How to Sell Candles as a Side Business From Home
Making and selling candles from home is one of a few crafts that can be a profitable business. Earning an extra $1000 a month or more can be life-changing for most people and with candle making this is very possible. With hard work and commitment, this business can be scaled to make as much as you are willing to put into it.
Business Planning for a Candle Business
Planning to start a candle business can range from small craft shows to a manufacturing plant with many employees. This may sound cliché, but you need a mission statement. Simply put, what do you want out of this venture? That mission will guide you through the decision-making process for your startup. Not everyone wants to make millions working 18 hours a day supervising 50 people to run a manufacturing plant. That level of success will require a large investment in your lifestyle.
We are going to talk about starting a candle business on a budget from home in your spare time. This is about making money on the side for extra income to supplement a part-time job or to earn full-time pay without having to leave your kids. This business is an opportunity to work for yourself and have control over your lifestyle.
Find your Candle Niche
Candles have niches. You need to think about what type of candle product line you would like to make. You need a style. Answer some questions like where would you like to sell your candles? What type of candle would you see there? I sell 8-ounce jelly jar candles that are often seen at craft shows and sell for around $10 each. You can sell black and white tumbler candles at mall kiosks under a different label for $25 each. Who do you want to be? There is no right or wrong.
Where (or your candle market) do you plan on selling your candles? Visit places you would like to sell your candles. You do not want to copy someone but gain inspiration. Keep in mind that a jelly jar style candle is not often seen in high-end boutiques. If you look at my jelly jar candles, they are designed and marketed to sell at a flea market outlet. Remember there is always a market for candles online. You should be selling online additionally anyway.
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What you need to get started
Now that you know what style your candle will be it is time to practice candle making. Launching your business should come at a time when you are comfortable selling and confident that you can provide a safe reliable product. Your product should be something you can be proud of. Do not worry about being perfect as you will continue to learn along the way. Read my article on what you should know before you start selling.
I suggest you start with a candle making kit from a candle supply company. Everything should be premeasured and set to make 4 to 6 candles. This will give you your first of many batches to make. Learning candle making is the key to your success.
Research, Development, and Testing
This part of getting started in candle making cannot be skipped. There will be much to learn. I am putting everything I can on this website to help you and there are many other sources online as well. Watch Youtube, search Google, and join Facebook groups. Learn as much as you can! I have been making candles forever and I learn something new all the time.
Candle supply companies come out with new products, fragrances, and wax blends all the time. Try a few different products to develop your product launch. Stick with something you like, learn that one thing and do it well. Do not try to launch too many items at one time. Stay focused. You need a starting point.
I developed my candle making process for the jelly jars so that I could mass-produce and sell at craft shows over the weekends while still working a full-time job. I developed a process that allowed me to do this without working every waking hour.
If you keep trying new things (recipes, vessels, waxes, etc.) while you are launching your line, you will perpetually be in the development phase and will struggle to manufacture enough in a timely manner to turn a profit without working your tail off! Pick one thing. Do it well. Then move to the next.
The first candles I sold had my name and phone number on the label. Don’t get hung up thinking that your company name and logo have to come first. If you make a good candle people will buy it. Now that you have made some candles it is time to make the business plan.
The Candle Business Plan
This does not have to be any more than a spiral notebook. Unless you are planning on borrowing money to finance a business, it is unlikely someone will ask you for this. I’m a firm believer in writing things down and setting goals. This is the place to define what your business is going to look like in detail. It is as simple as that. Let’s take some time to answer a few questions and look at some resources online for business plans.
Set a date for your candle business launch.
Setting a time frame is only important to help keep you on track. You need a timeline to measure your progress and establish some milestones. Pick a date that you are comfortable with. It can be weeks from now or years. This is entirely up to you.
Do you have a budget? How will you fund it?
Putting your plan on paper first will give you a complete picture of what this business will cost you to start up. I have always worked a full-time job and sold candles on the side. Funding came from the money I earn from that job. However, selling candles should at some point turn a profit to reinvest to buy supplies, grow, and pay yourself for your hard work.
If you want to make money like a business you will have to treat this like a business. If you treat it like a hobby it will cost you like a hobby. Hobbies seem to always cost money and never make anything. they are money traps!
Yes, you need insurance.
I am not an insurance agent and you should have a conversation with your insurance agent. Make sure that in the event you have an accidental fire in your home you are covered. If you are a renter make sure you are covered. Some insurance policies cover the structure but not the contents. If you lose everything in a tornado and the contents are not covered, you lose the contents of your business.
Think it through. Don’t overthink it but protect yourself and your business. If you are selling candles to anyone and they are harmed using your product make sure you are covered. I am insured through the Handmade Soap and Cosmetics Guild for product liability. It costs me about $250 a year.
As a side note, in some cases, operating a business in a residential home may void your homeowner’s policy. Be clear on your coverage.
Open a separate checking account.
At this business level, I would say that forming an LLC would be a personal choice. It helps to separate your personal entity from the business entity. Early on it could be an expense that could maybe wait until later. However, blurring the financial line between your personal finances and the business finances could get tricky in the event you owe someone money later on.
It also helps to understand your spending and the business operations when you keep this completely separate. It can also be your biggest ally in the midst of a tax audit! Trust me.
How will you collect payment? Credit card?
Now that you have a separate checking account you can connect a Paypal or Square account. People will expect you to have the ability to take a credit card and will spend more money at a craft show if you can. I use square because of its inventory system and online POS. I will explain that later. It connects to my checking and I see the money within 2 days. It also calculates the taxes for me.
What bookkeeping system will you use?
As we get deeper into this you can see that you will need some type of system to keep track of things. Save your receipts. This is another reason I use Square. I also use GoDaddy Bookkeeping. When it comes time to file taxes it makes it so much easier. We will talk about the difference between the cost of goods and expenses later. This may require a complete article.
How will you collect and manage sales taxes?
This gets a little tricky too. I am in the state of Michigan so this could be different where you are. Many states are very similar. You cannot collect sales tax without holding a certificate from the state of Michigan. You need to check with your state to see what you need to do to manage this process. Handling sales tax improperly is a felony. I am required to collect a 6% sales tax from anyone within the state when I sell them a product and submit those funds to the state. By law, I am required to do this in person or as an online transaction.
So, if you live in Michigan and I sell you something from my website, I am required to collect a 6% sales tax. Because this has changed in the past year and is now so confusing, I have switched to selling on a platform that manages this for me. I also sell other items and sell my candles as well now on eBay. They offer discounted shipping and take the lowest commission. They are also the least restrictive. Other platforms such as Etsy do this for you. I just prefer everything in one place. I do other things. It just works for me.
Where will you make your candles?
You need to set up an area that can be dedicated to candle making. Candles need to sit overnight to set up and longer to cure. There is also the issue of storage for equipment and ingredients. This can get a little disorganized fast. Lossing track of stuff is never fun and mislabeled candles are worse. If you are making candles in your kitchen, you may want to make them on an old cookie sheet so that they can be moved easily.
I bought portable tables to set up and make candles in another room with a hot plate when I first started. This kept everything out of the way and contained. I still use the tables to this day. It is a quick way to add a working service that I can fold up and put out of the way when I am not using them.
What manufacturing system will you use?
As a small or starter candle maker this may not apply. As you grow this will become more apparent. Over time you will develop your system for candle make and what works for you. You still need a system and you need to keep track of what you use and where you got it from and will need to do some testing. Read my article on candle testing. Before you start a candle making business it is important to have practiced making candles.
You do not need to be a master but don’t put yourself under the stress of starting before you are ready. Learn as much as you can about the craft first. Mass producing candles is taking what you already do and scaling that process without jeopardizing the quality. You are changing your process by mass production. Let explain a little of what I mean. If you take a pound of wax and mix a fragrance to make 4 candles it’s no big deal.
Heating a 45-pound case of wax to mix 16 different fragrances has to be planned out or the wax will set up in your mixing pitches before you have had a chance to pour everything into your jars. What you thought would go smoothly may have just turned into a mess. You need to scale this growth one step at a time.
What equipment do you need?
When I first started out I melted wax in a metal pouring pitcher in a double boiler over a hot plate. I mixed one fragrance at a time and made candles during the week after work. On Saturday, about once a month, I would take what I made to a craft show and sell them. As time went on I started melting wax in a 5-quart slow cooker. I would turn it on as soon as I came home so that it was ready after dinner and I would pour as many candles as I could.
This eventually turned into multiple 22-quart roasters that I use on the weekends to pour hundreds of candles. I dip wax out into pouring pitchers and mix with fragrances. I sit and do my wicking and labeling during the week. Currently, that is all I need. To make more I would have to quit my day job and make candles full time. This article is about making money on the side which is what I do.
What container or vessel will you use? Glass or Metal (tin)?
Options for containers are endless! You must choose. I would not have more than 3 vessels. You will need to do the testing for each combination of container and wick with the fragrance you have. This is worth discussing. This is the area I mention because it is like the restaurant menu that has so much that it is hard to maintain. You have to manage your inventory and the larger the variety the more complex it gets.
A product line that is more uniform also has a more sleek sophisticated appeal. I sell jelly jars and have a bohemian style. This is where your branding comes in. If you want a high-end boutique look don’t mirror a thrift store or a dollar store. Save those containers for the crafts shows.
Glass or Metal? What no one has probably told you before is the pros and cons of this choice. Glass is harder to work with for a few reasons. One is that you have to maintain the wax temperature when using soy as it is sensitive to rapid changes. Glass containers absorb heat and create problems. It is also heavier and fragile. That makes it back-breaking to tote around from show to show doing events. It takes up more room by volume so it takes more space to store.
A heavier container also costs more to ship and because it is fragile takes more effort to protect. The downside is people like the glow of the flame inside the glass. You have to test this. A metal vessel takes up less room is lighter is easier to store and many are very beautiful. Shop around before you commit to a vessel. Take the time to look closely at what you decide and the impact it will have on the storage or shipping later on. Now is the time to test and think it through before you spend money.
Does your container have a lid or a dust cover?
I added this in here because many containers do not come with lids. Some can be purchased separately. Some cannot. A lid helps to protect the candle from evaporation and dust. Some boutiques will not let you sell in the stores without a lid so this is something to consider. There are a few Etsy stores that do make candle dust covers and it will add to the cost of your candle. If you make them yourself you will have to develop this as well.
Many open candles in a room can be overwhelming with fragrance and challenging to store and ship. Dust covers made from construction paper will absorb the fragrance oil from your candle and the candle may not smell as strong when burned. Most dust covers are made from photo paper that does not absorb ink.
What wax? What wick?
These go hand in hand. Develop your recipe and stick with it. Remember to pick one thing and do it well. The more streamlined your process is the easier it will be to manage. If you use one type of wax you can buy in larger quantities and also save money that way. Buying in bulk will pay off. Every variety you add will add complexity to your menu. It was years of candle making before I introduce matching wax melts to my product line. Don’t feel like you need to offer everything. Your variety will be offered in fragrance selection. The same holds true for wicks. Buying in bulk is cheaper.
Fragrances can get expensive. This is where most blow their budget! The goal would be to buy what you are going to use. Start your line with about 6 scents representing one from each category and collect them as you go. This is your menu. Develop a baseline and create variety by switching up with the seasons. With practice, you will be creating the special blends that only you offer with your brand. See my article on blending candle fragrances.
There are regulatory requirements for candles based on where you live. Check with your governmental agency to be sure. In the USA there needs to be a warning label, and then a product label. You can make your own labels or have them printed. See the article on labels here. You want to make sure your label represents your brand and this could change over time. I have changed mine several times. Labeling requirements for boutiques can require a little more and some require barcoding through GS1 certification.
If you are selling and craft and vendor shows you will probably never come across this. But if you want to learn, there are classes you can take and scale up your business when you are ready. Don’t let this intimidate you. There are always people willing to help small businesses through a new process. GS1 barcode certification is simply a barcode assigned to your product like a social security number that identifies it. When it is scanned through any system it is recognized. It is an easy registration process.
Now that you have put everything into your candle you need to set a price. The industry standard is to add up what it cost and multiple that times 2 for wholesale and by three for retail. Your price should be somewhere in between. Your market will determine your price. This is also a factor when you start thinking about where you want to sell your candles.
If you are selling on Etsy, you need to factor in that they will be charging you 20%. You will have to add that in. You will also have to add in other costs that are hidden like packaging or overhead. Expenses such as pouring pitchers are not directly in the cost of your candle but you can’t make candles without them. This is what I was referring to earlier. It is an expense not a cost of goods. Wax is a cost of goods that eventually become a product that is sold to someone. This is a different type of expense.
You may want to consult with a tax expert on this. In the meantime keep all receipts. Eventually, you will need to develop some bookkeeping skills.
What supplier will you buy from?
Buy local when you can. Drive to pick up when you can. Shipping will hurt your bottom line. The products used in this craft tend to be heavy and cost more to ship. This also has to be factored into your cost. I don’t offer exotic wax blends because it would cost too much for me to make and sell at a profit. There is a local candle supply store that sells quality products and it works for me. Some things I may buy and have shipped. Don’t overlook this area.
How many candles will you make for your first launch?
Make as many as you can comfortably afford. You can only make as much money as you have products to sell. Often I have people tell me that they want to make $500 at a show over the weekend but they only have $300 in candles to put out on their table. If you don’t have one, You can’t sell it.
You may want to make 10 of each fragrance you have planned. A good start could be 60 candles.
People need to know you have candles for sale. You have to tell people. You have to be actively telling people you are selling candles. You have to prepare people to buy. This also works with your marketing plan.
Where will you sell your candles?
We are moving in the direction of online sales so that should be your first store. Square offers a free online store without a website. It helps you connect everything together and keeps it easy to manage. They offer a direct link to purchase an item that can be connected to a social media post as an example. Eventually, You may want to sell on a platform such as Etsy or eBay and pay the commission just to have the support of tax collection and shipping.
Driving traffic to a website of any kind will be a challenge. For this reason, starting out selling at local pop-up craft shows or vendor shows is successful.
Another option is to visit local stores in your area malls or salons and ask if you can set up a table for the day. This helps when craft shows are booked full. Some small boutiques or salons will be willing to help you sell your candles for some type of compensation. You will need to visit and speak with the managers or owners.
How will the candle be packaged? Gift boxed?
Presenting your candle may require additional packaging. Higher-end candles are often accompanied by a matching gift box or outer layer of packaging. Some styles of candles come with tags or ribbons. Some are gift-wrapped in tissue paper. Some are just presented as is with the container that they are made in. This is a person’s brand choice. You decide the finish of your product.
Additionally, shipping the candles require boxes and protective material such as bubble wrap. This will add to the cost of the candle as well as the labeling. It’s the most overlooked. The cost is calculated and everyone forgets about the extras and the profits made get widdled away with other expenses.
How will you ship?
Shipping USPS flat rate is often the easiest to calculate. USPS First Class up to 1 pound and USPS Priority Mail up to 5 pounds is usually the cheapest. I use Pirate Ship to create many shipping labels if I am selling and shipping from an in-person sale. eBay has a shipping system setup and makes it really easy to use. So does Etsy.
What is your marketing plan?
People need to know that you make and sell candles. You should be active on social media posting the things that you do candle related. You can get discovered through Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook Groups and drive traffic to your store. Creating daily posts gets people to know you.
How will you display your product?
You will need some items to display your candles on a table at a craft show. I used black table clothes with some risers. I kept the product under my table and kept reloading the table to keep it looking full. I used signs to display pricing and highlight fragrance names. This can also be another opportunity to brand your company.