In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Jacob Johnson, founder of Calyan Wax Co. Calyan Wax Co. sells socially conscious soy candles & melts, is based in Mansfield, Texas, and has been in business for two years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Jacob: The passion behind Calyan existed before the product. After learning of the issue of human trafficking, I could not sit idly by. I knew I had to do something to bring hope and justice to those enslaved.
I saw many amazing organizations doing tangible work to end trafficking and saw a great need for additional financial resources for these nonprofits. Instead of creating another nonprofit in this field, I wanted to create a business that could bring additional funds and awareness to the current work being done by trusted nonprofits.
A business that could engage the everyday American in anti-human trafficking efforts. To do this, we needed a product that everyone can enjoy and afford. Candles fit the bill. Thus, Calyan was born. A social justice movement that starts with a simple candle purchase.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
J: I bought the candle making basics and made the first candle on my mom’s stove top in 2015. They turned out horrible. After 4 years of tinkering and testing and obsessing over making the perfect candle, we are so proud of the product we make. The products we make now are 100% different than the first product line we produced. And it’s for the better!
R: What were some of the improvements you made to your candles from your first try? What are some of the difficulties of making soy candles?
J: We’ve drastically updated all of our labeling and packaging for a clean, modern, simple appeal. Because ‘smell’ is such a subjective and personal thing, we’ve developed our fragrances to ensure we are offering a wonderful fragrance for each nose out there.
Soy wax is temperamental. It can “pot-hole” when you dry, leaving a rough surface, which we have to smooth out or pour twice. It can be frustrating.
R: How do you decide how much of your profits to give to human trafficking non-profits? Is it hard to find the line being donating and staying a profitable business?
J: We balance two things. Ensuring we are a company that is socially impactful, transparent, and that showcases we exist for one main goal: to end human trafficking. Of course, we will not accomplish that mission if we are not profitable.
We’ve settled on a 5% of revenue donation model. Key word: revenue. Not to be confused with profits. 5% of money coming in the bank is donated. We are very transparent about that to ensure our customers’ purchases are truly making an impact.
R: How do you make your product? What’s your process like?
J: We manufacture all our products in house. We label, wick, and package by hand. We have the help of a wonderful machine that mixes wax and fragrance and pours each candle, the most important part. Imagine lots of liquid wax, fragrances, and heat.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
J: Each day is different. Order processing, payroll, candle production, sales, raw material ordering, etc. Just like any business in its early years, I am involved with so many different aspects of the company. Thankfully, I have a wonderful team working alongside me to produce the best products and serve our clients well.
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
J: I started Calyan with personal savings. It took about $10K to get off the ground. Since then, we have raised money from outside investors.
R: Where was the first place you sold your product? Where do you sell your product now?
J: Farmers’ markets were the first places we sold our candles. Now we sell online, at a variety of retail partners, pop-up shops, and we continue to sell at farmers’ markets. In the future we’d love to sell our candles at Target and other major retailers to make it even more practical to buy our products and join the Calyan mission.
R: What’s one fact you wish everyone knew about human trafficking/ how to stop it?
J: Simply, that human trafficking exists. Want to stop it? Love your family well. Care for your children. Stay away from online explicit material as that is so deeply entangled with the demand and supply of humans for sale.
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
J: Social media is top priority. We have a major focus on Instagram as so many buying decisions start with Instagram (for both retail and wholesale customers). For so many, it’s the first impression of our brand. It’s too important to mess up.
R: What are some techniques you use on Instagram to make sure your brand is giving off the best impression possible?
J: Professional photography. We do photo shoots at different studios to keep things on brand and fresh.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with Calyan Wax Co.?
J: Manufacturing has been the most difficult. Mastering soy wax has continued to be a challenge. Lots of factors go into making a great soy candle. Of course, sales is number one. Always pursuing bigger and greater opportunities to bring our products to shelves nationwide.
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with Calyan Wax Co.?
J: We just got into the Southwest region of Whole Foods. We are so thankful for the opportunity to partner with them to bring our products to more people. Thus, giving more people the chance to take part in our social mission against human trafficking!
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
J: Obsess over every detail of the product. Odds are, there are plenty of similar products to yours. You have to master each detail to give yourself a chance.
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
J: Create a marketing message that is quickly and easily understood.
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
J: Creating lasting impact. Fostering a great work place. The ability to be rewarded for hard, gritty work.
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