a brand, you need a business name! Create a name that you fall in love with and that resonates with you, but also reflects your mission and products. Don’t forget to check that the name isn’t trademarked and that no other business on social media is trading under it in a relevant industry. Go ahead and create that fancy business email! Yes, a new one with your business name.
We’re keeping it professional here, your email@example.com address does not make the cut. If you can’t pay for your own just yet, at least jump onto Gmail and create an account with your business name.
Time to connect with your favourite designer to work on your logo and branding! By joining your local business groups on Facebook, you can easily find a branding specialist that aligns with your business.
If you’ve already done a bit of a Googs for marketing tips, you will know that in our online world, there are 1001 things that you apparently must be doing as a business. But, we come with good news! It’s best to keep it simple. Do some research to establish what social media platforms, selling channels and advertising is best for you.
Selling online – Opening an online store is the best way to get your candles out there. It doesn’t require you to be a web designer to do it. Check out Shopify or Wix to easily create your own shop. Or Etsy for a website alternative. All three of these apps take the hard work out of it and allow you to sell your candles online quickly.
Social media – Your beautiful candles are likely to be a hit on mainly Facebook and Instagram. So, just start there. Make sure you keep an active presence on there, post aesthetic photos, connect them to your selling platform and keep it professional. We have a few tips for using Instagram for business and ideas for posts in previous blog posts.
Start off with these two steps first, once you have that down pat you can explore paid advertising, collaborating with other handmade businesses and other marketing activities as you grow.
4. Find places to sell
Other than making sure you are selling online, there are a few other options you can try to increase sales and get your name out there.
The weekend markets
The markets have been hailed the old stomping ground for many renowned companies around Australia. They’ve proved a valuable platform for not only businesses finding their feet, but for long term traders as well. The cost of a stall at your local market and public liability insurance is all you will need to pay for a full day of sales. Just make sure you let people know on your social media when and where you will be trading.
You know that café down the road that stocks those beautiful handmade soaps? Wouldn’t your candles look beautiful stocked next to them? Even your local hair dresser might be interested in stocking your products. The opportunities here really are endless!
A word from the candle making veterans
For many candeliers, transitioning from a hobby to a business can be a smooth ride. This may be more about tidying up paperwork and legalities to do so. So, we took to the Facebook group ‘Candle Concepts Australia’ to ask the pros for some tips.
Larisa from Sherwood Garden Home Fragrances says “Even if you are starting out small, make sure you have systems and processes in place like you are a big business, it makes it a lot easier as your business grows”.
Tracey From ForthnFlames Candles and Soap says “Make sure you set up a costing program, set up safety data register for all the chemicals/oils you will be using & set up quality control processes”.
Tracey also makes another great point here – “do not compete with anyone, run your own race. Work on self-improvement do not copy someone else. If you are a copy business, you can never be in control of your own direction you will always be following others.”
Aleesha from Immerse & Co – Bath Witch says “It’s not as easy as melt wax, add oil, pour. There’s a lot of science, and math to learn.”
Facebook will become your best friend. With various Candle Making groups and forums online, endless information is at your fingertips to help kick start your dream business. There are long time candle makers who are always willing to offer tips and advice and guide you down the right path for your candle making business. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.
If your passion really is all things handmade, you’re motivated and have the initiative to constantly learn, pivot and get creative, then your candle making business is set to an awesome start.