- Tiana Coates is an entrepreneur and owner of Winding Wick Candles based in Garland, Texas.
- In 2020, Coates made over $70,000 from selling her online candle-making business course, including $40,000 in just one month.
- Here’s how she developed, produced, and marketed the course, as told to freelance writer Kaila Yu.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
I always wanted the freedom of running my own business. Ten years before becoming an entrepreneur, I worked at the desk as a pharmacy technician. In my free time I would always tinker with business ideas: dropshipping, selling items on Shopify, hand-making trinkets, but none of them ever panned out.
In a spark of inspiration, I came up with the idea of hand-making candles. It made perfect sense, I loved candles and would buy them every week for my home. I had zero experience so I started researching on online forums, blogs, and YouTube. The candle-making process seemed straightforward on the tutorials that I watched, but it took me several months of trial and error to get my candles to burn correctly and hold their scent.
I first launched Winding Wick Candles in 2015 but had to shut it down just one year later in 2016. The business wasn’t making much money, I was still working my day job, and I’d just given birth to my first child. I was totally overwhelmed.
But as time went by, I missed running my own business. I gave a lot of thought to how I would run the company differently the next time, so in 2018, I relaunched Winding Wick Candles. Luckily, I still had all of my supplies from back when I first launched in 2015. I only had to spend about $300 or so to purchase new wax, containers, and fragrances.
I worked around the clock to relaunch my candle business.
Back then, I was just working part time on weekends so I had time during the week to dedicate to my business. I would put in 12 to 16 hours a day creating products and working on my Etsy and Shopify sites. During the weekends, I worked 12-hour shifts in a pharmacy hospital.
There were a few major changes this time around – I changed the candle style that I was producing, I launched a YouTube channel, and I learned more about search engine optimization so I could increase organic traffic to my products through search.
First, my new line of candles was much more decorative in style, featuring hand-molded, realistic fruit accents.
Second, I launched a YouTube channel to document the entire process of revamping the business. I filmed videos speaking candidly about why I thought my candle business had failed the first time around. Additionally, I shared tips on how I was changing and pivoting.
I also shared big wins, such as Etsy flying me to New York in November 2019 to visit their headquarters and getting accepted to the Walmart Marketplace in October 2020. The Walmart marketplace allows for customers to purchase my products on Walmart.com. I’m also able to send my products to a Walmart approved distribution center so I can have the ‘2-day delivery’ badge on my items. I hoped sharing these experiences would help my followers feel like they are on this entrepreneurship journey with me.
Back in 2018, my YouTube channel was one of the only that covered the very specific niche of running a candle-making business. Since then, I’ve grown to over 35,000 subscribers.
YouTube was an integral tool for growing my business and later marketing my online course.
I knew my channel wouldn’t be an overnight success, so I was fine with getting few views in the beginning. I learned that as long as you provide genuinely helpful content and work to improve the quality of your videos, your channel will grow.
A few months after launching the YouTube channel, I also created a free, downloadable lead magnet on MailChimp to collect email subscribers, called ‘How to Start a Candle Business.’ It was very popular and by 2020, my mailing list had grown to 11,000 subscribers.
About a year after I launched the YouTube channel, I noticed that I was getting a ton of emails with questions ranging from how to make candles to how to get traffic. Since I had already done a lot of trial and error with growing my own business, I saw an opportunity to create an online course. After doing some market research, I found that there weren’t any other candle business courses available. I saw the gap in the market and recognized the opportunity to jump on it.
I wanted to make sure to validate the idea before starting any work, so I held a webinar in January 2020 to share my idea about launching the course. To gauge interest, I offered a discounted rate for the class if they signed up at the end of the webinar. Ten students signed up, and I moved forward with producing the course.
Developing the first course was a lot of work.
I filmed and edited about 23 hours of content by myself and learned how to structure the course. I launched Candle Biz Academy in February 2020, right before the pandemic. The first launch made over $10,000 in one week, with a total of 30 students signing up. The second launch in June made nearly $20,000, and the third and biggest launch was in December, making around $40,000 in 10 days.
The course costs $365, and teaches everything from making your first candle, to starting an Etsy store, to more advanced topics like doing wholesale and marketing online.
Once students are signed up, they can watch the video modules at their own pace, and it takes an average of three months to complete the course. During that time, I’m available on live video biweekly to answer any questions. Students also have access to a community on Kajabi, the platform that hosts my course, where they can crowdsource answers to their questions.
Since the course was fully recorded, I can easily relaunch Candle Biz Academy several times throughout the year. Between programs last year, I built up a waitlist of students interested in the next course launch. It’s currently available three times a year and students have a 10-day window to sign up before I close enrollment.
I don’t use any marketing efforts besides my YouTube channel and mailing list.
The course has doubled in revenue every time I relaunched it. After the launch of the second course, I was finally able to leave my day job.
As for my candle business, I also saw positive sales growth during the pandemic. Although there was an initial downturn in March, overall sales in 2020 were higher than in 2019.
Due to this success, I also hired my first employee in January 2021. She’s currently learning candle making in a nearby rented studio so I can focus on running the course.
My advice to entrepreneurs looking to launch their own course is: Don’t be afraid to charge for what you know.
If you know you’re an expert and talented at something, be confident of your worth. Expert knowledge is priceless. Also, don’t be afraid to create multiple streams of income outside of your handmade business.
The next project I’m working on is a peer-to-peer marketplace where crafters can sell unused or slightly used craft supplies. Due to the pandemic, there have been many shortages for candle makers, so I think it’s a great time to test this idea.
The journey to entrepreneurship isn’t always easy. Many times I’ve questioned whether I should keep going or if I should give it all up. The mental part of it has been the most difficult part for me, but if you can overcome that, I sincerely believe that anyone can launch their dream business.