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So You Wanna Start A Custom Candle Bar with Chloe Bratvold from Candle Bar DSM

Welcome to our So You Wanna Start A... series, designed to give you a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the journeys that went into creating some of your favorite local brands.

Today's guest is Chloe Bratvold from Candle Bar DSM, a custom candle bar in Des Moines. 

Our favorite piece of advice: "Ask for help." As local business owners, we know that "scrappy" is often your middle name. But there's wisdom in knowing what you can do on your own and where you need to outsource. You don't have to create a large team. Maybe it's just hiring someone to do your books. Or an extra staff member to hold down the store on Monday's. Even the smallest thing can lift a weight off your shoulders and give you precious time back. 

If you're curious about starting a custom candle shop, learn a little more from Chloe and connect with her using the links below!

1. What do you own and why did you start this business?

I own a custom candle bar in Valley Junction. I started out by making them at home and learning about all the ingredients that go into candlemaking. Then I shifted into opening my own brick & mortar. When I decide to do something, I go all in!

2. What is an early win you had that made you feel like you were on the right path?

We opened in November 2020 and in December we were booked three out of the four weekends. We couldn't take walk-ins and unfortunately had to turn people away. I knew we would be busy in the winter but not booked! This made people more comfortable making reservations, which has helped me and the staff plan. At this point we have booked reservations as far out as March of next year! But we still have more recent spots available as of right now.

3. What's one of the biggest challenges you’ve had?

I've gotten very comfortable doing work at the bar and helping customers, but it's been a challenge to work outside of the business. There's a quote that says, "you can't just work in the business, you need to work on the business". At a certain point, you need to be doing work outside of the business. I feel protective over it and want things done how I think they need to be done. I think letting go has been the hardest thing along with running the back side of a business. I didn't go to business school or take any business classes in college. With help from the right people, including my business coach from the Iowa Small Business Association, I was able to learn all the things I needed to know.

4. What are three pieces of advice you’d give to aspiring local business owners in your industry?

1) Continue moving forward. There's always going to be bumps in the road, so it's important to be prepared for the negative aspects of running a business and be able to move forward. 

2) Ask for help. I thought that when I opened it would just be me and I would work everyday, all day. Within the first month, I realized that it was impossible and I couldn't keep up with the demand. Spending the money to hire people is important. It's helped me be able to work on the business and be more involved with the community.

3) Keep working on your craft. For me, there's always new products and new materials that can be used in candles. Keep learning about the products you can use or are using. 

5. Where is your business heading next and what are you excited about?

I'm really excited for our one year anniversary, which is on Black Friday (November 25). On Small Business Saturday, we're doing an event. We will be showing our new mural, doing a ribbon cutting, and having a huge giveaway! We're also starting a refill program, which I've been working hard on. It's very important to us to recycle our jars, so if you made a candle with us and it has been cleaned you can come in for a refill! All you would be paying for is the wax and fragrance. It's cheaper for the consumer and they're also continuing to use a cleaner product. Refills will be available for our candles, diffusers, and room sprays.

Find Chloe & Candle Bar DSM:

Instagram: @candlebardsm
Facebook: @candlebardsm

Want to be featured in our SYWSA series? Fill out our contact form here to get the ball rolling.


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