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Scented candles have a little something extra for the millennial consumer

Katrina Bell was exhausted from her daily work and was looking for a more creative activity. What started as a side business of making candles and wreaths has now, three years later, grown into a six-figure business, The Copper Bell. Bell’s soy candles combine unique scents with punny names, often including pop culture references designed for the “millennial mom with a dry sense of humor.” The Guelph, Canada-based entrepreneur, like so many business owners, has faced financial setbacks during the pandemic. But Bell remains positive, acknowledging the huge steps she has taken so far; like moving her business out of her home and hitting the six-figure mark. Today, it is focused on continuing to evolve while remaining adaptable to an evolving consumer landscape.

Bells’ story, as told to The 1,000+ Stories Story Exchange Project:

What was your reason for starting your business?

I started my business in the fall of 2019 around the time I was also looking to make a huge career change with my day job. I was exhausted and wanted something more. I had been trying to break out of a mold with my employer and step into a totally different kind of role. I felt stuck and unsupported and thought I would never get to where I wanted to be if I didn’t leave this employer. I ended up in a sales position at a tech company in late October 2019 and started making candles and wreaths side by side around the same time. I wanted a creative outlet, I wanted to go to craft markets and meet people face to face.

Years before, I had developed a sensitivity to smells during my pregnancy and had instant headaches when lighting candles. By experimenting and learning about candle ingredients, I was able to make better candles for myself and my friends that didn’t make me nauseous. When I first started applying to the markets, it was obvious to also include the candles that I had developed over the months. I quickly found market validation for the candles and saw that the crowns were getting me nowhere! So I ditched the wreaths and focused on making high quality candles that everyone could enjoy.

how do you define success?

My success is my ability to spend time away from work with my family and friends, my ability to pay my bills, inspire others, and spread a little joy in the world. I think the past two years have been particularly difficult and isolating, so finding a spark of light in the dark and having it to hold on to is the most successful.

Tell us about your biggest success to date

My biggest success to date is scaling my business out of my home and into its own dedicated production space. Building a product-based home business is all-encompassing. It can be extremely overwhelming and creep into every aspect of your life. Looking at the photos and videos from that time, I am amazed at how my business was in every nook and cranny of my family’s life. I feel much more balanced now and can separate my family life from work, which is so refreshing.

What is your main challenge and how did you overcome it?

I think scaling is the best umbrella term for where I’m struggling the most right now. I’ve gone from zero to six figures, moved my business from home, and now I’m facing new challenges. I see that right now, customers are wary of purchases. Inflation is really starting to set in, the cost of living is going up dramatically, and most people are in a bit of a pickle. For me, scaling up means taking on other challenges such as sales and marketing, cash flow management, and developing leadership skills so I can grow my team.

Have you experienced significant personal situations that have influenced your business decisions?

Like most families during the pandemic, my family struggled with balance and uncertainty. It’s incredibly hard to find yourself unemployed and trying to carve out a place for yourself as a new business. My husband was also recently injured and had to miss work. We are currently in a difficult time financially, but we have an incredible support system that keeps us going.

What’s your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?

I want other startup entrepreneurs to know that changing your original idea is okay. I think a lot of people get very attached to the vision they have for their company or product and are reluctant to shift gears when they don’t get the market validation they seek. One of my greatest strengths is my willingness to let go of something that isn’t working the way I thought it would.

How do you find inspiration in your darkest days?

My current best inspiration is a children’s movie, Sing 2. I realize this sounds ridiculous, but it’s ultimately a story of persevering in the face of setbacks, people who don’t believe in you, and insurmountable obstacles. . I often find myself watching it when I’m at work, or even just listening to some of the songs.

Who is your most important role model?

I have a competitor in my area who is a dear friend who I consider my most important role model. She and I have an incredibly respectful relationship and she understands the struggles I face better than anyone I know because she’s been through the same hardships. She has an unparalleled work ethic and drive and has quickly expanded her own candle business to the places I seek.

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