Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in candle-making but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Amra Elmore, Founder of Chesapeake Beach Candle Co., located in Chesapeake Beach, MD, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Chesapeake Beach Candle Co. is the result of my passion for high-quality home fragrance products and my love of living on the Chesapeake Bay. Our candles, wax melts, and reed diffusers are made in small batches using only natural, sustainable, and toxin-free materials. Our customers share our love of artisan products and care about the environment.
Tell us about yourself
I spent my entire career, over 23 years, in the Meetings and Events industry, which I absolutely love. In March 2020, COVID-19 brought my industry to a screeching halt, and I was furloughed indefinitely. Not knowing if I would ever return to my job, I decided to make the best of the unexpected gift of free time and turn my passion for scented candles into a hobby. I purchased some supplies and spent the next several months learning about and experimenting with making candles, wax melts, and reed diffusers. During this time, I learned that many candles on the market contain potentially harmful ingredients. So, I made it my goal to create products that are a combination of clean, safe, and high performance. Candles were the hardest part. I spent hundreds of hours making and testing candles using different containers, formulas, scents, and wicks. Despite many failures and much frustration, I finally achieved my goal! And after getting positive feedback from friends and neighbors who tested my products, as well as with the support of my husband, I launched Chesapeake Beach Candle Co. in November 2020. My biggest motivation is hearing how much our customers enjoy our creations.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I consider our greatest accomplishment our happy customers. In addition to offering premium quality products, we proud ourselves on providing excellent service. As a result, over 50% of our sales are from repeat customers, and our business has grown through word of mouth.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Being a new small (in our case, micro) business owner comes with many challenges. I spent a lot of time looking for answers to many of my questions (registering, incorporating, applying for sales and use tax licenses, setting prices, bookkeeping, obtaining UPCs, etc.). Once my husband joined in my effort, things became a little easier. In addition to handcrafting our products, we handle all other tasks on our own - maintain our website, design labels, handle bookkeeping, copywriting, product photography, branding, marketing, etc. All of this is very time-consuming, and it was not unusual for me, in the beginning, to work from 7 am until well past midnight. Despite all the challenges of owning a business, many rewards come with it – mainly the ability to make decisions that affect every aspect of our business. It’s wonderful to see the fruits of our hard labor come to fruition.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You must be passionate about your business because only then will all your hard work be worth it. I started our company at the height of the pandemic when I lost my income, our kids attended school virtually, and the level of anxiety and stress was unprecedented. But, doing what I enjoyed got me through those tough times, and it made my long hours worth it.
- Put your customers before profits. Respond to customers within 24 hours and resolve their issues even if you occasionally lose money by doing it. In the long run, this will pay off because this is your opportunity to turn unhappy customers into loyal ones. Great customer service will increase your brand awareness and trust.
- Ask for help. This was the biggest mistake I made initially. I thought I could handle everything on my own because I was trying to save money. But, at some point, you will need to hire professionals to assist you with certain aspects of running your business. Also, I would highly recommend finding a local business mentor who will most likely assist you with starting or running your business for free.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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