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Brooklyn Candle Studio makes expansion a slow burn

February 25, 2022
What began as a do-it-yourself hobby has become a multimillion-dollar business for Tamara Mayne, owner of Industry City-based Brooklyn Candle Studio. In 2013 Mayne bought a candlemaking kit to craft budget-conscious gifts for family members. Quickly the activity turned into an obsession. After mastering the technique, she used $1,600 in savings to purchase materials and set up an Etsy shop while still working full time as an art director at the Jones Group. Mayne spent late nights melting wax in her studio apartment in Carroll Gardens. When a group of orders for 50 candles hit the screen, she felt an entrepreneurial urge....

What began as a do-it-yourself hobby has become a multimillion-dollar business for Tamara Mayne, owner of Industry City-based Brooklyn Candle Studio.

In 2013 Mayne bought a candlemaking kit to craft budget-conscious gifts for family members. Quickly the activity turned into an obsession. After mastering the technique, she used $1,600 in savings to purchase materials and set up an Etsy shop while still working full time as an art director at the Jones Group. Mayne spent late nights melting wax in her studio apartment in Carroll Gardens. When a group of orders for 50 candles hit the screen, she felt an entrepreneurial urge.

“Initially, all I wanted was to make a living off candles,” said Mayne, who quit her job in 2014 to build Brooklyn Candle Studio. “It has grown into something I never would have imagined.”

Brooklyn Candle Studio did not achieve success overnight. Mayne expanded incrementally, avoiding debt as much as possible. Only after she received an order for 1,100 candles from a subscription box service did she rent a 150-square-foot coworking space in Red Hook. When she got a request for 10,000 candles from Urban Outfitters in 2015, she hired three employees and relocated to a 500-square-foot studio in Industry City, which the company outgrew in 2016.

“We could have grown a lot faster, but I didn’t want to overextend myself,” Mayne said.

Today Brooklyn Candle Studio sells scented candles made from domestically grown soy wax, natural oils and vegan ingredients. Its products can be found at large retailers including Nordstrom, Whole Foods, West Elm and Foxtrot as well as through hundreds of smaller boutiques and direct-to-consumer channels. The company has five permanent collections. A signature line of “minimalist” candles reflects Mayne’s no-frills aesthetic. Although the candles represent 90% of sales, the business is seeing growth in its room mist and reed diffuser products.

In the beginning Mayne mixed the fragrances herself. An early blend, “Brooklyn,” was based on a cocktail bar in Cobble Hill and featured notes of orange blossom, leather and sage.

These days the company works with perfumers and has 40 different scents.

“I still make the final decisions, but I am more of an evaluator—a nose,” Mayne said.

Wherever possible, the company uses eco-friendly materials in order to support the long-term quality of life of its staff, customers and community.

Though most candle companies outsource production, Brooklyn Candle Studio does everything in-house. A 15-person production team oversees a three-day pouring, wicking, curing and packaging process. To keep up with demand, the company has plans to move from its current 11,000-square-foot space in Industry City to a 19,000-square-foot facility at the complex.

Brooklyn Candle Studio does not work with many distributors, because they charge a markup. Instead, it generates sales through word of mouth and at trade shows. The company also chooses not to work with outside investors, despite interest.

“This has granted us the freedom to come up with our own marketing initiatives without having to worry about meeting sales expectations,” said Mayne.

The company doesn’t intend to become a massive corporation. By staying small, Mayne says, the firm can do more for its employees, who receive bonuses and other benefits.

“Eventually we might consider selling the business if it makes sense, but not anytime soon,” she said. “We have received offers, but we plan to grow it ourselves for a while.”

*This is an article from Crain’s New York Business published on February 25, 2022; See the original article here.


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