From Side Business to Burning Bright - Kalamazoo Candle Company0
Sometimes our best laid plans take a turn that we don’t expect, as Kalamazoo Candle Company founder Adam McFarlin learned firsthand. Originally a native of Texas, McFarlin came to Michigan to attend graduate school at Western Michigan University (WMU) thinking he’d eventually become a high school band director.
After graduating from WMU with a master’s degree in music and an interest in arts administration, McFarlin pursued a career in the nonprofit community and soon found himself looking for ways to fund a new business.
“I wanted to find something to sell to raise money to fund a new business idea, so I read a list of 100 things to do to make extra money and landed on candle making,” he said.
That plan of using candle making to start a different business didn’t materialize, but people seemed to love the candles McFarlin was creating. Six years later, McFarlin is confident that he made the right decision to keep growing the candle business.
McFarlin attributes the company’s growth and success to the selling model the business adapted.
“Kalamazoo Candle Company started differently than most other candle companies,” he stated. “We began wholesaling first instead of selling our products at farmers markets and craft fairs.”
Initial Attraction was one of the first vendors to carry Kalamazoo Candle Company’s products. Now their candles are available in stores in 25 states, including Whole Foods. The candles have also been accepted into Ace Hardware locations. This expansion is all thanks to the production approach that Kalamazoo Candle Company takes.
“Our aesthetic is simple and straightforward,” McFarlin shared. “And our candles burn for 50 percent longer than similar candles our size and we keep them as natural as we can. Currently, we sell 30 fragrances in two sizes.”
In addition to the candles that they sell, Kalamazoo Candle Company also provides candle making classes that have proven to be incredibly popular. The classes started out as structured and have morphed into a walk-in model at Kalamazoo Candle Company’s Marketplace location on the Kalamazoo Mall.
“Our first class sold out in two hours,” McFarlin said. “We slowly perfected the classes to be more relaxed in nature. We want participants to create on their own terms.”
Kalamazoo Candle Company has a lot to be proud of but, if you ask McFarlin what aspect of his business makes him the proudest, he will point to his staff.
“The best part of the company is my 15 staff members,” he said. “Everyone cares about each other and what we’re doing.”
So, what is next for Kalamazoo Candle Company? McFarlin insists that they’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other.
“We’re already looking at all the possibilities in 2021, which is amazing,” he said of the business’ future. “We may offer pop-up stores in another town that’s not Kalamazoo or even take our candle making experience on the road.”
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Adam! We can’t wait to see what Kalamazoo Candle Company does next!