Starting a handmade candle business

Inspired by International Women's Day and Mothers Day this month I thought I'd write a bit about my experience of how becoming a mother led me to starting my own small indie biz making lovely candles!

 Plus as I'm a few years down the line now with every nook, I thought I'd also share a few things I've learnt along the way, in case you're pondering joining the indie biz club too!





We all know that becoming a parent brings lots of additional responsibility, however I wasn't fully prepared for how it would change my outlook on life.


Not just because I was now responsible for a tiny person, but because my environment was changing. I was at home a lot more, and spending a lot more time in my local community. My husband and I swapped weekend trips to the pub for a walk around a local craft market and a coffee on the go - anything to keep the pram moving and try get our bundle of joy to sleep! Being at home more I even got to know our neighbour better, who ran her own handmade jewellery business, and was a huge inspiration to me.


I felt my eyes had been opened to the small businesses around me that I hadn't even noticed before, and it got me thinking!.


(Ok that thing about not being able to the pub anymore was a bit of an exaggeration!)




I longed to do something more creative for myself, I reflected that working in a corporate environment up to this point had been making me quite unhappy. I was a beauty buyer, developing own brand ranges of fragrance, cosmetics and gifting for high street retailers. I loved the creative part of my job, and the amazing women I worked with, but I always felt a bit out of place for some reason.


Outside of work I've always been interested in interior styling as a hobby and my love of Mid-Century decor has grown and grown. Whilst on maternity leave I did get a bit addicted to visiting charity shops to seek out retro treasures!


I spent a lot of time wondering what my own business could be.


It was several years and another child later for the idea to form and for the timing to be right, but it turns out the answer was...




 I could see it all in my minds eye. I could imagine the scents, the packaging, the customer's homes they'd end up in. Although at this point I could not make a candle, nor did I have any idea about how to set up and run a small business!


Candle making is a long process of trial and error with different waxes, wicks and scents, to ultimately achieve a quality burn and fragrance experience. There were moments during the first year I felt like I should give up, thinking I would never crack it, but the prize of creating my own brand was way too big a reward to give up on.




Whilst I could see many positives with my plans, having decided not to return to work and start the business alongside a toddler and a baby was a bit of a challenge at times!


I often felt frustrated with the reality of how much time I had to work. When I did get time, hearing the children shout 'mummy when are you coming to play, you're always making candles' was a little distracting!


But at least they enjoyed the packing boxes!


My husband has thankfully been so supportive, financially and mentally to allow me to give this a go and is always amazing at whisking the children off to the park if I needed extra time.



 Once I was in the position to start selling, I eventually plucked up the courage to share with others the date of my big Etsy shop launch! In the absence of a sizeable marketing budget (indeed any marketing budget!) and as no one else knew I existed, my first customers were of course friends and family, whose support was invaluable :)


I signed up for my first local market, which wasn't great due to an almost complete lack of customers, but I did make my first sale to a someone I'd never met before. Hooray!


Little by little my Etsy sales increased, I had the confidence to approach local gift shops and was soon selling every nook there. I learnt so much from the interactions I was starting to have from other makers and customers along the way.


This was one of my first markets in the grounds of the Museum of the Home in London, I'm now stocked in the museum gift shop!





 Several years in I've learnt some lessons which I'd love to share with you.

 Plan your time - but be kind to yourself if things change!


Time to work on my business was very sporadic to start with, particularly dependent on whether a child had their nap or not! When I got a bit more organised with to do lists and assessing my priorities for when work did come through, this became more manageable for me and I was more accepting of it


I found using a diary planner such as The Design Trust Planner useful in setting focussed goals and objectives as well as daily planning of what I needed to do to achieve these.


Now I have more time, with both my children at school, I still want to make use of those precious 9-3pm hours, so I book time slots in my outlook calendar to assign days for key tasks such as making stock, sales admin, marketing & PR and learning and development. Basically all the things I used to do in my job working for someone else and I had kind of forgotten about for a while!


Still having the lead responsibility for childcare in my family, I have to allow myself flexibility in this. A plan can be changed, at least if one exists you can see what can be moved to accommodate when family life gets chaotic!



Act like a boss - own your version of what works for you!


I have previously struggled with calling myself a business owner. I guess as I have mostly worked alongside being at home with the children I haven't seen myself in that way. But as Holly Tucker's International Women's Day campaign so brilliantly highlighted to us all with 'This is What a Founder Looks Like' , the corporate, suited and booted stereotype is vastly outdated.


I have also had massive imposter syndrome when I compare myself to others, especially on social media. Instead of unhelpfully comparing myself to others', I have really benefited from connecting with other makers on social media and at events and engaging in honest discussions about the challenges and journeys that others have been on. Success is personal and you are very much still a business until you hit the end goal you set yourself.


In taking myself more seriously I have engaged in more small business resources, such as The Resilient Retail Club. I now have in my mind what I consider success for myself with my business to be. I have increased my confidence and feel more equipped with business tools to work towards those goals.


  Celebrate the little wins along the way - with cake of course!


I'm still often guilty of not doing this, always fearing a problem may be around the corner. But the benefit of having your own business is the knowledge that the growth and achievements come from you, so don't forgot to treat yourself as you would others with a little pat on the back when deserved!


Yes I did have a cake for every nook's first birthday!


Don't get hung up on the pace of growth, it may well feel stop/start if working alongside being a mum or another job, but it's the direction of travel that's important. What is it Baz Luhrmann says in the track Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen ' the race is only against yourself..'


The strength in community


I'm still very much figuring all this out myself but I hope this was useful if you have any similar goals. I have learnt so much from the community of makers and small business experts I have met along the way so far. So many inspiring women who are forging a new path of what works for them and their home lives.


I'd love to know about your experiences of figuring out motherhood and your own goals, whether that be how you work, or what you do.


Emma x


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