Interviews · Small Business

Beautiful Candles with a Beautiful Mission: Collective Kindness

Hello friends!

Today’s article is about two inspiring women who have turned their passion for helping other people into a business.

Collective Kindness Logo

Liz and Leah are a mother/daughter team of entrepreneurs in Central Florida who make candles under their brand Collective Kindness. When I met them for the interview, they both were genuinely kind people whose passion for helping others was contagious.

Beautiful Candles with a Beautiful Mission

Collective Kindness started out as a passion project for the two ladies and now has grown into a full-fledged business. Leah was looking for opportunities for her then 12-year-old daughter to do things to help the community. Finding a lack of opportunities to serve the community, they started doing kindness projects themselves, funding them out of their own pocket. They soon realized that they would have to start making money to continue these kindness acts.

Having served on many charitable boards and working with charities in the past, they realized that starting their own nonprofit or charity could limit their options on what they could accomplish. So, instead of starting their own charity, they made their own candle making business: Collective Kindness.

They started out at the Windermere Farmer’s Market where they quickly started to gain a following.

What Makes Them Unique

They really wanted to make a candle that was different. Both Liz and Leah’s oldest daughter are very sensitive to fragrances and allergens that can be typically found in commercially produced products. It was important for them to research how to make a “green” candle. They needed to learn how to make something that looked good and smelled great but would not be harmful to people, their pets, or their homes.

They invested a lot of time and money to make their product the best it could be. Liz mentioned that there are so many grades of wax, wicks, and fragrance oils that they continually test to create the best possible product that they can.

They currently have over 60 scents that are featured in different collections. Ranging from botanical to gentleman’s to boho to seasonal they really have a scent for everyone. According to Liz, scent is a very personal thing and that is why they offer so much variety to make sure that everyone is satisfied with their product. The vessels that they use are also important to their business. From classic tins and glass containers to vintage tea cups or beer cans, the vessels that they use are as unique as any other element of the candles.

It is all about repurposing and reusing. They wanted to be the most sustainable they could be. Even the wrap bags and tissue paper are from recycled paper. The candles are vegan and certified kosher, as well. The candles themselves have no phthalates which are chemicals found in many mass-produced candles.  The wicks have no lead or zinc and are 100% cotton. They are also a certified green business.

Tea Cup candle Picture

Wanting to give old objects such as tea cups new life lead them to start their recycle and refill program which now is a mainstay of their business. Not only are most of their containers recycled, but they want you to reuse them as well, offering a 20% discount off the next candle if you bring in the old container (excluding vintage and antiques).

They also offer custom pouring. During the interview, they joked between them that they often get gorgeous antiques and beautiful bowls to turn into candles, but sometimes they also get a Trader Joes spaghetti jar to fill. They are proud of this aspect of their business as it is another way to repurpose.

Another core aspect of their company that is important to them is their branding. The branding on their main collections stay the same but they have distinctive designs for special collections. In this way they guarantee not only a great candle but a beautiful package as well.

They added in plants about two years ago to further their home collection. They sell succulents and air plants. They get these plants from their own garden or from a local company called Live Trends out of Apopka. They also sell other small gift items such as tumbled Italian marble coasters and hand painted porcelain bowls. In the future, they want to expand their offerings to feature more local artists.

For now, almost everything is kept within the family or through friends. Liz’s sister makes the coasters and they hand pour the candles themselves. They have a connection with local artist Susan Steele Meyer who creates designs that you can only find in Collective Kindness’s shop. She will sell to different vendors but she will not paint the same designs. These hand-painted bowls fly off the shelf every Christmas because they are keepsake items that their customers want to enjoy for years to come.

They love it whenever customers become obsessed with their candles. Liz recounted a story of a recent event where a young man came to her and said “Hi! I’m Rob and I am your biggest fan.” They like being the proverbial light for people who may not have been able to enjoy candles before, such as people undergoing chemotherapy or who have severe allergies. They recounted another story of a woman who came in and said, “I have loved candles all my life but my son has severe allergies and I have never been able to have them in the house until now.” They find it gratifying that they can bring joy into people’s lives through their product.

Giving Back

Libby's Legacy Candle

Featured above is the Libby’s Legacy honor candle which supports breast cancer awareness with every purchase

Since it is their own business they can help with whatever projects that they want. They can pick a person, an organization, or a local business and use the proceeds from their business to give back.  They have helped children with special needs, breast cancer research, and The Habitat for Humanity. They chaired a build where they raised money for two women’s homes. They helped a family through the adoption process. They pay attention to the needs that they see around them and then give back wherever they can. Liz said that they don’t pick the project, the project picks them. Every single project they have done or person they have helped has started by simply talking to someone and listening to the need.

They try to stay as local as possible because they really want their dollars to impact their own community. It means a lot to them to be giving back and being an inspiration to others. They look forward to growing so they can expand their scope of giving even more.

Future Growth

They are working on future projects that will expand their outreach and potential to impact others. Some of these plans include partnering with other vendors to include more variety in their store and expanding space to create and give back to the community.

They currently have wholesale accounts and want to expand on that in the future. The dandelion logo has become synonymous with their business to the point where even the people at the tax office recognize the brand.

I asked if they saw it turn into the full-fledged business that it is today and Leah responded that they honestly didn’t. Leah just had her third child and didn’t expect this to happen. Liz and Leah have always been involved in giving back to charity. Leah said that her parents raised her to give back to the community. They had sat on charity boards in the past but realized that there was a void of businesses in the community whose core mission was giving back to community. They wanted to change that. When they started, they thought that it might just be something fun to do. Liz had a full-time job and Leah was a full- time mom. Within a year of them starting the business, it boomed to something that they could have never foreseen.

The Story That Started It All

Leah called Liz one day and said, “I am so tired of hearing bad news on the radio, on TV, and on Facebook. Let’s go do something positive today.” Liz having the day off said, “Ok what do you want to do?” “Let’s go feed people” Leah replied. So, they went to Publix bought some ingredients and went back home to make sandwiches. They then went down to Lake Eola and started feeding people simply by walking up to people and saying, “Are you hungry today?” Everyone was so responsive. They were so grateful that someone would take the time to simply be kind.

In talking to them, I could tell that this experience and other similar experiences really made an impact on the direction of their company. Shortly after this occurred, one of Leah’s friends posted a video with the tag “Kindness is Priceless” which soon became their mantra in giving. Leah explained that even their name, Collective Kindness, reflects this line of thinking. They consider everyone, including their customers, involved in the process a part of giving back. So, it truly is a collective kindness.

They really want people to get involved in the community, find out what they can do to help, and just be kind. Say “good morning.” Hold the door for someone else. Do the simple things that make someone’s day better. Be the light in the darkness.

Thank you so much Liz and Leah for your time! You both are amazing!

Picture of Collective Kindness shop

Picture of the Collective Kindness shop in Winter Garden

You can find Collective Kindness

At the Plant St. Market in Winter Garden, FL

Thursday-Saturday 10:00am-7:00pm Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm

On their Etsy shop: Collective Kindness Etsy Shop

Follow them on social media too!

Instagram: Instagram.com/collectivekindness

Facebook: Facebook.com/collectivekindness

Thank you for reading!

Remember to shop local and be kind! Have an amazing day!

-Amy

Interviews · Small Business

Sugar Rush Marshmallows!

Hi friends!

Thank you for reading! Today’s article is about local business owners Julie and Jean of Sugar Rush Marshmallows. They are incredibly articulate so much of today’s article is straight from them.

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Sugar Rush Marshmallows is an Orlando-based marshmallow and s’more business. They make everything from scratch, including syrup, extracts, and graham crackers. To quote them directly, “A marshmallow is always going to be sugary, but we take the extra time to make sure that there is nothing that doesn’t need to be in there.” By using in-season, simple, and natural ingredients, they differentiate themselves by creating high quality, carefully crafted sweets.

A Sweet Beginning

Julie and Jean, the owners, started this business initially to provide a part time income stream. They met in South Korea where they were teaching English. When they came back they had a challenging time finding jobs where they felt fulfilled and could spend time together. Julie, who had been making marshmallows for a long time, started making the sweets again for her family and friends. After getting positive reactions, they started thinking about how to turn this talent into a business.

They quickly realized that if they stuck with just marshmallows that they could be limited in their growth. This is when they started testing recipes for graham crackers and working on innovative ideas. They then started testing their creations out on friends to make sure they got everything right, including texture and sweetness. With their s’mores and marshmallows perfected, they quickly went all in. “Once we started, we couldn’t stop, and soon it was taking up everything and we took the plunge and went full time.” Now they appear at farmer’s markets around Central Florida and have an online presence.

Because, “nothing takes you on a journey to nostalgia faster than a s’more” this is a product that brings joy to people’s lives through fond memories of the past and new memories created by spending time together. Their ultimate goal is to make the customers happy and to spend as much time together as possible. “We love being a part of the community and hope to be a part of it for years to come.”

Personal Growth Through Clever Creations

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When asked how this business has improved their lives, they responded, “We have had an amazing life, but this business has opened so much to us. We love working, and working together has been amazing. It has given us so much time to create and grow together and we can share our creations with the community we love. In the meantime, we have learned so much more about the small business and food community here in Orlando. We have met some incredible people, learned amazing things, and been able to build something that people really enjoy!”

The daily grind of constantly working can be a challenge. Luckily for Julie and Jean, they get to face it together. “There are weeks we spend half in the kitchen and half in the market and we know it’s going to happen all over again the next week and the next, but it’s important to us, and we aren’t afraid of working hard. Otherwise, we would have been crazy to start!”

Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

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“Even If you know it’s going to be so hard, and even if you know you are willing to do all the work, juggle all the things, and push every single day, remember it’s not as easy as you may still think. But, if you want it, then make it happen. There are communities that need you. Do your research, fight hard, and never stop fighting.”

When asked if there was anything they knew before they started Sugar Rush, they responded, “We did so much research on so much but nothing really prepared us for things like the intricacies of taxes or all the really scary legal stuff. I know we both really would have liked to know exactly what we needed to get before we could move to this step or that step, but eventually we got there. A lot of time is spent, I think, by a lot of new businesses going to some government office thinking they have what they need only to learn that they have to go back a step and get something else and so on and so on. Having a little more clarity on those issues would have been nice. But otherwise, everything had to be learned on the fly-I think that’s the way it’s supposed to happen. You think you’re ready until you find out you aren’t. And then other business owners can share their journey and help get you there, and in turn maybe you can help someone else. We are all in it together, after all”

Thank you so much Julie and Jean for your amazing story and agreeing to be featured!

If you would like to find out more about Sugar Rush Marshmallows links to their social media are listed below:

Website: https:/www.sugarrushmarshmallows.com
Instagram: @sugarrushmarshmallow
Facebook: Sugar Rush Marshmallow

In October, they will be featuring rainbow marshmallows available just twice a year in June and October for Pride. They also just released cookie dough stuffed marshmallows that feature another small local cookie dough business called Cookie Dough To Go.

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At this time you can find them at the following locations:
Winter Garden Farmers Market, every Saturday from 9am-2pm
Orlando Farmers Market at Lake Eola, every Sunday from 10am-4pm
Audubon Community Market Monday nights from 5pm-9pm

Thank you so much for reading! Join me next week when I will be featuring Collective Kindness.

If you have a small business in the Central Florida area and would like to be featured on this site please visit the contact page.

Remember to stay sweet, support small businesses, and have an amazing day!
-Amy

 

Interviews · Small Business

First Interview with Amy Coleman. Independent Consultant for the brand Thirty-One.

Hello Friends!

Welcome to my blog!

First, a little about what you are going to be reading.

I am interviewing entrepreneurs, small business owners, and independent consultants from across the Central Florida community. My goal is to tell the stories of these amazing entrepreneurs, showcase their product or service, and perhaps give aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn from these stories. If you have your own small business and would like to be featured on this site, go to the contact section of the blog and I will get back to you.

For my first interview, I talked to my friend and self-proclaimed bag lady at heart: Amy Coleman.

A Little About the Business

Amy is an independent consultant for the brand Thirty-One, a brand that specializes in unique bags, jewelry, and home goods. The brand differentiates itself by its ability for customization. Whether someone wants to proclaim their love of wine or coordinate colors to match their favorite sports team, customers can find what they are looking for through Thirty-One products. Amy loves the brand because you can adapt it to meet your family’s needs. Whether using it as a side business or a full-time income stream, the business model can adapt to whatever you put in it. She says that most people will join because they want to earn some extra money, get new products, or have more time with their family and friends.

Amy got involved with Thirty-One through a friend from camp who messaged her online. After this friend explained the process, Amy concluded that it would be an effective way for her to earn extra money and earn free products. She started out by having a Thirty-One party through this friend and fell in love with the products. Shortly after, Amy started consulting for Thirty-One herself. Amy currently uses this as a supplemental income stream. The best part for her personally is that she can earn free bags.

When asked what makes consulting for this company special, Amy replied that they are unique because they fully believe in their consultants and they fully believe in God. The name “Thirty-One” comes from the Proverbs 31 woman as described in the Bible. The company’s mission is to empower women and build relationships. Amy is a religious person and fully supports this culture. To quote Amy directly, “They show their culture, they show their faith, and they fully support their consultants. I feel like that is what makes this company unique.”

Personal Experience Gained

For Amy, Thirty-One has impacted her life by earning her extra income, gaining her guilt-free products, and giving her the opportunity to network with others in the community. When asked about any challenges, Amy said “Since it is a catalogue and they give you the marketing materials and support you need, there have been no major challenges.” She elaborated by saying that it can take as little or as much time as you can devote to it.

Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Amy’s tip to anyone who is wanting to start their own small business or become a consultant is that even if it takes a little bit of money, jump in with both feet. She says that if you want to be a consultant, look for companies that don’t take a lot of time and money as initial startup. Weigh the cost of how much it will be to join or participate versus what you plan to get out of it, especially if you’re just starting out. Don’t set unrealistic expectations of what you will be able to sell. Make sure it aligns with the lifestyle you have so you can enjoy the experience.

For Amy, being an independent consultant has helped her to grow. “Any experience you can gain for yourself is helpful in the long run.” She goes on to say that if the product holds your interest, having it as a side job can also be a means for you to spend time on the things you love. “It can be helpful as a good outlet or breathing time for you apart from your normal day-to-day job.”

My Takeaway

I have learned that having a culture that supports your business is very crucial to the happiness and success of consultants. Pursuing what you love can be a good side venture. It does not have to be your day-to-day job. Finally, any experienced gained from trying new things can be beneficial in the long run.

Thank you, Amy, for taking the time to talk with me!

If you are interested in having a party through Amy or want to learn more please visit her website linked below.

During October, Thirty-One will start featuring items for the upcoming holiday season so be sure to check out Amy’s page.

Amy’s website

Next Time

Come back next week on October 16 when I write about the delicious Orlando-based marshmallow and s’more company Sugar Rush Marshmallows.

Have an amazing day!

-Amy