You’d think a candle-making studio would smell nice. And it typically does, says Collette Bice, a local chandler who makes and sells candles out of a loft in her Carrollton home. But sometimes the scents can, well, clash.
“I made honeysuckle jasmine candles, but then right after that I made coffee candles, and that didn’t smell too good together,” she jokes. “But usually, it smells really good there. Maybe a little bit too many smells, but not terrible.”
Bice began making candles in 2020 as a pandemic project. A work friend made them, too, and she wanted a new hobby to pass the time. “I always would buy a bunch of [candles],” she says. “And so I thought it was really cool that you can just make them at home.”
She ordered her supplies off Amazon—“I had no idea what good quality supplies were,” she says—and got to work mixing hot wax and fragrance oils in a candy melter, a setup similar to a double broiler, and giving out candles to family and friends. After about 100 candles, “a bunch of people were telling me, ‘Oh, you should sell these, like you should make your own Etsy shop,’” Bice says.
So she did. Bice launched Wickry Candle Co. on Etsy in October 2020, selling just a few different scents in amber jars. Business was slow in the beginning, but then an old friend in New York bought almost $100 worth of her product. Then a couple of weeks later, she got another order.
Eventually business picked up so much Bice was able to quit her job at a UT Southwestern psychiatry research lab and make candles full time. She now offers more than 30 different candles and a room spray on her Etsy site, using 100 percent soy for the candle wax and sourcing cotton or paper core wicks. 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 were going into something I was burning and breathing in.” She even uses paper bubble wrap and dissolvable packing peanuts to minimize how much plastic she’s using in shipping.
Her most popular candle is called Sweater Weather, which smells “like you’re in a forest, if that makes sense,” Bice says. She offers candles in every scent family. She even has a few food-inspired ones, like lemon pound cake, banana nut bread, and sugar cookies. She also offers gift-box sets of four candles for holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day starting at $40.
Since she launched her company, Bice has made almost 10,000 candles, shipped to all 50 states, and worked with local companies like A Box of Dallas and Eastside Modern. And while Bice’s husband, Dmitry, will help build out shipping boxes and take them to post office, and her mom will lend a hand when in town, Wickry is still mostly a one-woman show.
Bice says her days start with a cup of coffee, and then she’s up in the loft by 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. Between the candles, the supplies, and the boxes (shipping supplies are kept in a guest room), it’s a tight fit up there, she says, but “there are people that have to sort of work out of their kitchens and their small apartments. So, it’s really, you know, relatively speaking.”
She’ll spend about six or seven hours a day just packing up shipments. If her 5-year-old Siamese mix cat, Indie, isn’t jumping around 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 her purrs were so loud.)
“She’s my little companion during the day,” Bice says.
Finally, around 3 p.m., she starts making candles. Bice has been able to scale up her production from the small candy melter, which could only make a few candles at a time, to a large metal vat, which allows her to make around 100 candles a day.
However, building a business hasn’t been easy, Bice says. She had to learn the ins and outs of running a company, like keeping a good inventory, customer service, and social media marketing, on the go, while also navigating supply chain shortages.
“Like I’ll end up with like a ton of eight-ounce jars and no lids,” she says,” and then a ton of lids for my four-ounce jars, but then no four-ounce jars.”
She found support in candle-making Facebook groups and found better supplies. Plus, the shortages have forced her to expand her offerings, like clear jars and some ceramic vessels. And as her business keeps growing, Bice hopes to expand her product line even more, find a larger studio space, and maybe even hire someone to take care of the shipping.
“And that way I can spend more time doing the stuff I actually really liked doing,” she says. “More the creative stuff and getting new things out there.”