A Season for Growth
I officially launched Frances and Louise Candle Co. in June of 2019. So a little over a year and a thousand lessons later, I figured it'd be the perfect time to do some reflecting.
When I started this hobby over a year ago, I had no idea just how much growing that not only the business would do, but that I would do myself. In order to see just how far we both have come - we've got to start at the beginning. And the beginning of candle making isn't pretty. If you aren't familiar with making candles, contrary to popular belief it isn't just "melt this then mix this in then voila." Lord, no. It involves equations, formulas and all those things that you learned in math class and were convinced you'd never use again in real life. Your wax has to be melted at a certain temp, then heated to a certain point, then poured at a certain point, then mix fragrance at a certain point (after you've calculated the fragrance load) then pour at a certain point and THEN voila. And if you miss one of those temperature checkpoints? Consider almost everything thrown off. And candle wicks aren't one size fits all. One of my scents required testing 7 different wicks before I found the one that 'threw' the scent the best. It's no joke. It's a lot of testing (which means I have boxes full of candles that are completely worthless). The bane but necessity of every candle-makers existence.
The other part of my beginning? That's right here. In the basement of the first house that my husband and I lived in. All 900 square feet of it. It was a 1 bedroom 1 bath house. Perfect for two people and a dog. Our basement was too cold to pour the candles in (candles can get 'wet spots' with rapid shifts in humidity/temperature) so I'd pour and mix them downstairs, walk the pitchers upstairs then pour them on the kitchen table and store them in the spare room of the house.
I had busted my ass testing my candles for six months and couldn't wait to start pouring them so I obvi had to capture this day in a photo. Our house was about 90 years old and with it being so tiny, the entire house shook any time you walked. So when it came time to pour the inventory for my launch, I made my husband leave the house for the day so him walking around the house wouldn't shake and disturb the hot wax while they all sat on the kitchen table. Cause when you're pouring candles in a postage stamp house, the kitchen table is your only friend, after you've rearranged your entire house to make room and then added a second folding table. Isabel was intrigued but as equally confused as to what was going on
I woke up that morning and it was pouring rain so I couldn't open our windows. So there went my ventilation. So instead I poured 15 different scents into hundreds of candles with all of the windows in our 900 square foot house closed. And I damn near poisoned myself. Not joking. On day three my headache was so bad from breathing in those fumes with no ventilation that I almost wound up in the emergency room. I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat and the throbbing became overwhelming.
Lesson #1: Ventilate while making candles.
But after a week of so, my headache from legitimately poisoning myself subsided. And then I had my candles to label. I found a sweet lady on Etsy to design my first label template. I typed them up, taped them all on, took all my amateur product photos and when I launched, started shipping them out. But then my husband noticed something. A very important part of the label that I somehow forgot. The name.....of my business........ Yep. I was so excited that in the process forgot to put Frances and Louise Candle Co. on the actual label.
Lesson #2: Have someone proofread your labels.
Along the way I had so many more lessons. Like the time I turned on my melter but forgot to turn the pour valve to 'off' so the entire melter emptied onto the basement floor as all of the wax melted. There were also growing pains, achievements and times when I just had to laugh so I wouldn't cry. But I still cried, many times. But that's the unwavering and relentless nature of the universe showing you something that you're meant to do. There were millions of times when I could have and should have thrown in the towel (reference story on poisoning) but instead I started fresh the next day and tried a different approach. I've always been a huge believer in fate, 'gut feelings' and things falling into place - though not always at the right time. Any time I felt knocked down or like I had zero idea what I was doing - which I still feel a lot of the time - there's always a wind at my back picking me up and encouraging me to start anew. But I'm not gonna lie. I've got a f*** it bucket, and there's a lot in there, too.
However. It's not all some super positive and philosophical journey plagued with motivational quotes, Rachel Hollis podcasts and being a 'boss babe' (sorry but the #bossbabe thing nauseates me). There's ugly stuff that goes on, too. The ugliest of them all? Comparison. I have struggled so much with comparison and still do more often than I'd like to admit, especially recently with the pressures of managing being a wife, friend, sister, daughter, employee and most recently - mom. There's always someone out there that's 'managing it all better' or somehow 'has more time in their day.' It's also hard to stand our in a super saturated market and you're constantly asking yourself - what makes me different than the next person?
But that's why reflecting on growth recently has been so important to me. It helps me find perspective when I'm struggling with comparison. We all know the most important lesson in comparison is not comparing our Chapter 1 to someone else's Chapter 10. All big things have small beginnings.
I started on an etsy shop with zero knowledge of how to sell anything online, nonetheless how to ship it. And now we're on this beautiful site with a domain that I own.
The shit show of a creative space that I had inside our teeny old house is now in the basement of our new house. With ample space to store everything, a desk to sit at and type this, a pouring table, a shipping table, a candle curing rack and most importantly a window to ventilate so I don't give myself brain damage again.
The label that was missing my actual business name (FML) is now a beautiful brand-new design that I freaking made all by myself.
And the list goes on. And the list includes small things too, because big or small - growth is growth. BUT. Reflecting on growth isn't figuring out 'how important you've become.' But rather how far you've come.
So for anyone contemplating starting a side-gig or just wanting to start a new hobby. Do it. And do it terribly wrong the first few times so you can look back and laugh at yourself a year down the road and reflect on how much you've grown since then.
These were the very first candles I ever poured and the beginning of my journey. It wasn't much, but it was to me. Do what you can do with what you have.
And don't fall into the toxic trap of comparison. But if and when you do - toot your own freaking horn and look back on how far you've come. And be proud as hell.
Cheers to growth, mistakes and being terrified but jumping in with both feet anyways.