From Hobby to Hustle: Justine from O'Soy Candles
Justine founded O'Soy Candles in Costa Mesa, California in 2009. When we chatted with her about her budding candle brand, it was obvious that she puts passion into every product she makes.
She was candid with us about how she started her candle brand, the mistakes she's made, and why it's so important to her to connect with other makers. Read on to get to know more about Justine and her incredible journey to success!
how it started
"I’ve always loved creating with my hands. I thought I would be a famous artist as a little girl. Out of sheer boredom back in 2009, I googled “how to make a soy candle” and found a youtube video with two little old ladies hosting the tutorial. I immediately ordered a candle making kit to produce 30 candles, and the rest is history!
I intended for my candle making to be a hobby – however, while making my first batch of 30 candles, I posted what I was up to in my facebook feed just for fun. Friends and family promptly commented asking if they could purchase my candles.
I have always had the mindset of an entrepreneur so the thought of selling them was an exhilarating thought! I was completely up for it. And so I sold my first batch of 30 candles within a couple of weeks, handing them off in person to friends and family in exchange for cash."
that first milestone moment
"One of the most memorable moments early on was my first pop-up event.
I was so nervous. I had no idea if my setup was large enough, or if it looked good enough, or if anyone was going to purchase from me. Little did I know, I would sell over $2,000 in product during that 4-hour span!
A customer looked at me and said “Justine, look up!” I was so busy helping people that I didn’t realize I had a line of 10 people waiting to purchase. It was a really neat moment. I remember totaling my sales and crying happily! We celebrated over dinner and dessert!"
on seeing those sales rise
"My business wasn’t a hobby but it was only seasonal and open during fall and winter my first few years. When Covid hit and I couldn't go to work, I thought I may as well whip up a couple of batches of candles to keep busy and to see if anyone wants them.
And they did! I was surprised because I had never offered candles during spring so I assumed only a handful of people would order. Each time I released a batch of 50 candles, they all sold out over and over again. I couldn’t stop selling out so I built the confidence to order more supplies to keep up."
on taking the leap
"When my sales increased, I was able to slow down and take a step back at my dog grooming job. I was able to process how high stress the job was for me personally and couldn’t picture going back. The fact that O’Soy was now consistently bringing in much more money than doing back breaking work was a magical moment for me!"
on standing out as a candle brand
"My main goal is to provide quality products with CLEAN/non-toxic ingredients while maintaining great customer care! Secondary to that is showing my customers/followers that I am a real person with a business.
I love for everyone to know who runs O’Soy and to see a piece of my personality. I think it helps them see O’Soy as not just a product, but as a real person who cares a lot about the business and cares a lot about who is supporting it too.
I have a great joy for converting big-box store home fragrance lovers to the clean alternative of the O’Soy brand. I also find great joy knowing that customers have reached out to let me know that my brand is the only one they’ve tried that doesn’t agitate their migraines or allergies that typically flare up when using other candles, melts etc."
on learning from mistakes
"I once ordered 1,650 jars at once without asking enough questions! They arrived on a pallet with no case boxes. They laid on flat cardboard trays and were layered one on top of the other. Thousands of loose jars with no way to stack them in my workspace.
It made me cry because it was such a puzzle figuring out what to do! To make matters worse, the pallet was dropped on the opposite side of my property versus at the front of my workspace where it should have gone.
I learned to ask the supplier in advance if jars would be delivered in case boxes and to give better directions to the freight company. I also realized I didn’t even have space for this quantity of jars, so I listed them on facebook marketplace and have been selling them off slowly for a small profit! Never again."
on seeking business advice
"I have a couple of friends also run businesses and I have found myself confiding in them and asking for their advice when I am feeling stuck or too much in my head.
A good friend, Chelsea (Modern Love Candle Co.) is someone I met through the candle making community! Sometimes we have business meetings on the phone to discuss upcoming plans and to bounce ideas off of each other.
I have also hopped on facetime with Zee (Chi’s Aura Crystals) to get business advice since she is constantly experiencing high order volumes and really knows her stuff. The live videos Makesy hosts on Instagram are especially helpful when it’s a business-related topic. Those are always extremely valuable to me."
on where to invest
"Definitely supplies! Those oil jugs, wax and jars definitely add up! They are obviously essential to running my business – but somehow I still get what I call “checkout button anxiety” where my supplies sit in the cart for a day or two before I am able to find the courage to hit that button!"
on what motivates her
"My son is my everything and in order for me to provide a stable environment for both of us (I'm a single mom), I need to be successful! I have a very challenging past and I think about the hardships I have faced as a child and young adult, and I look at what I’ve become! I could have gone down a dark path, but I chose to do good. I have worked too hard to ever give up on myself again. I think about all of the amazing support I receive from my customers. They are like my little army of O’Soy soldiers. They move me and support me in ways they couldn’t imagine. I just love them so much."
her advice to new makers
"Starting your business is only a good idea if you have the passion for it to begin with. I think the worst thing you can do is start making candles or other products in hopes of making a quick buck. If that’s why you are starting, it’s probably not going to work out and you will grow tired of it quickly.
However, if you have a passion for DIY/working with your hands paired with a love for sharing your creations with others, this is the perfect start!
Take that love for making and drive it into your life as much as possible. Talk about it and post about it! You will find yourself improving your craft and building confidence. This is when it doesn’t feel like you are selling something, but rather that you are sharing and offering something worth being paid for. The reward first is making people happy with what you’ve created and secondary is the money you make while doing it."
on staying grateful
"I am extremely thankful for the making community. Makers reach out to me with kind words of encouragement and an admiration for my work – it honestly feels so good to be seen!
Makesy has also been a blessing for providing a fun and safe place for makers to learn and grow from! I am also thankful to my customers for being my little lifeboats in moments that were tough. I am so thankful for all of it."
To learn more about Justine and keep up with the latest from O'Soy Candles, follow her on Instagram here.