We had the good fortune of connecting with Lisa Zimmermann and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lisa, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
“Bigger is better”
Not all small businesses aspire to get bigger. When I started my hobby candle company – everyone would ask what my big goal was. Did I want employees? Did I want a bustling warehouse? Did I want to take big candle brands on? Where did I see my biz in five years?
The thing is – I didn’t want to get bigger, and I’ve since learned that’s ok. Bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes, being small is exactly where you need to be.
So, why do I prefer to keep my business small?
1. Flexibility: I started making candles in my kitchen as a hobby, and it serendipitously grew into a small business. I love the art of candlemaking – and how it allows me to be creative, playful, and a little bit messy. Keeping my business small allows me the flexibility to adapt, change directions, and move as quickly or as slowly as I’m able.
2. Personal: Anyone can pop into their local corner store and grab a candle made who-knows-where by heaven-knows-who. It’s important to me to add personal touches to my products, so I continue to do things like handwrite each label and add unique thank you notes to orders.
3. Freedom: As a military spouse, my life can be a bit unpredictable with my husband coming and going. Staying small gives me the flexibility to push on the gas when I have a bit more free time, and pull back when I need to focus on family.
What should our readers know about your business?
In 2015, I had the idea to curate gift baskets for friends and family with local goods and crafts from our Colorado Springs hometown. I was a bit shocked at how difficult it was to find a quality, locally made candle – and thought, how hard could it be to make one myself?
When doing some initial research, I was surprised to learn that many big box candles were filled with toxins, chemicals and synthetic materials. So, I set out to create a natural, soy wax candle infused with the most natural fragrance oils I could find. I had so much fun testing and perfecting the fragrance ratios, pouring temperatures, wick sizing – and was so proud of the finished products.
I only had the intention to make candles for gifts and my own home, so when friends and family asked if they could have more once they had burned down their holiday gifts, I was beyond flattered. It was incredible to have made something from nothing – especially something that people really enjoyed!
A 2016 move to a small town in North Carolina introduced me to an incredible community of female artisans, creatives and entrepreneurs that gave me the confidence to try a few local markets. One thing led to the next, and four years later I carry my candles in local shops around North Carolina, and ship via my Etsy Shop across the nation.
Prior to 2020, I mixed and curated scents and collections based on what I enjoy each season – bright, punchy scents in spring, floral and garden scents in summer, followed by rich, earthy scents of fall and warm, cozy scents of winter.
When the pandemic hit and everyone was confined to their homes, I started doing a lot more research on scent. I realized that there is so much more to scent than just “what we like” – scents can be used to energize, calm, ease anxiety, reduce stress and rejuvenate. I took this knowledge and started sharing with my little candle community – so they could shop based on vibes they wanted to create in their own homes. I loved hearing that customers would burn citrus scents in the mornings for their kid’s zoom classes or work meetings, lavender and sage to calm before bed, and rosemary to focus. With this information, my candles became more of a tool to help navigate each family’s new normal vs just a commodity.
After that, I started to curate monthly subscription boxes to help with the overwhelm of choice. As my customers were stretched thin enough, I wanted to be able to make their lives easier and provide a thoughtfully selected collection of scents each month.
What started as a hope to create candles for friends and family has truly become a reality for me – I’m still doing that today. (Only, my friends and family have expanded to include my little candle community!) I love that I get to continue to creative and innovate while pushing myself to meet my customers where they’re at, and see how I can continue to help their day-to-day lives with my products. If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My husband is stationed at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina, and we live in a tiny town outside of the base called Whispering Pines. Filled with pine trees, lakes, and as many golf courses, it’s about an hour south of Raleigh + Durham, and 10 minutes from Pinehurst. This duty station has really reinvigorated my love for small southern towns, and I love taking people around to quaint little spots in the area. However, we’re just an hour from the city, 3 hours in one direction to the beach, and 3 hours in the other direction to the mountains – it’s a great central location for all the adventures.
Day 1 – Exploring Southern Pines! A nice hike in Weymoth Woods would be followed by brunch and a brewery and some local shopping. Dinner at a local favorite and drinks at our favorite cocktail bar.
Day 2 – Exploring Pinehurst! A farmers market in the town square and coffee at the old post-office-turned-coffee-shop, followed by exploring the Pinehurst Resort grounds. Some local shopping and lunch at the brewery!
Day 3 + 4: Head to the beach! We love driving to Wilmington area, and taking long walks on the North Carolina beaches. A beach picnic and relaxing followed by dinner at a local seafood spot on the pier would make for a perfect day.
Day 5+6: Head to the mountains! There’s really nothing like the Blue Ridge mountains, and whether we head to Boone, Blowing Rock – or another hour down the road to Asheville, it’s always a wonderful time. Hiking and soaking in the ridgelines followed by lunch at a brewery, and relaxing along the river at one of our favorite wineries! Dinner is always best in town, at one of the incredible local eateries.
Day 7 – Head back to Whispering Pines for some R+R by the lake!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Without a doubt – my husband is most deserving of a shoutout! When I first started my business five years ago, he encouraged me to jump into the unknown and has been my biggest supporter ever since. Whether he’s trying to maneuver around hundreds of curing candles in the kitchen, shlepping my wares to markets, or helping me take photos for the ‘gram – I am forever grateful for his support.
Amy Campbell Marissa Podszus