December 2, 2012

end of a (short) era

When I started this blog in September  I had just embarked on a journey of self-employment. I had left my job with Hilton to pursue selling my candles at craft shows throughout the holiday season. I didn't make this choice solely out of desire to work for myself (even though that was a contributing factor) but as a pragmatic solution to an impending problem:

1) my apartment's lease was about to end in October;

2) I'm moving from the USA to Canada in January; and

3) I needed somewhere to stay during that period between October & January and my parents offered to take me in.

My parents live in a small, rural town where good jobs are few and far between. So rather than settle for waitressing at the Country Hound Cafe (true story) I decided that I could make a living working craft shows and not have the stress of working for someone else during the holiday season.

My vanilla-scented soy baby.

Holy maple syrup, was I ever wrong. On both counts. I worked 4 weekends of shows over the last 2 months, each one drastically different than the last. In the end, I wasn't able to make a living working craft shows (though I was able to pay my bills thanks to my online antiques business) nor did I evade workplace stress. Instead, I brought the workplace stress into my home. (Note to those pondering doing craft shows with no true studio/work space to speak of: Manufacturing & packaging your own product in your kitchen/living room/bedroom is not for the faint of heart. You wake up looking at your work and you go to bed sick of the sight of it. You can't escape it, not when there are boxes, jars, bags, bottles, snippets and pieces covering every square foot of living space.)

I also learned that in this tough economy there are many people who would rather purchase mass-produced foreign-made copies than pay a premium for quality, one-of-a-kind, locally produced goods. And those people go to craft shows expecting Walmart prices for artisan crafts. Sadly, many people equate craft fairs with rummage sales and believe that artists/artisans can or should be haggled with. This is not cool with us.

Looking back, I see that the real estate mantra really is true: location, location, location. Where you sell matters. I don't believe I chose the right area to start a candle business. Central/southern Florida, with its 90 degree heat in November, doesn't scream cozy-country-cabin-candles. Many customers wrinkled their noses at the smell of Warm Vanilla Maple, a scent that I created with my Canadian friends in mind. They didn't want mason jars, they wanted tropical-scented candles in sea shells. Perhaps I should have considered the area I was selling in before I chose my aesthetic.

I also didn't take into account that the demographic for this area is about 90% retired folks who, I have come to realize, have no use for candles. They go to craft shows in search of onesies for their grandchildren and banana bread baked by their canasta buddies. Candles are frivolous to them.

Needless to say, the last couple of months have been eye-opening and at times disheartening. But of course there are lessons behind the bad moments, so in the end I'm glad I took the plunge. Do I wish I made more money? Of course. But I will draw from my experiences and use them to improve my product and presentation. I'm in the process of reviewing different craft shows in the Toronto area and I plan on applying to 1 or 2 of them for the spring. It'll be a completely different market and I'll have had enough distance from my escapades in Florida to start fresh & eager. I'll be debuting a whole new line of candles and home decor that I'm excited about!

Until then, I'll continue blogging about my adventures in antiquing & cool home decor/DIY projects that I come across. I will press on!


  1. Yay for you for taking the plunge! I think your positive go-getter can't-be-beat attitude will take you a very long way. I love how you shook off the bum fair and came back with a solid plan. Good luck in Canada! I'm a cozy cabin candle type too! :)

  2. That's what life is about-risks. As long as you came away with a lesson and are willing to go back out and try it again! I'm sure Donald Trump didn't get to where he is by "playing it safe". Lots of luck in Canada!


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