Learning how to start a candle business at home is exciting. It’s your chance to start a low cost ecommerce brand based on your passion around fragrances.
But like all businesses, there are do’s and don’ts.
Not to mention, making it a business in the first place, which most candle makers never actually attempt. Hence why if you want to make a full time income from it, you can’t just rely on etsy. We’ll get to that later though.
Point is, there is a big opportunity in the candle business.
In fact, the economics of the candle business actually make it possible to make a full time income even if you don’t have a huge budget. Frankly, it’s an unfair advantage you don’t get to see in most business models.
Hence why learning how to start a candle business at home is so critical.
So let’s talk about it…
Is The Candle Making Business Profitable?
The biggest challenge the average entrepreneur faces is the question of passion and profit. You love fragrances and candles, but is it even profitable?
The answer is that it has the potential to be profitable.
It won’t be profitable if you start out with a contract manufacturer at super low minimums, then charge low prices on top of that because you’re worried about how many people are going to buy. But if you start by building a craft or luxury brand of homemade candles, it can work.
The reason is because of accounting (boring, I know!).
You see, the hard part about physical products is margin and cash flow. For most ecommerce brands, margins are going to be super tight. This means any type of paid advertising, which is a primary driver of growth for most ecommerce brands, is going to be tough. Then when you do have sales, now you have to balance between keeping the money or spending it on inventory.
So if you make the candles yourself, your inventory costs will shrink.
And if you charge more, your margins will skyrocket.
Now, while no business is perfect and all businesses have a chance of failing, the fact you can combine those two elements already means you have a better chance than most ecommerce founders at succeeding. It also means you can take it slow and bootstrap it the whole way.
You just need product-market fit.
The Biggest Candle Business Opportunities No One Talks About
Everyone has heard of the phrase, “if you build it, they will come”. And every entrepreneur who has looked for advice on how to build a business understands that if all you do is build it, then people will not come. So you have to do some marketing. But before you turn on your Facebook ads, do any influencer stuff, or start posting on social, you need to do one thing.
You need to differentiate your candle brand.
And this is where the opportunity lies in the candle business.
Candles have been sold for centuries, literally. That means there are tons of candles out there, but with so few candle businesses being marketed well, that also means there is opportunity. There is no Nike or Tesla of candles. In fact, most average people can barely tell the difference between candles brands. So you have to tell them.
One amazing example of this is Homesick.
What makes their brand so special is that they make location specific scents. So you can buy the New York scent or the Miami scent. You now have a good reason to buy from them not just because they’re giving you a scent you probably can’t find anywhere else, but it’s a scent that is based on an emotional attachment to a place.
So why can’t you make a Homesick, but one that features just Latin American countries?
Scents are not the only huge opportunity. So is the marketing.
You can play with packaging to create theme-based candles. For example, you can do what Liquid Death did for water and do rock-themed candles. You can make candles that are only delivered in super high quality glass that can only be found in a few places.
Basically, you need to pick 1 thing to focus on and make that your whole brand.
Here are some ideas to get you started…
Candles that last 3X longer than other candles
Candles that smell like 1 category of things like food
Candles with super exclusive, luxury packaging
Candles with a certain style of packaging to fit your house’s “look”
Candle sizes, whether really tall or small
Candles for specific audiences like children
Candles made with a super rare ingredient
Candles inspired by the scents in a rainforest
Candles made in a certain exotic place
This is going to be the most critical part about how to start a candle business at home.
The Marketing Strategy For Candle Businesses
So at this point, you now have a unique selling proposition for your brand.
The next step is to let everyone know about it so they can buy.
The good news is that it’s not necessarily complicated. Ultimately, all you have to do is go to where your target audience is and then show it to them. This is easier said than done, but it’s more than possible. The key here is to understand your options.
There are 3 main ways to market a candle business.
Paid media is another phrase for advertising. For the most part, this is going to mean Facebook ads, Instagram, Youtube, or Google. You give them a $1 and hopefully you make $2.
The great part about ads is that it’s fast and more “passive”. You just set up the ads, put up some money, then monitor and edit along the way. The bad part about ads is that it’ll lead you to bankruptcy faster than you can imagine if you do not understand the math behind acquiring a customer, especially as you grow. This is definitely the hardest part about how to start a candle business at home.
Earned media is basically another phrase for PR and social media. This means getting your candle featured on Vogue or Wired or any other publication. It can also mean having your business talked about in communities without you have to do that yourself.
The great part about earned media is credibility and pricing. If you do it yourself, it costs you nothing, besides shipping your product to journalists, to get featured on Vogue and other places. And once someone sees that you’ve been featured on Vogue, they’ll automatically trust your brand over the thousands of other candles brands who don’t have that “as seen on” logo.
Owned media includes anything you own like an email newsletter and website.
The great part about owned media is that you own it. Unlike social media, no one can ban your email newsletter since Klaviyo allows you to download your email list at any time. And unlike paid ads, you don’t need to pay to market to them. Once someone organically comes to your site and signs up to your newsletter, you can send them as many emails as you want without any repercussions, besides email opt outs. This is why it’s smart for most businesses owners to prioritize their owned channels.
So with all of that said, which should you choose?
If you really want to learn how to start a candle business from home…
And you want a complete marketing strategy for candle businesseses…
You do all of them.
You want to use paid media and earned media to make sales and drive everyone to your owned media. Then from there, you can maximize the value per customer through your website, email marketing, and text message marketing. You keep this cycle repeating for the entire life of the business, which will result in a healthy balance between all marketing channels.
Candle Business Tips For Launching A New Brand
You want an actionable gameplan, you say? Cool.
If I were starting a homemade candle business today, here’s exactly what I would do to launch it in a way that’s most likely going to be successful.
1/ First, I would come up with a very strong value proposition for a targeted audience. In fact, I want the smallest audience possible to have a profitable brand. For example, I may want a candle brand that’s specifically marketed to “LatinX” or hispanic millennials. It would be premium priced and be focused on relatable packaging with latin american specific scents.
2/ Because it would be cheap to make myself, I would make the first 3-4 scents. Just one of each would suffice. The point is to make an MVP so we can get feedback on the idea before spending a ton of money in building the business. This where you learning how to start a candle business at home is a serious unfair advantage.
3/ Open up a Shopify store using a fake brand name, then spend maybe $300 on paid ads to send traffic to the collections page. The idea is to see if anyone buys and how much it costs to acquire a customer. Basically, if people are buying and we’re at least breakeven, then it’s worth continuing. If not, then it’s back to step #1. You don’t have to sell any. Just refund everyone who purchases and let them know they’ll be added to the pre-launch list.
4/ Assuming the number work, now it’s time to build the brand. Here is where we build the proper brand. This includes your Shopify store using the Turbo theme, taking product picture and videos, and writing all of the copy that goes along with it. I would also want to make sure I can handle the packaging before all of this since it’s a key part of the process and does cost money with every order.
5/ What we’re missing now is credibility, which we can get from earned media. So make some candles and reach out to every publication that has featured candles or any type of fragrance before. The same goes for influencers who you can give a free candle too and if they like it, they can talk about it on social. All you need is just enough sales to breakeven on your investment. The real money comes in being able to say “all of this people like it, you will too”.
6/ As you are trying to get PR, you want to build your social media channels. Right now, this means TikTok. If possible, I would be posting 2-3 times per day. The content will cover everything about fragrances and topics people who like candles would like to know about. This includes not just what makes for a great candle, but also how to improve a home’s decor with candles. Both PR and social media will take 6 months to gain traction, so stay focused.
7/ Once you are gaining organic traction, you want to open up you paid media and owned media machines. If you’re already making sales, you will have an email list. This means emailing that list one per week. Then as you build a larger list and have bigger selection of products, increase the frequency to 2-3 emails per week. On the paid side, you want to first know how much you can spend to acquire a customer at breakeven. Then start slow, so you can carefully increase your budget and still be profitable.
8/ Now is the time to get nerdy and try new things. TikTok is the best place for influencer marketing right now because anyone can go viral, even if they’re new. So I would be trying to give away 25-50 candles per month to TikTok influencers. There are affiliate sites that review products, so you can pay for some affiliate sites to feature you as the #1 choice. Amazon is also a great choice here as once you have traction, it’ll drive organic sales to you.
9/ Finally, the numbers. At this point, you have more than enough data now to make really smart decisions. This is where I would look into customer acquisition costs, average order value, lifetime value within a 60-day payback window, direct traffic, referral traffic, social media traffic, and more. I would also want to be super accurate with my margins and best selling SKUs. From here I would either use the data to pivot to what is working best or if everything is going fine, then go straight into reinvesting into scaling the manufacturing and marketing.
Of course, you don’t have to do any of this yourself. Everyone has their own path. If you really wanted, you could skip half of this and just get on Shark Tank or try growing with Amazon FBA. With that said, you asked me how to start a candle business at home. So I obliged!