8 easy steps to start a candle business

Are you a candle maker hoping to market your products, or an entrepreneur considering candle making as your next business venture? Whichever the case, in this article we discuss how to start a candle business and hope to give you key strategies to be successful.

Throughout the ages, candles have been used as both a functional and aesthetic human helper, from decorative and ambient lighting for special occasions, to gifts and insect repellents. Therefore candles, and the candle business, is a scalable and versatile industry, not to mention profitable.

The candle industry is estimated to surpass a value of 3.6 billion US$ in 2022 and 5.4 billion US$ by 2032, the candle industry presents a very promising business opportunity.

How to start a candle business

With a candle business; the product, business plan and marketing strategy are all interlinked and are essential for business success. To start a candle business, we’ve compiled 8 easy steps to help you on your way.

Step 1: Identify your target market

Identifying your target market is the process where you establish who will potentially buy your product, which channels they will use to find and purchase your product and how much they will be willing to spend. 

The candle market place is divided into three segments – prestige, mid-market and mass market:

  • Prestige candles are specialty crafts, where buyers are interested in brand storytelling, elite packaging and luxury fragrances.
  • Mid-market candles are commonly found at local markets, boutiques and gift shops. Mid-market candles have broad appeal but still flaunt unique scents and good quality packaging.
  • Mass-market candles cater for high-in-demand popular shaped and scented candles.

If you are interested in starting a candle business from home, your target market is most likely prestige and your branding, product and marketing should be focussed on capturing the attention of this market segment.

Once you’ve established your market segment, it is advisable to conduct a bit more research to determine popular trends including, what your customer likes and very importantly which marketing and distribution channels are most effective in the identified segment.

Irrespective of your passion for candle making, it is important to consider the viability of your product as a business venture. Creating a product that is inaccessible, unaffordable or unappealing to its target market should remain a hobby.

Step 2: Refine your craft

The candle business presents endless opportunities in terms of product range, design types and uses. From paraffin candles in moulds to hand-dipped artisan candles, or perhaps soy candles in containers, choose a style to master. For prestige markets you can further define your market with environmentally friendly candles or colour and scented candles.

Whichever you choose, it is important to perfect your craft and master techniques. Make sure your candles are of good quality raw materials. That the wax is supple and not brittle and that the candle itself has an adequate burning time for the size and price.

To learn more about the various candle types, techniques and skills, we suggest the Upskillist Diploma in Candle Making.

Step 3: Build and promote your brand

Knowing your product niche and having identified your target market, it’s time to consider your brand and visual identity.

Branding tells the story of your business. 

  • Who are you? 
  • Why are you making candles? 
  • What impact would you like your candles to have on the buyer? 
  • What impact would you like your candles to have on the environment?

Answering these questions writes your brand story (brand storytelling) and the tone set by your story should be visible in your brand. Your visual identity includes your logo, fonts, colour palette, photography, website, social media and presentation or packaging of your product. Even the suppliers you use can have an impact on your identity.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when building your brand:

  • Your logo should be powerful and logical, subtly telling the story of who you are and what your company stands for.
  • Versatility is key. Your logo should look good in all sizes and on multiple backgrounds. Whether printed on packaging, repeat prints on tissue paper or signage of your own storefront, make sure your logo is easily adaptable for all applications.
  • Use relevant colours for your logo and brand. For this step it is worth doing a little research into colour psychology and  the reactions that colours invoke.  Choose a colour that supports your brand strategy.
  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Make sure your brand is memorable and easy to spot.
  • Aim for a logo, fonts and colour palettes that will have a long shelf-life. Trends and fashion change, often, and to build a brand that is trustworthy and well known, you need to keep your logo and branding unchanged, as long as possible.
  • Exclusivity is important. Following current trends could result in your brand being somewhat similar to that of your competitors. Make sure that your logo and brand is unique and stands out.

Another important element to consider is your product label. Customers read labels to determine whether the product meets their needs in terms of scents and material used. In addition, depending on your region, labels might need to contain warnings, or specific information required by law. The legislation requirements are definitely worth investigating before designing your label. 

In essence your label should contain the following information:

  • Your company name or logo and contact information
  • The product type
  • The candle scent
  • Wax type of the candle
  • Net weight of the candle an indication of value for money
  • Warnings and related disclosures imposed by legislation

Step 4: Write a business plan

A business plan is really a plan of action to grow and develop your business. It is also a brilliant tool to attract talent and investors should you wish to expand or apply for funding. 

The estimated cost to start a candle business is dependent on a number of factors including your marketing avenues, location for manufacturing and whether or not you are the only employee. 

Essentially the following costs must be taken into consideration:

  • Location for manufacturing, whether rented or purchased
  • Equipment (moulds, boiler)
  • Supplies (oils, wax, wicks)
  • Packaging 
  • Insurance and legal fees
  • Permit and business licence
  • Software

Starting small, in the confines of your home as a single employee, start-up costs could be less than $1,000 according to Shopify.

If you plan to go bigger and source funding for your start up, a business plan is of utmost importance. Most business plans contain the following key topics:

  • An executive summary
  • A company description
  • A summary of your market research and identified target market
  • A competitive analysis
  • A description of your product
  • Your marketing and sales strategy
  • A compilation of your business financials including your proposed start up budget
  • A description of your organisation and management
  • Any funding request can also be presented

Step 5: Develop an initial product line and prices

Alright, this is where the fun starts. Knowing your direction and ideal target market it’s time to start crafting a basic product line. 

When starting out, it is advisable to start with a smaller product range, focussing on in-demand trends within your scope. According to the National Candle Association, the following consumer preferences are worth noting:  

  • Fragrance has the highest impact on candle sales
  • Container and jar candles are currently the most popular
  • The most important factors affecting candle sales are scent, colour, cost and shape
  • Candles are increasingly purchased as a focal point for home décor and aromatherapy

When pricing your product, keep your market segment (prestige, mid-market or mass-market) in mind, as well as the time and resources required to produce the product.

Step 6: Refine your marketing plan

Aligning your initial product line with current trends is a great first marketing strategy. Let’s now further refine our marketing plan.

In your initial research to identify your target market, one consideration was your distribution channels. Where can customers go to purchase your product?

Are you planning to sell online, through your own eCommerce site, a candle store or markets?

The purpose of your marketing plan and marketing initiatives is to create awareness around your product but more importantly to drive customers to your products and ultimately purchase your product.

There are a number of strategies that can help in this regard:

  • Create an online presence. Online channels such as Instagram and Pinterest are reported to be the most lucrative mediums to sell candles. 
  • Promote with email. Creating an email list allows you to share news about your company, products and promotions with customers who already showed interest in your brand.
  • Set up shop. Online is great, but a different market is reached when people can touch, smell and consider your candles in person. Whether at markets, through networking, displays or giveaways, make your product accessible and visible.

Apart from strategically using your distribution channels for maximum effect, you can try some of these trends to boost your sales:

  • Promote your candles for special events. Research indicates that candles are valued as gifts for holidays (76%), housewarming gifts (74%), hostess or dinner party gifts (66%), thank you gifts (61%) as well as birthday gifts (58%).
  • Speciality scents candles. Candles are most frequently burnt in living rooms (42%), kitchens (18%) and bedrooms (13%) – help customers choose appropriate scents with clever labelling. 
  • Limited edition candles. Not surprisingly, consumers value limited edition candles. Whether miniature or full size, the demand is on the rise.

Step 7: Incorporate, get insurance and explore permits and licensure

We understand that this might not be the most exciting part, but it is essential. When starting your business, ensure you have the correct licenses, permits and insurance as prescribed by local and federal government.

Legal requirements will depend on your location, business type, business structure and similar factors. Contacting your local chamber of commerce is a great place to start to confirm requirements.

Becoming a National Candle Association member may also be of benefit. The National Candle Association Member companies account for approximately 80% of all candles made in the United States. The association also provides guidance on labelling, product quality, safety and corporate responsibility for all candle makers.

Step 8: Start marketing your candles

With all these steps in place, you are now free to market and start selling your candles.

Once sales are on the rise and start returning profits, remember to continue dreaming, master different techniques, continue researching trends and look for new and fresh business opportunities. 

It is also worth noting that maintaining your customer base is important for your business growth. Keep an eye out for reviews and feedback from customers and use these to build, promote and improve your brand.

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