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This local candle maker turned her pandemic hobby into a business

You’d think a candle-making studio would smell good. And that’s usually the case, says Collette Bice, a local chandler who makes and sells candles out of a loft in her Carrollton home. But sometimes scents can, well, collide.

“I made honeysuckle and jasmine candles, but right after I made coffee candles, and it didn’t smell too good together,” she jokes. “But generally it smells really good there. Maybe a little too much smell, but not terrible.

Bice started making candles in 2020 as part of a pandemic project. A friend from work did too, and she wanted a new hobby to pass the time. “I would always buy a bunch of [candles],” she says. “And so I thought it was really cool that you could just make them at home.”

She ordered her supplies from Amazon — “I had no idea what good quality supplies were,” she says — and got to work mixing hot wax and scented oils in a candy melter, a setup similar to a double grill, and giving out candles to family and friends. After about 100 candles, “a bunch of people were like, ‘Oh, you should sell these, like you should start your own Etsy shop,'” Bice says.

Courtesy of Collette Bice

So she did. Launch of Bice Wickry Candle Co. on Etsy in October 2020, selling only a few different scents in amber jars. Business was slow at first, but then an old friend in New York bought nearly $100 worth of her product. Then a few weeks later, she received another order.

Eventually, business picked up so much that Bice was able to quit his job at a psychiatric research lab in UT’s Southwest and make candles full-time. She now offers more than 30 different candles and room spray on her Etsy site, using 100% soy for the candle wax and sourcing cotton or paper. Le Bice says she wanted to make her candles as natural as possible. Before she started making her own, she says she always “wanted to know what ingredients went into something I was burning and breathing.” She even uses bubble wrap and soluble packing peanuts to minimize the amount of plastic she uses for shipping.

His most popular candle is called Sweater Weather, which smells “like you’re in a forest, if that makes sense,” says Bice. It offers candles in all olfactory families. She even has a few food-inspired ones, like lemon pound cake, banana nut bread, and sugar cookies. She also offers gift sets of four candles for holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day starting at $40.

Since starting her business, Bice has made nearly 10,000 candles, shipped to all 50 states, and worked with local businesses like A Box of Dallas and Eastside Modern. And while Bice’s husband, Dmitry, will help build shipping boxes and take them to the post office, and his mother will lend a hand around town, Wickry is still mostly a one-man show.

Bice says her days start with a cup of coffee, then she’s in the loft at 7:30 or 8:00. Between candles, supplies and boxes (shipping supplies are kept in a spare bedroom), it’s tight fitting in there, she says, but “there are people who have to go out of their kitchen and their small apartment. So it’s really, you know, relatively speaking.

The cat of candle maker Wickry Collette Bice
Courtesy of Collette Bice

She will spend about six or seven hours a day packing the shipments. If her 5-year-old Siamese cat, Indie, isn’t jumping in all the boxes, then she’s napping in a chair. (While Bice changed the spelling, Indie was originally named for the Indy 500 because his purrs were so loud.)

“She’s my little companion during the day,” says Bice.

Finally, around 3 p.m., she begins to make candles. Le Bice was able to develop its production from a small candy melter, which could only make a few candles at a time, to a large metal tank, which allows it to make around 100 candles a day.

However, starting a business hasn’t been easy, says Bice. She had to learn the ins and outs of running a business, like keeping good inventory, customer service, and social media marketing, while dealing with supply chain shortages.

“Like I ended up with a ton of eight-ounce jars with no lids,” she says, “and then a ton of lids for my four-ounce jars, but no four-ounce jars.”

She found support in Facebook candle-making groups and found better supplies. Additionally, shortages have forced her to expand her offerings, such as clear jars and some ceramic vessels. And as his business continues to grow, Bice hopes to further expand his product line, find a bigger studio, and maybe even hire someone to handle the shipping.

“And that way I can spend more time doing the things that I really enjoyed doing,” she says. “More creative stuff and new stuff there.”

Author

Catherine Wendlandt

Catherine Wendlandt

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Catherine Wendlandt is an associate online editor for Magazine D‘s Living and Home and Garden blogs, where she covers all…