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Waxing Poetic – Behind the Business with Coal and Canary

image of coal and canary candles

Like so many of the world’s great ideas, Coal and Canary Candle Company was born over a glass of wine. With backgrounds in decor and design, Winnipeggers and best friends Tom Jansen and Amanda Buhse had always appreciated the quality of handmade products. As Tom had been making candles already, the pair decided to nurture a hobby into something more.

The idea soon came to fruition as a viable business plan and Tom and Amanda discovered they’d become artisans. Recently moved into swank downtown digs – an airy and bright studio/retail space – the future of Coal and Canary looks bright for the two friends.

We interviewed Amanda and spoke of the joys of following a dream as well as the struggles of starting a business from scratch.

So what is Coal and Canary?

We realized that there was a gap in the market for quality, hand-made candles catered toward the hip and young professional, so we took matters into our own hands and created Coal and Canary Candle Company. The goal is to provide design conscious individuals with a product that not only smells amazing, but looks just as good.

Our candles reflect our vibrant personalities, commitment to strong design and appreciation for impeccable craftsmanship.

Coal and Canary candles are made only with the highest quality soy and vegetable wax blend and true to scent fragrance oils. All of our candles feature a wide wooden wick that burns clean, free of smoke and soot and produces a soft crackle when lit. Our candles are all 8 oz. And burn for approximately 45-50 hours.

Why candles? How did you get into this business?

Tom had started making candles as a hobby a year and a half ago and decided to take it to the next level and asked me to join him. With my graphic design and a marketing background mixed with Tom’s know how, it was the perfect marriage of talents. We only started their business three months ago and poured our first candle 7 weeks ago. Since then, we’ve had tremendous success, now selling in 10 retailers across Canada and the U.S., and have recently been chosen to have our product in the official 2015 Oscar and GRAMMY gift bags made by Distinctive Assets!

image of candles from coal and canary

Wow! That’s awesome. To get that kind of success early on, you have to be passionate. So what is it that drives you every day?

We absolutely LOVE what we do. They say “when you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” and this is extremely true in our case. Not only do we get the opportunity to be creative and create beautiful, well made candles, but we get to do it in the company of our best friend! We both work full time jobs currently, so it really takes a lot of drive to work the additional hours per week to make this a success.

When we first started we expected to sell a few candles to family and friends as a hobby, but the company took off quickly and grew faster than we ever could have imagined! Many long nights are put in, but it’s so worth it when you see the smile on a customer’s face when they purchase one of our candles.

I know it’s early still, but has it been ALL smooth sailing?

Although we’ve experienced great success in an extremely short time period, we face challenges every day as we’re constantly trying to learn as we go how to run a business of our own and keep up demand amongst working full time jobs. Although it’s extremely hard work, we’re having the time of our lives doing it.

On the flip side, we all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened so far?

The wildest thing that has ever happened to us so far is finding out that our candles had been chosen to be in the gift bags for the Academy Awards and GRAMMYS! When we first started the company, we had a goal planning night and came up with short term and long term goals. Our 5 year goal was to get our product into a major award show gift bag, even though we knew it was lofty and seemed impossible.

So one day I spent hours scouring the internet and discovered the company responsible for creating the gift bags. So I sent an email saying who we are and what our product is, and asked for details on what the process is for being considered down the road. Weeks later, we received an email back from them mentioning that they thought our product was extremely fun and unique and they thought it’d appeal to the celebrities receiving the bags and invited us to be a part of the 2015 gift bags!! We still can’t believe it!

image of tom and amanda from Coal & Canary

Nothing ventured, nothing gained – that’s a great tip! Do you have any other advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?

It feels funny to give advice for aspiring business owners as we ourselves are still so new, however, the top 5 pieces of advice we’d give thus far would be:

  1. Utilize social media. This is a free tool that can be invaluable to advertising your new business. We can’t tell you how good Instagram has been to us!
  2. Try to find a mentor. We’re so lucky to have a close family friend who’s been extremely successful in his small business venture, we go to him constantly for advice and find it an invaluable resource.
  3. Don’t be afraid. As long as you work hard and believe in your product, things will work out!
  4. Do not underestimate the amount of effort, perseverance, and discipline that is required to be successful. You should be working on enjoying the journey not thinking about the destination!
  5. Look at every interaction as a networking opportunity. Whether it’s in person or online, you never know when an encounter or collaboration could be a big break for your company!

Very inspiring stuff! What about your local community – are you thinking about getting involved somehow?

Due to being so new we haven’t had as much opportunity to give back to the community as much as we plan to in the future, however, we plan to team up with a local charity in the very near future for an exciting campaign that we’re planning to launch in January. Stay tuned!