Ever wanted to start a home-based business? You’d be in good company! According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of all U.S.-based businesses are run out of an owner’s home. But getting started and turning a profit can be extremely challenging for home-based business owners. We spoke with Samantha Irwin, co-owner of Standard Wax, about how she turned her favorite pastime into a profitable business — and how you can too!
4 Tips for starting a home-based business:
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Trial and error is how you learn and how you get better. [Tweet this]
- Develop an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Regularly research your industry, your target market, your competitors, everything.
- Find a good tax accountant. If your business isn’t set up legally, you’re not going to get very far.
- Hit the ground running. There’s no better way to find out if you have a product people are going to like than by asking them. Take your product into stores, hand out your business card at events, and always listen intently to feedback.
Check out Samantha’s story below:
Business: Standard Wax Business owners: Samantha Irwin and Andrew King Business focus: 100% natural, hand-poured soy candles Business type: Home-based business Location: Tempe/Chandler AZ Number of employees: 2 Website: www.standardwax.com
Scott’s Local Business Corner: Can you start by telling us a little about your business, Standard Wax?
Samantha Irwin: At Standard Wax, we combine the art and science of candle making to produce high quality candles that double as unique decor for your home. Our 100% handcrafted concept was born from a love of luxurious candles, handmade independent wares, and a conscious recognition of the need for candles that are both natural and beautiful. We take a simplistic approach to our designs, from our unique scents and the glass and ceramic containers we create to our minimal packaging. We believe strongly in the concept of repurposing and strive to create one-of-a-kind designs that are unmistakably meant to become a treasured piece of art in your home.
SLBC: Initially, you created candles as handmade holiday gifts for friends and family. How did you learn to make them?
Samantha: Andrew has been working with ceramics for a while, and I wanted to buy some pots for friends and family. I fell in love with them and decided they would make amazing candle holders. I did a little research, went to Michaels and bought some supplies, and made some candles. Those first candles were probably pretty terrible! People loved the idea so much that we took a stab at selling them at First Fridays in Phoenix. We got a great response. Andrew worked on standardizing the container size to better suit candles, and I did TONS more research on candle making. It’s very much a science that took a whole lot of trial and error to learn. There are books and sites online with instructions, how-tos, etc, but, like anything else, it takes a lot of messing up before you find the processes and ingredients that work best for your specific applications. We wanted to maintain a mostly natural process, and there is surprisingly little information out there on how to do that.
SLBC: In addition to making your own candles, the containers are also handmade. Can you tell us about that?
Samantha: Andrew has been working with ceramics for over 15 years. Each ceramic container is designed by him and made by hand, so each one is slightly unique and different. The containers are truly art. And unlike your typical candle, these containers can be reused in your home as a planter, catchall, penholder, etc., long after the candle has been burned down. We also offer candle refills if you’d like to reuse your container for another scent.
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SLBC: At what point did you know that you wanted to go from gift giving to starting your own business?
Samantha: Andrew and I were itching to go on a trip one weekend and decided to pick up and go to San Diego. We thought we’d bring along some candles and scope out some cute boutiques in the area to see if anyone was interested in possibly selling them. Talking to store owners was so inspiring, and the response we got was very encouraging. Seeing that people actually liked our product was enough to get the ball rolling on a legitimate business. At that point, we still had a lot of work to do perfecting our scents and processes. But when we got home, we were so motivated. That’s really when Standard Wax became what it is today. Now, Andrew has a ceramics studio at home with three kilns and I do all of the candles in a studio at my house.
SLBC: What resources did you use to help you in this quest?
Samantha: We really just learned as we went. There was a lot of asking friends and family for advice, a lot of research online, a lot of messing up, and lot of learning from mistakes. Starting and running a home-based business takes a lot of attention to detail. The biggest hurdle for us was making sure we had everything set up as it should be legally. Find yourself a good tax accountant and the rest should be easy!
SLBC: How did you go about getting stores to carry Standard Wax candles?
Samantha: On foot! We participate in local events, go in and talk to shop owners, and drop off samples to stores we think might work well with our product. The most important thing we’ve found is finding a mutually beneficial relationship. It’s better to be in a few stores that fit your brand and style, than it is to be in a ton of stores where your product doesn’t really fit in. Local store owners like to have a connection to the brand and business owners, so we spend a lot of time scoping out stores in Phoenix and discovering new places to sell our candles.
SLBC: How do you come up with new candle scents and do you have any scented candles for the holidays you’d like to tell us about?
Samantha: We have both always been drawn to unexpected scents and things that are a departure from your standard vanilla bean or sugar cookie. We are inspired by the outdoors and really love scents that are natural, subtle, and unique. One of us will say “I want a candle that smells like the ground does when it rains” or something equally off the wall. Then, just like making the candles themselves, we go through a lot of trial and error to reverse engineer that smell, and break it down into the many, many parts that make up any one scent. (The scent described here is our Fresh Earth.) For the holidays this year, we have one new scent called Blue Spruce. It’s simple, woodsy, and spicy. We also feel that our Fig & Pomegranate scent works perfectly for this time of year.
SLBC: Aside from online, where can your candles be purchased?
Samantha: Right now our candles are available at Practical Art, La Grande Orange, Handcrafted Art & Essentials, MADE Art Boutique, Home-Ology, Bunky Boutique, and at many local fairs and events around town.
SLBC: Any company news coming up you’d like to tell us about?
Samantha: We’ll be participating in the Frances Crafeteria Dec. 7 and the Unique LA Holiday Show in Los Angeles on Dec 1-2. We’ll be featuring a limited-edition holiday product at both shows, while supplies last. We also just launched our custom line of candles for weddings. The beautiful, handmade log containers can be customized with your initials and colors!
SLBC: If you could give advice to an entrepreneur looking to start his or her own home-based business, what would it be?
Samantha: Start small and do your research, but don’t be afraid to take risks. We jumped into a HUGE order that most people called us crazy for. It was hard and stressful; someone should have filmed a reality show about us. Maybe it was a good decision, maybe it wasn’t, but we learned a ton in a short period of time. Kind of like going to another country and learning the language as you go! Jumping into the unknown is the best way to learn.
Thank you to Samantha for sharing her tips for turning a favorite hobby into a profitable business with us! If you’d love to light your home with Standard Wax candles, you’re in luck! You can enter to win a $130 soy candle sampler pack from Standard Wax in our 12 Days of Shopping Local Giveaway! Enter daily for your best shot at winning!