Ever have life test you and force you into unknown territory? Sometimes, those challenges can birth our biggest blessings and yield new pathways for our lives that we never planned or imagined.
This rings true for wife, mother of two, and founder and "Chief Chandler" of Posh Candle Co., Tay Watts.
Posh Candle Co. sells hand-poured 100% soy candles (and accessories) that come in containers with memorable sayings and scents such as "Bad and Bougie", "Grey Sweatpants", and "Allergic to Bulls**t". While Tay always had a passion for crafts and entrepreneurship, it wasn't until she was in graduate school and found out she was unexpectedly pregnant with her second son that she realized she'd need to merge these two interests to fuel another source of income for her family. At seven months pregnant, Tay launched Posh Candle Co. with the mission to inspire women to be their authentic selves.
Tay chatted with xoNecole about the successes and curveballs she's experienced running her Posh Candle Co. and how she's evolved as a solo entrepreneur. She also discusses the critical moment in her business when she was forced into full-time entrepreneurship, how she balances motherhood, critical resources that have been instrumental in her personal and business development, and tips for others looking to stand out in crowded niches.
Check out Tay's story below!
What is the need you are trying to fill with Posh Candle Co.?
I thought about the way that I use candles and the way they were being presented to me at the stores. I wasn't finding that connection. I burn candles when I'm in work mode, when I'm cleaning, catching time to myself as a mom, during bathtime or when doing meditation. I wanted the phrases to promote or encourage a positive mindset, promote self-love, or spark laughter. For example, our "F**kboy Repellent" is one of the candles that make people laugh.
Courtesy of Posh Candle Co.
"I wanted the phrases to promote or encourage a positive mindset, promote self-love, or spark laughter."
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced early on?
[At the time], I was in the middle of my last year of graduate school. I had my final papers, internship, and then a newborn. I was trying to find that balance of work and life. [Also, candles involve] a lot of testing. You simply don't just mix a scent and wax and put it out there. It can take months before you find a perfect combination. There are some scents that don't work well in soy wax. It took me about six months to develop the first four scents. Recently, I've been working on a scent and it's been about six months.
A lot of money goes into getting samples of fragrances from different suppliers and sourcing the jars from different connections. You want to connect with suppliers who offer high quality materials. You're collecting samples from all over to make sure you're getting the best. You don't want to mix something together and send it out to people and they're like, "What is this?"
Did you have any prior entrepreneurial experiences? How did you start building your customer base?
I took eight years of failure and put that into Posh Candle Co. My first business was back in 2008. It was a jewelry company. I was one of those people that thought you could put up a website and people would find you. I quickly found out that was not the case. I got one order in one year. I [also] had a soap business. I've done hair, bath and body.
Prior to launching Posh Candle Co., I had a long talk with myself. I said if I'm not willing to put everything into this, don't start it. If I'm not willing to go super hard, then I don't deserve it. To me, the common theme of why all of those projects failed was simply me. I wasn't going out and learning out what I needed to. I wasn't applying all of my talent. I wasn't interested in learning about SEO. I was doing the bare minimum. I decided I was going to put my all into it and see what happens. Within those few months of launching, I was head down - full throttle. Within six months, I had an order for 5,000 candles.
"I decided I was going to put my all into it and see what happens. Within those few months of launching, I was head down - full throttle. Within six months, I had an order for 5,000 candles."
How did you get that first 5,000-candle order?
I was building relationships. I was in a few Facebook groups for entrepreneurs every day networking and giving free advice to other people. Also, I started reaching out to influencers and upcoming bloggers. I told them we were a new candle company and they looked like they would enjoy our product. [I asked], "Can I send you something? There's no pressure for you to post it." These were micro-influencers so they were excited to get something for free. They would get the candle and repost it. My idea was to show that somewhere in the world someone had my candle and were enjoying it. That was a strategic way to create trust. I pay attention to a lot of the things I'm drawn to and the things I do before I purchase and apply that to my business.
What’s a challenge you’ve had since launching?
The biggest challenge is growth and how I'm not yet at the point of building my team. I have no idea how to hire someone. Wholesale orders are getting bigger and coming in faster to the point where I'm so wrapped up making them that I don't have the time to sit with someone [and train them.]
If you want to scale, [I've learned] you should start with a business plan. I went with whatever was going to help me provide income. I wasn't really thinking about the long-term. If you're really serious about it and thinking in the future, that should [be included in your plan.]
Why did you diversify your product range?
I'm not just a candle company, but I create an experience. Diversifying offers you more opportunity to sell to your customers. People have different preferences. Maybe someone isn't a candle person but they like incense. They are going to become your customer. The sage, the Palo Santo… all of those are different items that create a mood and fragrance in your home.
"I'm not just a candle company, but I create an experience. Diversifying offers you more opportunity to sell to your customers."
Why did you decide to run Posh Candle Co. full-time?
For several months, I did the balancing act. I'd get up at 4 A.M. and take a one hour commute to work. I worked at a busy mental health clinic until 4 P.M. and then the commute back home was two hours. When I got home, I'd have to fulfill all my orders. Mental health has always been my passion. I had no intentions of quitting my 9-5. I was going to stick it out until I became licensed. Posh Candle Co. was never supposed to be full-time.
One day, I went to work and lost my job in a really weird way. They said my position was borrowed from another clinic and they want their position back. It took me about 15-20 minutes to realize I was getting let go. When it hit me, I cried in my office. What was I going to do? There's nothing more scary than being a full-time entrepreneur. You don't know what you're going to make day to day. A 9-5 is very safe. I took two days to feel sorry for myself. The turning point was the third day, I remembered that I asked for this. I was miserable commuting every day. I saw it as a sign to go.
"Posh Candle Co. was never supposed to be full-time. One day, I went to work and lost my job in a really weird way. It took me about 15-20 minutes to realize I was getting let go."
How do you balance work and motherhood?
It's all in the planning. You need to identify your most productive hours out of the day. For me, those hours are 3 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. Typically, that's before my kids wake up. I'm already up doing the most important things that I need to do. Having my kids with me every step of the way, I recognize their needs as well. After I'm done doing what I'm doing in the first part of the day, I make sure they get what they need. Maybe we'll go to the park, a museum, or see family. I use that as a way to wear them out. I know in the afternoon, I'll need to get more things done.
What tips do you have for standing out in a crowded market?
I looked back at the theme of what I've done in the past and I wasn't being myself. Everything you see on social media or the content I produce is all mine. The silly jokes I say, those are mine. I use my own authentic personality to find my tribe.
What keeps you going?
When people launch their business, they tend to chase others who are at a higher level than they are. My advice is to network at your level - network across. Take people with you.
It's about building relationships. Build authentically with people. When they get, you get. When you get, they get. It's about looking out for people and creating a community that you can rely on for support.
Courtesy of Posh Candle Co.
"It's about building relationships. Build authentically with people. When they get, you get. When you get, they get. It's about looking out for people and creating a community that you can rely on for support."
What’s your favorite business resource?
It used to be Shopify resources. Now, I came across this YouTube account called Women of Impact with Lisa Bilyeu. Finding that has been a game-changer. I love seeing different women from different backgrounds being interviewed and talk about their story and how they came up. If you're not social like me, it helps to see them and feel understood.