Humble Beginnings & Late Night Candle-Making in the Hallway!

I started The Outer Banks Candle Company in 2008 with three very young children, 4, 2 & newborn… that was crazy! It all began with a passion to create unique & beautiful candles that are inspired by the beauty & peacefulness of life at the beach. And maybe in retrospect, those early days in the weeds of parenting young children left me trying to recapture some peace and simplicity for myself!

After getting married in 2000 & graduating with an ART degree in 2001, I dabbled in many art forms: oil painting, watercolor, collage, & mosaic to name a few. And then when we started a family, I began to take on calligraphy jobs, an art medium that was conducive to life with babies and nap schedules! But as our family continued to grow, two things became clear to me:

  • I knew that it was essential (for my sanity and the well being of my family) that I continue to nurture a creative outlet!
  • I realized the need to narrow the field and choose ONE creative venture to focus on & develop.

And so the idea for The Outer Banks Candle Company was born, and with it, the long journey of learning and experimenting with candle making. This often meant working LATE into the night after the kids were in bed (parents of young children, can anyone relate??) I started the learning process with a “How to Make Candles” DVD (back when DVDs were a thing) and few hundred dollars in candle-making supplies (which felt like a big investment at the time!)

After a few very messy, FAILED attempts on the kitchen stove and cereal for dinner (again), it was clear that this project needed its own space. Space we did not have. The kitchen was out if we were ever going to eat a meal again, the garage was out bc candles are finicky and need climate control, and the guest bedroom had carpet (the nemesis of hot wax.)

A quick inventory of space left only one option: the HALLWAY. The hallway that led out to the garage was the only empty, unused space in the house. So we quickly threw some shelves up and added some makeshift counter tops. And we kept little hands and feet out with a baby gate. Talk about humble beginnings. I used to say that I was trying to build a professional business and make excellent candles that  didn’t look like they were made (wait for it…) in the hallway by my garage.

Maybe I had read too many stories of (seeming) overnight success, but these humble beginnings felt extremely… humbling. That is, until an older, wiser mentor shared this Scripture and words of encouragement with me: 

“Do not despise the days of small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” -Zechariah 4:10

And with those words, my perspective began to change. The Lord rejoiced with me in these baby steps and in seeing the foundation of my business being laid. Brick by baby brick. And maybe even more importantly, I realized that the “days of [these] small beginnings” represented so much more than the kind of growth that our culture  quantifies as *success*. My children were learning and growing with me. And in their own way, they were *helping* build this business from the ground up.

From day one, The Outer Banks Candle Company has been a FAMILY business. My children have grown up in and around the candle studio, learning the craft. They have assembled candle wicks, trimmed labels, set up and sold candles with me at craft shows… heck, one of them is sitting on my lap as I type these words! And as time went on, some of them were inspired to start creative (kid) businesses of their own (such as lip balms & lollipops!)

And while lot has changed since those early days of this small candle biz, there’s a lot that hasn’t changed. I don’t make candles in the hallway anymore. We built a studio for that (and donated the baby gate!) Also, at some point, I gave up the graveyard shift (thank heavens!)

The candle making process has undergone some changes as well as we have learned and grown, and yet much of it also remains the same. These days, with the help of a small team of candle makers, we continue to pour all of your candles by hand, small batch by small batch. And then we label & package each & every candle with great care & attention.   

In all of the process and through all of the changes, family is still at the heart of it all. The kids still pop in and out of the candle studio asking for help with their homework, pleading their case in a sibling altercation, or looking for my secret stash of chocolate! The four year old who helped me sell candles at countless craft shows is about to go off the college and the sidekick who used to stay up past bedtime to earn a few dollars by helping to wick candles is about to get her drivers license. I wonder what stories they will tell someday about their time in the “candle shop.”

And here’s something else that hasn’t changed since the inception of this business: my passion to create unique, artisan-crafted candles that are inspired by the beauty & peacefulness of life at the beach… in hopes that wherever these candles may travel, they carry with them the beauty, simplicity & peacefulness of the beaches that inspired them.

This candle business has been a journey of humility, hope, risk, crazy amounts of juggling, a lot of stretching & growing (personally and professionally), and creative and logistical challenges and victories. Through it all, I can still say that I LOVE making candles! And I hope that you LOVE them as much as we have enjoyed making them. Thank you for taking this journey with us!