In today’s post, I’m going to talk about how to start a handmade candle business.
We’ll talk about why it’s a good idea to start one, what challenges you need to watch out for as well as your overall business plan that you should follow if you want to see any success.
Hi, my name is Mei and I help makers, artists and designers make a consistent living from selling their handmade products online. If you’ve been thinking about starting a handmade business but you aren’t sure which products would be great for you to make, let me make a case for candles.
I have a ton of other videos in this “How to Start A Business” playlist so feel free to check that out for other ideas if you decide that candles ultimately aren’t for you.
Let’s start by looking at the market for candles. What’s the sellability for candles and who buys them?
Candles are a great gift idea that can suit pretty much any occasion. Whether it’s a therapeutic birthday gift, a romantic Valentine's day treat, or a thoughtful Christmas present, candles sell all year-round.
This means regular business and income for you, which is great!
Plus, candles can be easily customized to sell even more during the holidays. Even in usually tough economic times, candles retain sales better than some other non-essential products. This is because the appeal is the comfort they bring to people when given as stress-relieving gifts.
Sales of candles have risen steadily in recent years and experts in the industry expect that trend to continue.
A huge part of the market is allocated to scented candles, rather than novelty ones or those used as practical lighting. A report this year measured the global scented candle market at a value of over 2.4 billion US dollars. This is expected to grow to over $3.3 billion by 2026.
Obviously a big chunk of that money is generated by major companies like Bath and Body Works and The Yankee Candle Company, but it shows that there is a massive market for candles at the moment.
If you take the time to learn how to build a business online properly, and with a decent product, you can definitely grab some of that money for yourself!
The other great thing about selling candles is that a sale often leads to repeat business. Customers who buy one to start with may be tempted to try out other scents from your store. Or, when they find one they like, they’ll want to reorder when they’ve burned through their first candle.
Candles are also a simple product to understand. Customers know what they’re getting so you shouldn’t have to deal with any difficult questions or too many returns once you know how to make them properly.
They are relatively easy to produce in large numbers as well so production is easier than some other crafts. Having said that, it’s not all plain sailing!
As with any online handmade business, there are challenges you’ll need to look out for. The first major one being; how to make a good candle and how to make it unique enough to stand out from the crowd.
There are many great websites and self-made business owners, like me, who post free tutorials and give their experiences online. You should definitely do some research and check out those resources, and learn from people who have already been there and achieved the success that you want.
Definitely familiarize yourself with the online candle-making community before venturing out on your own. Tiana Coats posts really useful information videos online and one of her recommendations, ‘Standley Handcrafted’, started out by giving tips on Reddit but now posts anything from candle-making tutorials to business insights on Youtube and on their website.
I highly recommend checking them out, as well thesprucecrafts.com, when it comes to learning how to make candles and about the materials and supplies you’ll need to get started.
Now I want you to think about a concept for your candles that will make them stand out.
Are you going to focus primarily on:
- how they look?
- how they smell?
- who you market them towards – a certain age group or demographic?
How you brand your product is essential in generating interest and getting those sales.
One of the first big choices you’ll be faced with is the type of wax you’ll use to make your candles.
Different wax types have different properties and costs which will affect how you price and market your product. There are pros and cons to each.
For example, you can decide to go down the organic route by using strictly soy or beeswax, but these can be more expensive or not carry smells (known as ‘throwing scent’ in the candle business) as well as paraffin wax.
Lots of candle-makers use a blend of waxes, such as soy paraffin.
Other materials and costs you’ll need to consider are fragrance oils, containers and molds, candle wicks, color dyes, and any other little decorative touches you might want to add.
To maximize your profits, you’ll want to buy these in bulk at wholesale prices. Candlescience.com is a go-to for candle-makers, and there are plenty of other sites such as candlewic.com where you can buy wholesale supplies as well.
You will of course also need equipment to make the candles at home, like a pouring pitcher, thermometer, stirring spoon, and wick holders, so these are costs to consider too when starting out.
Starting Your Business
I’m not going to show you how to actually make candles in this video, you can go to any of the channels or sites I’ve recommended and they’ll be able help you out with that. The focus of this video is exploring how you can start a candle business, get more traffic, and make more sales!
When you’ve done your research, thought about a concept, sourced your supplies, and learned how to manufacture your product well, you’re ready to start selling. But how do you go about advertising and selling online?
Well, if you’ve been following my recent videos, my philosophy is that you should focus on building your own standalone website on a site like Shopify.
Focus on sending traffic to your own site and when you can handle it, start adding on selling on marketplace sites like on Etsy and Amazon because those sites already have a built-in audience of customers.
The reason I don’t recommend you focus on Etsy or Amazon is that it’s someone else’s platform and it’s too unstable so if you want to build a long term business, you’re not going to have as much control as you do with your own website. I have a video here that talks about why Shopify vs Etsy so you can check that out later if you want to.
Selling on Amazon
If you sell on Amazon, I would take advantage of Amazon Prime and their Fulfilment By Amazon service. You can find more information about Amazon and their fees and how you can boost your sales on there in my previous videos.
The quick version though, is that offering Prime makes your products more attractive to millions of potential buyers and Fulfilment By Amazon lets you ship inventory to an Amazon warehouse and they deal with delivery and the customer service side of things.
All of that logistics is off your hands. This gives you more time to focus on making new designs, advertising and setting up your own online store.
Drop Shipping & Wholesale
It may be the case, as with Tiana Coats and her store, that when you start to find some success, larger companies could contact you to start selling on their websites. You can negotiate deals with them to do what’s known as ‘drop-shipping’.
This is when your items are advertised on a retailer’s site and sold to their customers, but the company does not carry any of your stock. You are still responsible for sending the item to the customer, but the company may send you stickers or labels to add to it to associate it with their brand.
Both you and the retailer split the earnings from the sale at around 50% each.
Similar to dropshipping is selling your products wholesale. Lots of brick and mortar gift shops love carrying candles and supporting small independent makers.
What’s great about wholesale is the store buyer will usually make a large order of like 12 to 24 candles at once at wholesale pricing, which is usually 50% of your retail prices.
That means if you sell a candle for $15 retail to one customer, a wholesale buyer would expect that candle to be sold to them for $7.50 each.
It might seem like a big cut, but you’re selling in volume so it’s a bigger total dollar amount than selling just one or two candles.
Listing Your Merchandise
When it comes to listing your candles on any site, it’s important that you present them in the best way possible, especially with scented candles because the buyer cannot smell them online. You have to accurately describe the scent and any relaxing or invigorating qualities they may have.
Generally, new customers will also want to see between 5 and 10 clear photographs of a product to feel confident enough to make a purchase.
It may take you a little longer to write a decent description and take multiple photos, but it will definitely pay off in the long run.
Be sure to use any appropriate keywords to describe your candles. This way they stand a higher chance of being shown on search engines.
Pricing your items is key to making a sale too.
Price your candles too high, and most people will just go for a cheaper alternative. Price them too low and you’re not likely to make much money at all.
A commonly accepted mark-up for handmade candle sellers is about 4 to 5 times the amount it costs to make the candle.
Say for example you make an 8 ounce candle that costs you $3 in total to make. You should expect to sell that candle for around $12-15.
Remember that out of this amount you will need to pay a referral fee or commission of about 15% to a site like Etsy or Amazon and any other additional fees.
This should still leave you with some profits if you’re priced correctly.
For a relatively cheap product, candles have the disadvantage of being quite heavy. This is going to be your biggest immediate challenge, but it’s an easy fix.
It’s very important that you set your shipping costs at a level where they are not so high that they scare off customers (which is what happens to most beginner candle sellers online) but are not too low that the cost of shipping eats into your profits.
Try to encourage your customers to buy in bulk rather than individual candles.
You could make a variety gift sets that include a range of different scents, or offer a discounted rate for a set of 3 or 5 candles.
You can also offer additional services such as gift wrapping for a small fee, so that you can set a lower shipping rate but recoup some of the loss.
Another thing you can do is take some of the shipping price and add that to your product pricing, just to lower the shipping price a little bit. This gives the customer the illusion of a lower shipping price, which is very appealing to buyers.
Flat Rate Shipping
If you’re shipping candles within the United States via USPS you can use flat-rate shipping if you are sending 3 to 5 candles or more, depending on the size of the candles. Most handmade candles are sold in either 8 or 16 ounce containers. But 1 to 2 candles will almost always be cheaper when shipped by weight.
Media Outreach & List Building
When you’re just starting out, focus on media outreach and email list building, all of which you can do for free.
If you’re able to do a live event, like at a craft show or farmer’s market, it’s also valuable to get feedback from customers to help you improve your product.
When you really feel like you’re ready to take on more orders, then maybe think about boosting sales through paid ads which can be insanely lucrative.
Stick With It!
The temptation for lots of beginners is to go really gung-ho from the start, but this can lead to disappointment when you don’t see an immediate flood of orders. In reality, building a business is a gradual process but if you put in enough effort, show up everyday and respond to the appropriate signs and pivot accordingly to those signs, then sales will increase and you’ll start to earn a consistent income.
So, there is clearly a market for candles. It’s a great space to get into. Candles are an easy-to-make product that you can start making at home almost immediately.
You may not become a millionaire overnight by selling them online, but if you price and advertise them correctly then it could be a steady source of revenue.
Have you had any experience with selling candles online or are you tempted to give it a try? Let me know in the comments.