The Sweet Smell of Success: Oasis Soul Candles
Photo Credit: Carolyn V/Unsplash
This post is part of a series of branded posts sponsored by Verizon. The focus of the series — part of a paid partnership between Verizon and CircleAround — is on women small-business owners and how they are navigating the complexities and challenges of contemporary business, from the pandemic to the economy.
In these frenetic times, more than ever — when we’re all so overloaded and busy — it’s important to occasionally stop and smell the roses. Or, if roses are not available, the scented candles.
Lola Pyne learned a valuable business lesson by doing just that, one that led to her successful new business venture. Pyne is busy 24/7, taking care of her 6-year-old son and working full time as a marketing and communications specialist for a federal cultural agency, where she has been a dedicated employee for 16 years. But two years ago, when by chance Pyne was at a work function at a co-working space, she was struck by how her mood was instantly elevated by the scented candles that lit up the room and her senses.
“The candles smelled amazing!” Pyne tells CircleAround. “I felt like I was stepping out of the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., into a different environment altogether, and I was like, ‘Well, that's how we should feel every day when we get home — it should be our oasis.’ ”
And that is how Oasis Soul Scent Co. was born. A self-confessed serial entrepreneur, Pyne has dabbled in a number of business ventures over the years, including writing a blog for how parents can get their kids engaged in visiting museums. In recent years, though, she really wanted to embark on a business that she could monetize and scale. Pyne knew that Oasis Soul was her big idea that had the potential to be a burning success.
“I really wanted to do something next in which I could also make money from home,” she says, “and make it an adventure.”
She says that she researched all she needed to know from scratch, reading books and watching YouTube tutorials on how to make scented candles.
“There are so many books where you can get a baseline recipe for different things,” Pyne notes. “That's the starting point for mixing things up, and obviously with YouTube, I can learn just about anything.”
Since starting out in 2018, Pyne has handmade and hand-poured every single Oasis candle. Her kitchen is her candle-making sanctuary. An important part of Pyne’s creations is that they are sustainable and toxin-free. During her candle-making research and self-discovery, Pyne learned that most store-bought candles are not environment- or human-friendly.
“I didn't realize that paraffin wax, which is what most candles are made out of, is actually a byproduct of petroleum,” she says. “A lot of toxins can be released when they're burned.”
That’s why Pyne uses an eco-friendly coconut-wax blend that incorporates beeswax and soy wax. Combined with fragrant natural ingredients, Pyne says that this combination is healthier for her customers, and also improves the lingering presence throughout the home as the candle burns.
Pyne’s vigilance around not being exposed to potentially harmful products peaked when she was pregnant with her son. She is clear that while we relax and treat ourselves, we should be mindful about being safe, too.
In fact, Pyne’s son has been a key motivator as she has built her business over the last two years. As a single mother, Pyne is working hard to create a legacy for her child. Being able to send her son to private school was a motivating factor in starting Oasis Soul candles, and as Pyne's business scales, the profits are helping to offset the costs of her son's school tuition. She’s also mindful and proud to set an example for her son, showing him that he can achieve whatever he sets his mind to.
“My son has got to see me build this business literally from scratch,” Pyne says proudly. “I think it's such a valuable lesson that he probably doesn’t understand, but he's always going to know that he can do whatever he wants because his mom is sitting here like, ‘I'm gonna do a candle business, and three months later we're doing that.’ ”
Pyne’s mother is also deeply involved in the family business, helping to package and ship inventory, manning pop-up stalls, and offering her opinion during product development. In fact, Pyne’s son and mother were her first guinea pigs when she launched her business in 2018, helping her figure out which scents worked well, and which ones needed more development. After three months, Pyne was ready to take her product to market. She set up a stall at Barracks Row Fall Festival in Washington, D.C., which led to her participation in multiple pop-ups and festivals all over the nation’s capital.
“I think it was nearly 50 [events],” Pyne recalls. “I did a lot of events in this two-year period, going to all these different places. Because candles are something that you need to smell and I was getting really good feedback doing in-person.”
Starting out with seven signature scents, Pyne’s catalog has since grown to 28. She has also added to her product line, creating body creams, scrubs, and aromatherapy sprays. In response to the pandemic, she has also branched into hand sanitizer.
“I felt like, after doing this for two years,” she says, “I had a sense that I have a great product, and I knew who my customer was, so I just told myself, ‘Just go for it!’ ”
The Pandemic Pivot
Since the pandemic, Pyne has had to pivot in terms of how she connects with loyal and potential customers, now that she cannot get her product out there and engage with people. She says that moving online has actually been a smoother process than she had imagined, helped in no small part by her background as a web developer. She also relies on her loyal clientele.
“My philosophy had always been just going slow to test it out, see how it’s working,” says Pyne. “I think it’s a good philosophy, because any mistakes I’ve made, I could just backtrack and try again.”
During this time at home, Pyne also has more time to focus on making more products, shifting 150-200 items across her catalog each month.
Pyne is acutely aware of the impact of nationwide stressors, including the election and the pandemic, and is especially keen to help people create an Oasis of peace in their homes with her product “when the world's going crazy outside of you.”
“There's even more stress involved if you're trying to homeschool your child,” Pyne says. “For me, there were definitely periods where I was like, ‘Okay, anxiety has crept in, and that's not going to be good for anybody.’ ”
As winter approaches, Pyne’s favorite candles right now are in her Escape Collection, which includes Summer Breeze (sea salt and jasmine) and Copacabana (mango and coconut).
“If it's snowing outside, I'm gonna light a candle that smells like the beach because I'm not taking in all this negative energy!” Pyne jokes.
Her signature candle for the season, however — to give us all the option of shifting into a positive and optimistic frame of mind — is the Let It Shine Affirmations Candle (black tea and bergamot), inspired by the gospel song, This Little Light of Mine. Not only does Pyne donate 10% of sales to social justice organizations, she is also adamant that the candle is symbolic of taking care of oneself, which Pyne says is critical at this specific moment of political upheaval and social unrest in the U.S.
“With all this [unrest and uncertainty] going on, self-care is a radical act,” says Pyne. “Choosing to still have strength, choosing to still have joy, that, too, is a form of resistance.”