Circle 21 Candles manufactures premium scented soy candles
Circle 21 Candles manufactures premium scented soy candles in recycled glass containers and each candle is finished off with an oversized cork topper. Circle 21 branding was inspired by the family owned farm and ranch that once existed in the Texas Panhandle. The ranch no longer exists but their legacy for high standards lives on in our handmade soy candles.
Driven by the desire to create scented candles that had fresh clean scents, we started our business in 2012 as a part time adventure. Our original business model was based on converting used wine bottles into candle containers. The cork topper with the wine bottle base gave us a unique look and feel. Our goal has always been to create candles that were long lasting, fresh smelling and clean burning. Recycling wine bottles in house made them eco friendly and cut down on production costs. We spent the first few years collaborating with local restaurants and bars for their empty wine bottles, which they were happy to keep out of the trash and local land fill. The bottles were gathered, cleaned, cut and poured in small batches of 8 candles at a time. This was a time consuming process, but it established Circle 21 as an environmentally conscience business from the beginning.
Early on we started working with a great design team and we invested in a logo, label, and website that are both unique and captured our country living background. They designed a label that was flexible and didn’t require massive printing bills in the form of individual scent labels. They helped us design a custom made box that was also flexible. Both our boxes and labels are mass produced with blank space for scent names. We hand stamp each label and box with scent names and in some cases, our logo. Our branding is professional looking, but we avoid massive printing expenses. We have a nice apothecary look and feel. Thanks to their efforts and industry recognition for the work they did for us, we were blessed with rapid early growth. Before the business was a year old, we were shipping by the pallets to Japan and Australia!
Sourcing and processing enough bottles to keep up with demand became an issue within the first couple of years. After a long internet search we found a manufacturer that specialized in recycling wine bottles. We gave up the local gathering and processing and started buying our containers from a professional recycler. They produced containers with a nice fire polished edge, something we couldn’t do in house. These containers are safer when burning and added a more finished look to our product. Outsourcing this side of the business also gave us much needed time to focus on perfecting a quality candle on a larger scale without the added burden of making our own containers.
In 2015, we applied for and were awarded a business grant. These additional funds allowed us to expand our operation by being able to purchasing professional candle making equipment and increase our marketing efforts. In that same year we filled massive orders and acquired retailers world wide including international brands like Anthropology and MadeWell. With this added exposure to our brand, the wholesale side of our business grew exponentially. The new equipment allowed us to fill orders in quantities of several thousand at a time. Currently, we work with retailers coast to coast in the USA and have relationships with retailers worldwide. We also work with local charities and school programs in their fund raising efforts, and retailers looking for signature scents and custom candles. We offer small or large batch gift giving options for brides and corporations. Additionally, we maintain a retail location at a local collaborative and have an on line retail site for individual buyers.
Since the pandemic began we have faced several challenges. Even our recycler of wine bottles faced sourcing issues due to no large gatherings (like weddings) and closure of restaurants and bars. They doubled their pricing during the pandemic because of increased labor costs. Converting wine bottles into safe candle containers is labor intensive, and this limits their ability to offer bulk pricing. After another long internet search we found a suitable container of 100% recycled glass. Because this glass is mass produced, we can purchase with bulk pricing discounts. It was essential to our business model to continue with the recycling aspect and maintain our overall look and feel. We also wanted to continue to use our original labels and custom made packaging. Changing packaging and labels is both expensive and could damage the brand.
Every business faces challenges and obstacles. With current day inflation and new regulations in the fragrance industry, we are seeing increased prices in everything we buy. Making high quality candles and keeping costs down is an on going issue. Some of the fragrance companies we have worked with for many years have gone out of business. Some of the scents we are best known for are no longer available. In this type of environment finding new, reliable sources for raw materials is a constant challenge. About two years into the business we started having problems with getting enough corks to keep up with demand. With research and the help of the internet, we now work directly with a manufacturer in Portugal. He grows his own cork and custom makes our toppers to fit perfectly on our vessels. This direct relationship cut down on middle man costs and we don’t have the issues of not having enough corks on hand to meet demand. Finding solutions to problems is never ending.
We complete for customers with both large and small makers. Marketing is expensive and time consuming. Keeping prices down without compromising in quantity and quality is a priority for Circle 21. We shop for bulk pricing, seek out new reliable vendors and constantly experiment with scent blends to keep our product choices fresh.
Working from home keeps overhead costs in check. We have dedicated work spaces for pouring candles and another space for storing inventory and shipping. Payroll can be a huge expense for a small business, so we only hire part time, contract labor when necessary for getting large orders out the door in a timely fashion. Our local community college is a great source for students that need a little extra cash, who aren’t looking for full time work and have flexible hours.
Offering the best customer service in the industry and providing personal attention to each candle we make has been a priority for us from the beginning. We work with both big and small customers and work hard to make each one happy with their purchase.
Knowing your customer base is essential to staying in business. Our customer demographic is primarily younger in age. A big concern for these consumers is caring for the environment. Using recycled and sustainable materials means something to them. Many of the larger manufacturers of candles use paraffin in their candles. Paraffin is a petroleum based product. This is what causes the black smoke and soot you see when they burn. Younger consumers don’t want to expose themselves to those carcinogens. Soy wax is a plant based product. By using clean burning soy wax and an all cotton wick we greatly reduce or eliminate that environmental hazard. By using recycled containers we are helping to keep down waste in land fills. Addressing environmental issues mean something to our customers. Every component of our product is either recycled or made of sustainable materials.
Aromatherapy has gained a lot a of attention in the past few years. There are mental and other health benefits to adding fragrance to your everyday life. Scents can be used to improve your mood and motivate a variety of activities. Certain fragrances are used to calm the mind for meditation and concentration, others to uplift your spirits and motivate activity like exercising. These are not new concepts. Essential oils have been used through out history for medical purposes and are current common practices in many cultures. There are limitless combinations of fragrances and multiple health benefits to surrounding yourself with scents. It is said that the scene of smell is the strongest of the five scenes. “Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines, hidden under the weed mass of many years and experiences. Hit a trip wire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.” (The Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman.)
While most of us like surrounding ourselves with pleasant smells and memories, there are a certain number of consumers that don’t want to deal with open flames. Maybe they have small children, or their work place doesn’t allow them to burn candles, but they still want to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy. Opportunities to gain those customers include offering diffusers, wax melts, and car fresheners.
In our experience, candle consumption is more seasonal in nature. Early Fall, Winter and Spring months are our busiest time of the year. Holidays are the best. When cooler weather prevails and people are inside more than outside, they tend to burn more candles. Expanding offerings like scented body products, such as soap, shampoo and perfumes helps close that gap between late spring and early fall.
Knowing your customer base is essential to staying in business. Our customer demographic is primarily younger in age. A big concern for these consumers is caring for the environment. Using recycled and sustainable materials is important to our customers. Many of the larger manufacturers of candles use paraffin in their candles. Paraffin is a petroleum based product. Petroleum components is why you see black smoke and soot when burning candles. It is released into the air you breathe and can leave a black residue on other objects near by. Younger consumers don’t want to expose themselves to those carcinogens. Soy wax is a plant based product. By using clean burning soy wax and an all cotton wick we greatly reduce or eliminate that environmental hazard. By using recycled containers we are helping to keep down waste in land fills. Addressing environmental issues mean something to our customers. Every component of our product is either recycled or made of sustainable materials.
Our number one piece of advice for any new business is to invest in good branding. Our success stems from a company ethos and great branding. Stay true to your brand, know what your customer wants and offer unbeatable customer service. Be open to expanding into unthought of revenue streams like fundraising and customized products. While hiring a professional marketing team is beneficial, nothing beats word of mouth from happy customers. We have hired marketing firms and gone to Dallas market. The costs of these programs have proven profitable, but after calculating the number of units we have to sell to pay for them is difficult to justify. Build a good email list and stay in touch through direct contact. Social media is another source for marketing. Invest in good photography and learn to pivot and adapt to changing markets and demand. Seek out solutions to problems before they become major issues. Most importantly offer a quality product that evolves with and speaks to your base customer.
Get your Circle 21 Candle here: www.circle21candles.com
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