Marissa and I met while we studied abroad at the University of Legon, Ghana- almost thirteen years ago. Always the quiet, intense, and principled type, Marissa always sought purpose and meaning out of life. And me, never tired of deepening my understanding of how I fit into the rhyme and rhythm of this world, found a partner-in-crime. Our conversations were anchored in the exploration of the existential, the metaphysical, and the spiritual.
I have always admired Marissa for her authenticity and commitment to keeping her own pace. She is now the founder of Scents By Francesca, a home-based candle making company.
Here is her story.
I know your spirituality permeates all aspects of your life. Can you tell us how your faith played a role in you founding Scents by Francesca?
After leaving a role that was 100 percent travel, I was burnt out. When I began the final phase of the project I was working on, I remember calling my mentor and telling her that I don’t think I could do this anymore. As a coach, I began to doubt my effectiveness and my purpose in the role. I felt as though I was trying to convince people to believe in something I myself did not believe in. What was I doing this for? money?
I was sacrificing my young marriage (less than three years) for a paycheck! No, there had to be more than this. I spoke with my husband and he was in support of me coming home. After being home for a couple of months, I was thinking about what I could do to stay home.
This time I wanted to do something that had a benefit larger then collecting a check. So when we decided to move forward with making candles, I told my husband that as we continue to grow, so should our giving. If God is going to bless the increase, then we have to move to advance his kingdom. As I thought about who to support, I began to think about how blessed we are,here, in the States.
Since being home, I have been able to become more involved in my church, in addition to home bible studies with my neighbor. These liberties are not afforded for a huge Christian population throughout the world. So when we started making candles, EVERY sale (whether we are in the profit zone or not) goes toward supporting the cause of persecuted Christians in other countries. With each sale, I also send a prayer card from Voices of the Martyr, which it where the donation goes to. Whether or not the recipient throws the card away, doesn’t matter to me; I am just supporting the cause.
So, Marissa, would you mind sharing how much it cost to start Scents By Francesca?
Yeah….so I don’t normally recommend this BUT this is what I did since my hubby and I are VERY conscience about our debt. After buying a forty-dollar kit from Michaels to see if I enjoyed the process of making candles, my husband then gave me his Chase credit card (that had no balance on it). He said, “This is the limit of your investment.” The card had an eighteen hundred dollar limit. So I did TONS of research before spending ANY money.
The card has been paid off, and now the ONLY money I spend ON the business is money I make FROM the business. We decided in the beginning that we were not going into any crazy debt on starting this. I like it this way. I could have taken a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan or something, but this allows my peace of mind. I know that if I don’t sell anything, I don’t have to worry about someone begging for payment. Thankfully, I have been able to continue to have sales at shows and online.
How do you stand apart from big candle companies like Yankee Candle? or does it even matter to you?
The biggest difference between Scents by Francesca and Yankee Candle is Scents by Francesca is a natural product line. My candles are made from soybean wax. Soybean wax for candles are becoming a lot more popular as people are becoming more concerned about what they are breathing in. Petroleum-based candles like Yankee Candles do release carcinogens (cancer causing agents) in the air. Now although, it is a small amount, why would you want to expose yourself to those type of toxins?
In addition to that, soybean wax burns at a lower temperature with means they last much longer than your average Yankee candle.
People are also becoming more drawn to homemade “one-of-a-kind” items. That has really helped the small businesses, as mine are all made in my home. An example, a woman contacted me on Etsy and wanted to buy candles for her colleagues. She did not have time to have them shipped as she waited too long to place the order. I was able to have the candles ready for her and gift wrapped (a service I don’t offer), and addressed to each person. That same evening, I met her after work to deliver them.
So the flexibility, low prices, and service alone, makes us a big difference from your larger companies. If I didn’t have something made, I was able to make it right then versus waiting for the next “truck delivery day”, as you find in many stores with out of stock.
You know, candles are like those things that you never think of. You just have them. How lucrative is the candle industry? What made you decide to go into a home-based candle-making business?
As you mentioned about, candles are just things that you have; you don’t think about it. For those who don’t think about it…you may buy any candle anywhere. But there is a large audience that have specific desires on candles..be strong in fragrance and last. Those are your people that you are more interested in. I found that when dealing with a natural product, so many people are ignorant of the things they buy. Being at shows and educating people on the differences between soy and petroleum allowed me to continue to use the skill-set I learned in the corporate environment as a coach. When I decided candles, it was because I wanted something I could do from home and enjoy. I wasn’t led by the chance to become the next Yankee.
Candles can be very lucrative. When I go to shows, I can appeal to EVERY shopper at the show. Because of the state of the economy, a lot of people are holding on to their wallets a little tighter. And that’s okay, because I am also holding onto the purse strings. The good thing about candles, is that it fits in every budget. We have $1.75(sale) items to $24 dollars items. I have had a number of kids come up to me at a show and be able to afford to shop with me with their allowance. At the end of the day, I try to be in areas where spending $20 on candles is not going to break the bank for the customer. Being online helps a lot with that…as I have people that buy from all over the country.
How can we get in touch with you and learn more about Scents By Francesca?