From Hobby To Hustle: Caitelle

From Hobby To Hustle: Caitelle

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Caitelle is a self-created and empowered brand focused on delivering one of a kind experiences through aromatic home and personal fragrances. Cait has always been a maker of all mediums from ceramics to digital designs. In the summer of 2019, she started making candles as a part-time creative outlet, and quickly grew her online business through Twitter!

After a few weeks of consecutively sold-out new releases, I knew I could turn this creative outlet into a full-time venture."

 

 

how it started

"I was first drawn to making when I was getting back into perfume & buying scented products for my dorm room. Because I have asthma, many scented products I was buying irritated my lungs so I began to create my own!

I first started off my business with making candles & used thrifted glassware to create unique and scented little art pieces. Within a few months of making candles, I added clamshell wax melts to my product line since a lot of my customers were requesting them."

 

on building a business

"I’m a maker of all mediums including ceramics, printmaking, fiber arts, painting, video editing, drawing, and digital design, so I just thought candle making would be another medium that I enjoyed doing from time to time. But, after my first 2 or 3 online shop releases it quickly turned into something I did full-time since people loved what I was creating. My weekly online shop releases consisted of about 10-15 one of a kind candles in thrifted glass, oftentimes in glassware like Hobnail or Federal Glass. 

At the time, my products weren’t in any stores and I wasn’t doing any in-person events. I sold exclusively through my website and promoted products for free through social media. Twitter is where I grew my community initially and now I have begun to grow on Instagram, which is where most of my local customers are." 

 

milestones

"Within my first year of business, a professional wrestler by the name of Jordynne Grace commissioned me to make candles for her Patreon box that featured products hand made by small businesses. 

I also hit my first few months of $10,000+ per month in revenue within my first year!" 

 

on acquiring wholesale

"I started selling wholesale on Faire in 2023. It took about a year from me signing up to get any sales but that was one of my big accomplishments last year! I learned that buying in bulk is the best way to go, keeping your best selling scents on hand helps keep processing time down for your customers, and to always double-box orders.

If you’re thinking about going into wholesale, proper time management is such a life saver. Plan out time to wick, create, label, and package orders, especially if you’re juggling a few larger orders at a time and do all of this yourself. Also: figure out what packaging works best for shipping large quantities of your products! Whether it’s using bubble wrap, retail boxes and packing peanuts, hexagon wrap and kraft paper, or (my favorite) Flush Packaging boxes, make sure it’s something that will help ensure your products get to retailers safely. I also recommend requiring signatures at time of delivery for large orders in case of missing or damaged orders."

 

on taking the leap

"After a few weeks of consecutively sold out new releases, I knew I could turn this creative outlet into a full time venture. I officialized my business name and got a sales tax license pretty much immediately. I then mapped out my monthly finances and set some business goals and roadmaps to make sure this could be a viable thing to do full time. 

My confidence to pursue running my business full time definitely came from my mom. She always shared (and still does to this day) almost all of my posts on social media to hype me up and somehow fits packing orders with me during peak busy seasons into her busy schedule. Fast forward to present day and now she also comes with me to almost all of my events!

Running my own business was never in my life plans, as I wanted to be a videogame designer. But I fell in love with making candles and at that moment I knew that this is exactly where I was supposed to be."

 

on standing out

"I’ll start off with my business name - Caitelle. It is my first name Caitlyn (shortened to Cait), combined with my middle name Elle. Caitelle is a self-created and empowered brand focused on delivering one of a kind experiences through aromatic home and personal fragrances. I have meshed my art and design degree with my love for developing meaningful fragrances to create a one-stop-shop of handmade, clean, and eco-friendly goods to set the vibe for your home or yourself. 

I not only love making my products, but also love having the skill set to design the packaging and market my finalized goods, similarly to what I did for clients while I was in college, and I think that’s part of what makes me unique! I always get compliments on my packaging and branding while I’m at markets, and I pride myself in offering not only products that smell great, but also look great."

 

on making mistakes...or not

"A mistake I made (a few times early on) was selling at markets that were clearly not attended by my target audience. I made less than $50 at these markets, and ended up going in the negatives a few times because of the vendor fees.

But I turned these mistakes into opportunities by spending a TON of time researching for events that better aligned with my brand. I now have an amazing lineup of events for each season throughout the year, and have a great local customer base thanks to these events."

 

on getting advice

"I go to my mom, grandparents, or boyfriend when I need more logical business advice. They’re always the best at helping me see both sides of things when I need to make a tough decision. 

When it comes to making creative decisions for the business, my friends Jes and Ocean are always there to help, even from a few states away!"

 

on where to invest

"Every month I invest the most into supplies the most as I like to keep highly requested scents in stock while also testing new scents for future collections or new products. My goal is to always make enough for everyone, but also direct some of my attention to making new things. I also invest A LOT of time designing product labels and packaging every month."

 

on finding inspiration

"Seeing my customers, family, and friends show so much love and appreciation to the products I make. Imposter syndrome, burnout, and low sales really do get to you as a small business owner, but it’s really important to try and take a step back and look at everything you’ve accomplished up until now. "

 

advice for makers

"For those looking to start a business: it’s okay to have a part time job while running or business, and it’s also okay to quit your day job to create full time. Different things work for different people, and whatever works for you is always best!

Once you start your business, look for local suppliers where you can pick up your orders to save on shipping costs. I was super shocked to find a supply store near me and it has been a life saver for when I need vessels or wicks last minute.

Another piece of advice for when you start your business is to get in the habit of planning or creating collections months in advance. I’m still working on this myself (even after almost 5 years) as it’s definitely tough as a one-woman show, but it does help relieve stress for future me and helps me stay on top of seasonal releases.

While making money is always an important goal and motivator for when you start your own business, make sure you always have fun making and selling what you do. If you ever fall out of love with making a product, it’s always important to weigh the options and figure out if it’s worth keeping in the yearly rotation or the burnout will be rough. 

To my online-only shops, look for in person markets to strengthen your local customer base. Markets are also amazing when it comes to meeting other makers and small businesses! There are a ton of amazing creatives out there and I met so many new friends through selling at markets. 

To my in-person only shops, look at setting up an online website (or shop) for when your local customers are looking to send gifts or grab something while they’re online shopping. Make business cards and have some type of online presence to help keep your local customers up to date on new products  and upcoming events. I know shipping is really intimidating, so maybe just start off with social media or a website for now!"

 

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