Why are our candles so expensive?
We get this a lot.
Candles are everywhere. The dollar store, Home Goods, CVS, Bath and Body Works. You can buy them for $1, $5, or $150+
To consumers, there is seemingly no rhyme or reason to why candles cost what they do, but there is a bit of method to the madness. When you're buying a candle, you're paying for the following things:
Research and development - unpaid time, labor, and materials
- Sifting through fragrance samples. It takes us about 300 fragrance samples that cost roughly $5 each so that we can create 1-2 new fragrances
- Recipe creation, which has taken us up to 18 months for a single candle
- Burn testing. During this process, we're evaluating the pleasantness of the fragrance, cold/hot fragrance throw, burn quality, burn consistency, and burn time
All of this happens behind-the-scenes and we do not get paid for any of this, so we have to build research and development into the final cost of a candle. We do this by taking the cost of goods (COGS) and doubling it throughout the lifecycle of the candle because sometimes we spend all of this time, energy, and money on a candle that doesn't sell well and we have to do it all over again until something sticks.
- Vessels (a fancy term for candle container)
- Wax (ours is the most expensive on the market and at least 30% more than soy/200% more than paraffin)
- Fragrance (perfume-grade oils that are paraben/phthalate-free and cruelty-free are significantly more expensive. Some of our fragrances cost $900/gallon)
- Wicks (our wooden wicks cost 4x more than cheap cotton wicks)
- Product labels (which we buy 1,000 at a time so they're 15 cents each instead of $3/each if we only bought 100 at a time)
- Warning label (we buy 30,000 of them at a time so they're the cheapest available)
- Shipping boxes
- Kraft paper and other padding
- Compostable packing peanuts (which cost 2x as much as styrofoam)
The pandemic changed how we were able to source our materials. When the global supply chain experienced shortages, we had to order six months worth of materials at a time to ensure that we could still make the one thing that we sell. The supply chain has improved, but we now know that our materials can disappear at any moment.
- Pre-production tasks, like putting wicks in clips, warning labels on jars, removing travel candle tins from the protective sleeve they come in, removing the lids
- Waiting for wax to melt (we obviously use this time to do other tasks, but sometimes we have to wait around for 4hours just to pour a single candle for the day and we're at the studio until 8 or 9 p.m.)
- Pouring candles
- Inspecting candles
- Cleaning - pouring is messy work and we get foot traffic in the shop, so we have to dust, vacuum, steam mop, and clean up wax/fragrance messes
- Inactive time for curing, which takes about two weeks so the fragrance adheres to the wax and the wax hardens, which helps improve burn time
- Picking, packing, and shipping orders
- Customer service, which includes replying to relevant emails and sifting through the hundreds of unsolicited sales pitches/donation requests/hate messages we get through our "Contact Us" page
- Time spent on marketing, collaborations, website maintenance and testing, writing, designing graphics for emails
My typical work week is six days a week, 14 hours a day. I pay myself a salary of $1200 a month and take an owner's draw when I need to. Most months I try to scrape by without taking a draw so that I can reinvest the money in the business. I make approximately $3.57 an hour. I pay my employees $16-$18/hr.
- For better or worse, we do everything in-house because I'm a former digital agency gal and we don't have the budget to outsource yet. This creating content and managing replies on Twitter, Facebook Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok platforms, as well as our blog and emails
- Paid advertising. Unfortunately, algorithm changes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (especially Twitter - sales and traffic are down 81% since Elon took over) have hurt our business. We cannot compete with big brands - we don't have the budget and we are also banned from advertising on Facebook and Instagram because of our company name, which may eventually lead to a rebrand
Super Unsexy Things That Go Into The Cost Of Your Candle
- Website subscriptions
- App subscriptions
- Paying for lawyers and accountants
- Business licenses
- Break room snacks
- Store decor
- Business insurance
- Domain registration
- GTIN/UPC registrations
- Professional services. We outsource photography and graphic design projects
- Chamber of commerce membership so that our employees can get the best access to health insurance. While our plans are not cheaper than the ACA, the coverage is infinitely better.
A lot of folks have become very disconnected from what it costs to ship things because you pay an annual subscription to get "free" shipping. What you don't see is the markup of products to make up for the "free" shipping. Sending a single candle out the door costs anywhere from $8-$14 depending on where it's going.
How it's Made
Everything we make is hand-poured in small batches - we make our candles 4lbs at a time, which makes 7-8 full-sized candles per batch, because that's what our pitchers hold. Every time we make a 4lb batch, we're measuring, stirring, and pouring every batch. Each batch needs to be stirred for a minimum of 3 minutes.
A note on how candles are priced:
You might see the same type of candles at all different price points. What is this soy candle $15 and this one is $28? Well, that's up to the manufacturer to decide and sometimes you're buying from a manufacturer that is actively putting themselves out of business. Many business owners underestimate their costs and undercharge. This year (it's currently Feb 2023) I have seen four candle brands announce that they're closing up shop and I can tell you it's because they had no margins. They undercharged for their candles and unless you're selling tens of millions of candles a year, every purchase counts. We sold 8,000 units last year and we are barely scraping by each and every month because - to be blunt - shit's expensive.
So the next time you see a candle out in the wild or visit our shop, please know that SO much love, time, energy, planning, testing, hoping, and dreaming went into every jar.