A Burning Passion: How to Start a Candle-Making Business with Just PHP5,000
Lá Candelle & Co. owner Chelsea Dela Torre shares the story of her work-inspired scented candles that she started during the pandemic
Did you know that around 88,000 new online businesses registered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) at the height of the pandemic in 2020? One such enterprise is Lá Candelle & Co., a candle making business founded by 25-year-old Chelsea Dela Torre with just PHP5,000 and a burning passion for the craft.
Fresh out of college, 25-year-old owner Chelsea Dela Torre noticed that many of her friends had already established their own businesses. Feeling a similar entrepreneurial spark, she decided to start a business herself focusing on something she’s genuinely interested in.
Armed with PHP5,000 in capital and self-taught knowledge on candle making, Chelsea opened Lá Candelle & Co., which she now runs as a side hustle. Here’s how she did it.
How to Start a Candle Making Business: An Interest in Home Scents
Chelsea admits that she was initially hesitant to start her own candle making business. No one in her family had any experience in starting a business. However, seeing friends start their respective businesses sparked a desire in her to start her own.
“I only had two criteria,” she says. “I could easily do it from home, and it had to be something I had a genuine interest in.”
That something turned out to be home scents. “I‘ve always been into using home scents, anything that can make my room smell nice,” Chelsea reveals. “Room and linen spray, aroma diffuser, oil burner, and of course candles—name it and I had it.”
Taking a closer look at candle making, she soon realized that the demand for home scents surged during the pandemic.
“What was once considered a simple souvenir or gift item became a popular choice for people wanting to create a comforting and cozy atmosphere within their homes,” the 25-year-old entrepreneur notes.
Big Dreams, Small Capital: Starting a Candle Making Business with PHP5,000
To start her candle making business, Chelsea relied on the graduation gift she received from her mom for her capital. For intellectual capital, she relied on candle-making videos to gain the knowledge she needed for production.
“I am self-taught and I remember watching hours worth of candle making videos online just so I can be sure I would be doing the right thing on my first batch of candles,” Chelsea recalls. “This resulted in me going through several prototypes with different wax to fragrance ratios, scent blends, and even wax blends before I finally [succeeded] in creating my first batch of scented candles.”
Starting a candle making business requires a variety of equipment and materials for production. For Chelsea, this meant investing in scents, wax, branding materials, and equipment like a small pot and thermometer. At first, however, she only had a small pitcher to produce around 10 candles at a time.
“Christmas season came in, demand started to pick up, and I had to keep up with the orders I was receiving. That’s when I decided to invest in a 9 liter wax melter,” Chelsea says of her investment. “This wax melter can now make 70 candles per batch and I consider this to be my first big purchase for Lá Candelle.”
“I also had to invest in several liters and bottles of fragrance oils to build my scent portfolio,” she adds. “Creating scents in the home scent industry is quite costly as you have to go through different suppliers and blend mixes just so you can achieve the scent you are going for and that can appeal to your customers.”
An Opportunity for a Candle Making Business
A quick search on social media and e-commerce platforms will generate hundreds of scented candle sellers. Given the competition, Chelsea had the challenge of making sure that her candles were different from the rest. The young entrepreneur notes that “most candles on the market had generic labels or names, lacking any personal touch.”
“There was a clear absence of candles that could connect with people on a deeper level, especially in the context of work-related stress and humor,” she explains. “The business opportunity I spotted was incorporating meme-worthy and funny work anecdotes with scented candles.”
“I wanted my candles to be more than just a source of pleasant fragrance; I wanted them to serve as a personal statement for individuals dealing with the everyday stresses of work,” says Chelsea. “It adds a layer of connection with my customers, making every purchase feel personal. These candles are not just home decors; they are companions in navigating the everyday challenges of the workplace.”
What Sets Lá Candelle & Co. Apart
So how did Chelsea manage to set her business apart? By using wit and work anecdotes.
“Ang kandila para sa mga ‘work is lyf,’” Chelsea quips. “What makes Lá Candelle stand out is our unique storytelling through humor and work anecdotes that I find many people can relate to.”
“When I initially tried to create labels that matched the elegance of brands like Jo Malone, I realized that it didn’t resonate with who I truly was,” she explains. “I’m a fun and outgoing person. That’s when I decided to target a market I could relate to—the corporate world, those stressed-out individuals who often make light of their daily struggles.”
Chelsea ended up drawing inspiration for the meme-inspired names of each candle from her own real work experiences.
“For example, I remember someone requesting a report from me after working hours and then messaging the next morning, asking, ‘Kaya today yung request ko?’” she recalls. “It was frustrating at the time, but it inspired me to create the ‘Kaya Today?’ candle.”
She also offers a candle called “End of Day.” This candle was created after Chelsea noticed the tendency of people at work to often set deadlines “by end of day” when it was already past lunchtime, leaving little time to complete the task.
From Successful Full-time Business to Successful Side Hustle
Chelsea was only three months into running Lá Candelle when a popular mall bazaar invited her to participate. Despite initial hesitation, she accepted the invitation “thinking I’d be doing this for the experience, and it turned out to be a pivotal moment.”
“During the bazaar, I was surprised by how much customers loved my products,” Chelsea recalls of her experience. “Some of them not only made immediate purchases but also returned the following day to buy more candles to give to their friends since it was right around holiday season.
“I also noticed customers who were initially hesitant to buy, but after getting a sniff on our samples, had become eager to purchase their own candles,” she adds. “These interactions with customers at the bazaar made me realize that there was a genuine demand for my candles, boosting my confidence in what I was selling. It was truly a ‘eureka’ moment that gave me the confidence to believe in the potential of Lá Candelle & Co.”
Success made it difficult for Chelsea to let her candle making business go when she began working full-time for an FMCG company. Because of this, she opted to continue her candle making business as a side hustle as it served as a creative outlet for her, especially since she drew inspiration from real-work experiences in order to produce her meme-inspired candles.
“My candle workshop at home became my happy place, a sanctuary away from the stresses of my day job,” says Chelsea. “Despite me making fun of the stresses in my day job, I still consider it to be something I’m passionate about.”
She now works as a brand assistant under her company’s international business group. This line of work has allowed her to travel and bring proudly Filipino products in markets abroad. Chelsea admits that this is a career she really wanted to pursue.
“Through this experience, I learned that you can have two things you love doing without sacrificing one for the other,” she points out. “Balancing my business and my career allowed me to fulfill both my creative and career aspirations.”
Balancing Career with Entrepreneurship
Chelsea notes that balancing a career and a business is not for everyone. She recommends anyone considering it to give it serious thought and preparation.
“I would recommend it to anyone wanting to have self-fulfillment outside their work,” Chelsea says. “But it requires effective time management and prioritization. You must be prepared to allocate your time wisely, including evenings and weekends, to make your business run.”
Noting that success did not happen overnight, the young entrepreneur advises others to be prepared to put in the work. She likewise recommends assessing your financial situation first. That way, new entrepreneurs can plan for initial startup costs or slow growth before their business becomes profitable.
“I recommend exploring entrepreneurship alongside a full-time job if it aligns with your personal and professional goals,” she points out. “Ultimately, the decision should be based on their unique circumstances, personal aspirations, and willingness to put in the necessary work and commitment to their business without sacrificing the output they are putting out at work.”
Tips Based on Her Own Experience
As someone who is running a successful business at just 25 years old, Chelsea has advice for young entrepreneurs.
“Start with something you have genuine interest in. When you’re passionate about what you are doing, it doesn’t feel like work, and ideas flow naturally,” she notes. “In my case, my pre-existing interest in home scents led me to focus on candles. Also, being part of my target market makes marketing my product and creating content feel like a friendly conversation with my work friends.”
Chelsea also points out that “research is your best friend” when starting a business.
“Don’t just copy what is trending or what’s popular,” she says. “Invest time in understanding your industry, its potential, and your target market. Research might come with costs, especially in the product testing and development phase, but what I advise is to set a budget and stick to it.”
What’s Next for Chelsea and Lá Candelle & Co.
Despite the unexpected success of her candle making business, Chelsea sees further growth for Lá Candelle & Co. in the future. In fact, it’s all about expanding the reach of her business when it comes to planning what’s up ahead. To achieve this, she is moving into a bigger candle workshop space.
“I am excited about the content that I could finally shoot in this new space like behind the scenes of our production process,” she shares.
Chelsea is also looking into catering to the wholesale market. While her retail sales have been successful, she admits that she sees the immense potential in catering to larger orders. This is especially true for marketing and PR events.
“The future for Lá Candelle & Co. is about embracing new opportunities for growth, connecting with a wider audience, and continuing to provide products that not only light up spaces but also lighten everyone’s heavy work days ahead,” she concludes.