Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in candle-making but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Lisa Smith, Founder of Smells Like Books, located in Roan Mountain, TN, USA.

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

We create premium hand-poured candles and fine fragrances for book lovers. Our products are all phthalate-free, cruelty-free, and vegan. Each scent is inspired by books and the characters within them. We truly believe that you don't have to leave the story behind when the book ends!

Tell us about yourself

I was a high school science teacher and had to retire because of vision loss (legally blind). After going through my state "transition to blindness" education program, I had the skills and confidence needed to forge a new life and career after blindness. Since my degree was in biology and chemistry, I combined my education with my love for books and blended them into a small business. I chose book-inspired scents because, after losing my eyesight, I realized how important reading was and how passionate I truly was about the books, stories, and characters that shaped my life. The one thing I miss most after vision loss is the ability to read a book. I can still read digitally on a large screen, but I miss the feel of a book in my hands and the smell of the pages.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I think my biggest accomplishment as a business owner is making sure my employees receive a living wage. I think many businesses underestimate the value of their employees and view them as disposable. I am passionate about providing the best product to my customers and to do that requires a team that is 100percent dedicated to the same thing! I think it's more important to curate an atmosphere of teamwork where employees feel that their thoughts, suggestions, and innovations are valued. We all benefit when everyone cares about the quality of our product and provides excellent service to our customers.

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

The absolute hardest thing about being a business owner is knowing when to stop. There is always one more thing to be done, one more task to complete, and one more goal to set. It's often difficult to say, "I have done enough today. I can pick up where I left off tomorrow". When you want to give customers the best experience possible, it becomes very hard to "turn it off" and return to life.

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

  1. Don't quit before your win. I don't personally know of a business owner who achieved overnight success. To the outsider, it may look like an overnight success, but more likely, there were a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that went into the success. We see the end result and think it's a quick and easy success, but we weren't there for the journey.
  2. Fail forward. No one sets out on a planned course in entrepreneurship and ends up going exactly in the direction of their plan. Be willing to pivot and change. You will have failures. You will make mistakes. Some of your ideas will fail so fantastically that you want to quit. Just pretend every mistake is like a heat-seeking missile there to help you adjust your course. Acknowledge the pain of failure, cry the tears, and then get back in the game with the lessons learned from your mistake.
  3. Dream bigger than you are comfortable with. I think most of us suffer from imposter syndrome and are actually more afraid of success than we are of failure. We dream little, safe dreams so that if we don't achieve them, we won't "feel so bad." The truth is: it will still feel bad. Dream a huge dream and dare to get as close to it as possible. We tell kids they can do anything and that they should dream big, but we tell grownups to play it safe and "stop all that foolish dreaming." The world needs your dreams!

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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