By NEIL ZAWICKI
Joy Spencer has always loved scented candles. In fact, she’s just fine with saying she’s obsessed with them. But when she discovered the paraffin wax candles she was using were giving her headaches, she looked for a better product, and then began making her own candles out of soy wax, a material that burns slower and cleaner than parafin.
That project led her and her husband Travis to create a new business.
Called Blue Sunflower Aromas, the new venture went live in November, with the Spencers selling their new products at farmers markets and craft fairs.
Getting into the hand-crafted candle business was not an immediate thing for the them. Both have other jobs: Joy is a medical coder and Travis sells insurance.
In their new venture, Joy makes the candles and Travis works on the sales end. Getting to a level where they were comfortable with their product took considerable research and development, and both laugh out loud when asked how that process went.
“At one point we had three candles with different wick sizes burning in three different rooms of the house with the doors closed,” said Travis. “And we would go in and check how they were burning and how the room smelled every hour or so.”
When it comes do making the candles, Joy is the perfectionist, according to Travis, and he attributes that to her background in marine biology. To get the candles just right, Joy said she “researched and researched,” trying different combinations, learning to “temper” the wax, going so far as to notice the wax would crater in the glass container. To solve that problem, she learned to tamp the wax down once it warmed up during the manufacturing process.
“Soy behaves very different than paraffin wax,” she explained.
Travis laughs when he talks about Joy’s efforts to create the perfect candle.
“I would bring the rejected candles into work and the women in the office would look at them as say, ‘What’s the problem?” he said. But it was those almost imperceptible flaws that bothered Joy.
“It’s like putting a piece of yourself out there,” she said.
Beyond the candle making, both Joy and Travis got to wade into the world of online marketing and sales. Travis bought Joy a book on social media marketing, and they started listening to podcasts on the subject.
But before that, the enterprise was a family affair. For their first round, Joy and Travis sold their candles to family members during the holiday season, which was fine, but they both agree the real value came when they were selling at the markets.
“The biggest thrill for us was when we sold a product to someone we didn’t know,” said Joy. Travis added that seeing people come back to their booth was confirmation they were doing something right. He estimates they’ve made at least 500 candles so far, or rather Joy has.
“Sundays are her candle making day,” he said. “And when she’s making the candles, nobody can use any part of the kitchen at all.”
This season will mark their first foray into the craft fair arena, and they’re signed up for seven of those. They both agree they’re ready.
“Once you get past the first set up and display it’s so much easier,” said Joy.
Travis says sales have been better than expected, and as revenue grows, they plan to expand. Along with the scented candles, Joy has created a scented yoga mat spray.