Lumberton — Kristen’s Kandles is a home-based business that was officially started just last year. The 30-year-old owner, Kristen Blackwell, learned how to make candles on her own and hopes to grow her business.
Her slogan is “Handmade with care especially for you” and she’s so positive about her products that she offers to buy them back if customers aren’t satisfied.
“So far I haven’t bought one back,” she said. “I know husbands who tell their wives not to buy any other kind of candles and they’ll even light them before their wives get home.”
This entrepreneur got into candle making by accident when she volunteered to take some used candles home from work to melt and reshape them for more use. She was working in a dental office at the time and burning candles were used frequently as a way of calming patients’ nerves. Candle making soon became a hobby and is now a business that’s listed on the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce’s Make Mine Mississippi Web site.
Determined to make a good product, Blackwell read all kinds of books on candle making and did a lot of looking at the kind of candles she likes.
“When I want to do something, I go after it,” she said, “and I make sure I do all the candle making myself.”
Although Blackwell still has a day job — now she’s at the Hattiesburg Clinic — she does a lot of candle making at night and sales of her creations are growing.
“Once you buy my candles, it’s hard to go back to anything else,” she said.
She thinks the intense scent of her candles is the secret of their success. She says the candles can be used as air fresheners because she double and triple scents them, being careful to thoroughly scrub her pots between batches of different scents.
“I push it to the legal limit,” she said. “Candles will literally ignite if you put too much fragrance in them, so there is a scientific limit. I just know when I have enough.”
That limit is 3% fragrance to the amount of wax being melted. Blackwell says she’s learned to figure 3% for every pot size she uses in candle making. She buys 32-ounce bottles of fragrances from an Ohio supplier.
Some of the most popular scents are cucumber melon, blueberry muffin and sugar cookie. Come fall, she’s counting on selling lots of spiced plum, harvest and pumpkin. This artisan has even concocted two candle scents all her own that she says are becoming popular with customers. They are morning rose and roses and champagne. In addition to a rose fragrance, morning rose has some ocean rain added to it. The strawberries and champagne scent is a combination of English tea rose and the strawberries & champagne scent from Victoria’s Secret.
“Some of the scents, like cinnabun, hazelnut cappuccino and caramel apple will make you hungry,” she said.
Presently, Kristen’s Kandles are available from Blackwell and at shows she attends. She does a lot of packaging and shipping and says she’s become good friends with the lady at the UPS store. The candles are also sold at one location in Purvis and Blackwell is considering having a booth at the outlet mall in Gulfport between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I would like to sell them in more places, maybe other malls and shops,” she said. “My dream is to have a gift shop with the candles, lotions, soaps and other things.”
She has recently exhibited at three gift shows and will go to others as she learns about them. She also participated in the Mississippi Market wholesale show in Jackson. The market helped her learn about marketing and packaging her products. The Web site, www.KristensKandles.com, should be up and running by the end of August. Blackwell says she’s working toward getting really good photos of her candles for the site.
“Most of mine are candles you can’t find anywhere else,” she said. “I have 19 shapes and some are odd like the octagon twist, oblique, hexagons and pentagons.”
One of her odd candles is named for her two-year-old son, Matthew. Matt’s Block is a layered square with layers that move and rotate. The candle-making process is sometimes overseen by the real Matt who stands on a stool to watch his mother at her craft.
What’s the hardest part of candle making? “The waiting,” Blackwell says. “I’m not patient and it takes eight hours for candles to set. They have to completely cool and as they harden in the molds, a well is created that must be re-filled. If it’s done right, the wax will pull away from the mold.”
Steven Blackwell, a medical technician at the Hattiesburg Clinic’s Purvis branch, is not hands-on involved with Kristen’s Kandles but is supportive of his wife’s business.
For now, Kristen Blackwell is gearing up for a busy fall season and exploring new areas of growth for her Mississippi-made candles.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.