Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in candle-making but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sanya Vatwani, owner of The Jeweled Gemini, located in Creve Coeur, MO, USA.

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

When I started The Jeweled Gemini, I had hoped for it to be an outlet for my favorite crafting endeavors. As a 'broke college student' wanting to return to my world of art, I figured selling my crafts would be a good way to finance my interests without making a big dent in my savings. But two years and 621 sales later, my shop has become more than just financial support for my hobbies. From getting excited at every "new order" notification to having mini photoshoots with new products to diligently taking apart numbers across sheets and sheets of inventory and budgeting, I nurtured my shop as it grew up.

Though it sounds cheesy and childish at first glance, The Jeweled Gemini name has less to do with the sun sign and more to do with the idea of variety and personalization. Among other things, a "Gemini" is known to be multi-faceted. I have never been one to want only a few options to choose from. It can't be just chocolate, vanilla, or has to be chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, raspberry, mint chocolate chip, butterscotch, pineapple, lemon, and the list goes on.

I made my shop the way it is for others like me. Each product has numerous different scent and color options and even gives customers a choice to mix and match those scents and colors. So if you'd rather have your blueberry-scented owl in green rather than blue, this is the store for you! Made-to-order products hand-poured in small batches allow The Jeweled Gemini to be a place where custom orders aren't "special request only." They're the standard.

Tell us about yourself

I started my candle business in May 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic had just started. I was completing the spring semester of my junior year in college, pursuing an undergraduate degree on the pre-medical track. With most of my intended activities, shadowing opportunities, and prospective research labs on hold for the quarantined summer, I found myself staring down a three-month period doing absolutely nothing. While this was enticing to some of my peers who were ready for the much-needed break from life, I found myself itching for something to do.

Ever since I started high school, I had replaced my penchant for arts and crafts with my drive to become a physician. Time spent reading and crafting intricate crochet patterns was diverted towards reading AP textbooks. Pieces of my miniature henna designs were taken down to tack up lists of amino acids to memorize. But now, looking at this newfound free time, my mind couldn't help but want to return to the world of creative design and colorful crafts. Like most of my quickly revolving, short-lived hobbies have in the past, the idea of making candles resulted from a spur of the moment. But tied to my small business, candle-making is now easily the one hobby I have "stuck with" the longest.

I love how my fragrances fill my house, prompting family members to poke their heads in and wonder what I'm making. Reading and re-reading the many positive reviews from kind customers brings me up when I'm feeling low and losing motivation. Admittedly, the request for an interview from Evelyn at Subkit came at such a time, with sales being especially low and Etsy having recently increased its fees...I had thought about shutting it all down more times than I would have liked. But this opportunity to reflect on the birth of my business and why I have kept with it through so many obstacles and life changes has been an eye opener. More than anything else, I love candle-making because it is one thing I do for myself. Not for others as a sister and daughter, not for another line on a resumé as a STEM scholar, and not for a career to bring in an income, but for myself and my love for art.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Last December 2021, I received a message on Etsy from a local church. They were going to be hosting a sort of Christmas craft fair, where vendors selling handmade goods were invited to showcase their products for the holiday season. I still have not found words to describe the happiness, pride, and honor I felt to have received that message. To me, it marked The Jeweled Gemini as not just "another little Etsy shop" but as a legitimate business that was of enough interest to these kind strangers to warmly invite me, free of charge, to their event.

With final exams quickly approaching, I threw myself into making candles in all of their numerous varieties and carefully packing them up to take to this fair. My first chance to physically show off my products in person. I bought supplies for decorations, storage, and bookkeeping, hardly able to contain my excitement. When the day finally came, I remember one of my friends coming up to visit my table and telling me, "I knew it was your table from how many people are gathered around it!" I think my biggest sense of accomplishment came when I looked up and around at the line of people waiting to smell and buy my candles and realized she wasn't exaggerating.

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

Maintaining motivation. I think one of my greatest challenges in owning and operating The Jeweled Gemini is being able to keep candle-making as my hobby, as something I like to do, and not allowing it to become "just another chore." It's hard sometimes, between rising supply prices, negative reviews from customers who don't read product descriptions, and being a full-time college student working towards medical school, to continue seeing my business as the "reprieve" and not just another goal to achieve. Periods of reflection with myself and my family are certainly helpful during these times, but ultimately this is what I most fear could one day result at the end of my small business.

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

  1. Getting that first sale is hard. Don't give up, and keep modifying your business in the meantime!
  2. If you're just starting out, don't buy all of your supplies beforehand! Buy only what you need to make and test samples, and push out product pictures. Buy the rest on an as-needed basis as the orders come in. This will help you save on start-up costs and not be in as big of a hole if you decide that small-business'ing may not be for you.
  3. Don't stop loving what you do. They say, "love what you do, and you'll never work a day in your life." As long as you love and enjoy what your business stands for, you will want to do everything you can to continue to run and grow it. It's when you fall out of love with your craft that this becomes much harder.

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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