Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in candle-making but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kate De Palma, founder of Scented Designs Candle Co., located in San Jose, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Hello! I'm Kate De Palma, and I am the founder of Scented Designs, a woman-run candle company in San Jose, California.

Scented Designs is a company that inspires eco-conscious individuals to say goodbye to empty consumerism and feel empowered to shop their values through our clean-crafted soy candles handmade in the USA.

Tell us about yourself

I started Scented Designs (then called Kate's Delightful dECOr, a mix of candles + upcycled home decor) in 2016, almost by accident. I had just left the classroom after teaching high school English for four years, and I was looking to try something new. I jumped around a bit, taking interior design classes and working as a marketing writer at a start-up.

Throughout all that, I started selling candles at a variety of local pop-ups & holiday markets. I've always loved being creative and making stuff with my hands, so I'd been pouring candles as a hobby for a few years. I never dreamed of starting a business, but the candle sales started to soar, and I decided to give it a go. Now, I'm motivated every day to build the business and prove to myself that I can do it, despite having no formal business training.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

It's so hard to identify one 'biggest' accomplishment because so many successes build upon previous successes. Every time I work with a new retailer, get a new corporate account, or partner up with a fellow small business, it's an accomplishment I'm proud of. I'll say that my first batch of corporate gifts (3,500 candles!) in December 2020 was a key accomplishment because it was really the first time I ventured into corporate gifting, something which Scented Designs now does regularly.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Taking the leap (whatever that leap may be) to make a difference for your business. For me, that leap was to run Scented Designs full-time versus just as a side hustle. A year or two after starting the business, I returned to the classroom, teaching 8th Grade English for another several years. At the time, I just didn't quite have the confidence to give the business the time it needed to grow, despite people telling me it generally takes five years for a business to be successful. And while Scented Designs did continue to grow, it would've grown a lot faster if I'd taken the leap earlier!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Work hard and stick with it. As much as we all want overnight success, that's not how it works for most of us.
  2. Network and learn from others. As with anything, there's a lot to learn about running and growing a business. It may be tempting to try to do it all yourself, but finding people who understand the entrepreneurial ups and downs and can give you pointers along the way is key to long-term success.
  3. Don't forget to have fun. You probably started your business because you love something about it (the product, the people, etc.). Don't lose sight of what you love and why it's fun.

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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