One of the many things I record and track in my life is the income and expense from my hobby of making soy candles. Since September 2006, I’ve recouped in sales about half of what I’ve spent on candlemaking supplies.
This is not a lucrative hobby for me, mainly because I keep it as a hobby. I’m not willing to spend time and money to make this a viable second income. I don’t need a second income right now.
I tried selling on Etsy, just for shits and giggles, and only had one customer. Granted, I only sold my standard wares, and didn’t do anything fancy or eyecatching with the packaging, so my candles were basically lost in a sea of craftiness. It also didn’t help that candles are heavy and relatively expensive to ship, compared with their per-unit cost.
Mainly, I have two repeat customers, both friends, both local. They’ve been responsible for the majority of my sales (15 out of 24 total sales, or $130 out of the $300 total I’ve made in the past 2½ years). I’ve had some sporadic decent-sized orders from other people — one gift basket, ordered by a former supervisor of mine; and one batch of stocking-stuffer candles with custom labels, ordered by a friend and former co-worker — but I subsist mainly on my two repeat customers and a few random co-workers who discover (or remember) that I make and sell candles.
I recently had the chance to kick things up a notch. A really BIG notch.
I got an e-mail last week from a potential candle buyer in New York state, who requested a quote on a custom batch of candles for a party she was throwing at her church. It was a 1950’s-themed party, so she wanted root-beer-scented mini-mugs (which she must have found via Google, since they’re no longer linked from my candle site) and parfait/sundae glasses in vanilla. There would be three to four candles per table, and 35 to 40 tables.
I about passed out when I did the math. That’s roughly 140 candles. At $4 apiece (minus a bulk discount of 10%), that comes out to $500.
I seriously considered doing it. Then I kept doing the math.
Mine is a very low-volume operation. I don’t even have a proper wax-melting vessel; I use a Pyrex measuring cup I got at Goodwill years ago. I can make about 18 ounces’ worth of candle in one batch. That means I’d be making candles for literally two weeks straight. Every night. Unless I took a weekend to just make candles ALL DAY LONG.
And that’s not even considering the initial monetary investment I’d have to make in bulk fragrance oils, dye, and soy wax.
I e-mailed the woman back and politely declined, telling her that I just am not equipped for such a large order. Granted, I probably could have done it. Would it have gotten me more return customers and expanded my business? I doubt it; not from New York.
I’m content to continue making custom hand-poured candles for my friends and acquaintances, and to keep my hobby as a hobby. Although I must admit that I wouldn’t be upset to see myself break even one of these years.