Business Success Tips From Brenda Hunter of CT River Candles

One of the best ways to achieve business success on your terms is to learn from people who have achieved it on theirs. That’s why we love to spotlight our members here at the blog. Today, you’ll meet Brenda Hunter, founder of CT River Candles in Haddam, Connecticut.

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At CT River Candles, Brenda makes handmade soy candles that are available at her website and in 35 stores throughout Connecticut, New England and other states. They also offer fund raising opportunities, private label, and corporate gifts, and make candles for weddings and showers. Brenda has been a member of the Indie Business Network since October 2007. I asked her to share a bit about her life and CT River Candles, along with some of her best business success tips. Here’s a little of what she said.

Q1 TELL US ABOUT CT RIVER CANDLES

My business grew out of a love for handmade products and the need for a lifestyle change. In 2007, back surgery required me to take a 6-month leave of absence from my job as an IT director. During my time off, I began to research and make candles as a hobby, and it quickly become my passion. I reflected a lot during my time away from work, and eventually concluded that the IT field was no longer a good physical or mental fit for me. With the support of my husband, instead of returning to work after my time off, I started this business.

Turning my hobby into a business has not been easy, but it has definitely been rewarding. My friends and customers love that I chose to use soy wax, known for its clean and long burning properties.

Q2 WHAT IS YOUR BEST SELLING PRODUCT?

Our best sellers are our CT River inspired Mason jar candles. Customers love how the labels incorporate seasonal photos of the Connecticut River. Since our home and my studio is located on the Connecticut River, and we are boating enthusiasts, I never run out of product label materials. Our Mason jar candles are 16 generous ounces, and are available in 65 scents. We offer the option of dyed or un-dyed wax, and you can get a black or nickel lid to complement your decor. We also offer 8-ounce and 11-ounce candles, soy melts, candle accessories, and soy wax air fresheners.

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Q3 WHAT BUSINESS SUCCESS TIP CAN YOU SHARE THAT YOU WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD YOU BEFORE YOU STARTED CT RIVER CANDLES?

Decide what you will do, and what you won’t do, and stick to it for success in business.

For example, a year or so into my business I was approached by a company that wanted private label but they wanted me to use their fragrances and containers. The time and effort involved in doing that was not worth the return. Since then I explain to the customer what my guidelines are for these situations up front so there’s no confusion or wasted energy or misunderstandings.



Decide what you will do, and what you won’t do, and stick to it for business success.



Brenda Hunter, CT River Candles

Q4 WHAT SORTS OF THINGS DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING?

We love boating during the summer. We take our boat down the Connecticut River into Long Island Sound, out to Block Island, and even as far away as Martha’s Vineyard. During the winter months, we enjoy snowmobiling and antiquing in Vermont. Crocheting and gardening are also on my list of favorite things to do.

Q5 WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE PIECE OF BUSINESS ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE SOMEONE WHO IS STARTING OUT TODAY?

One of my best business success tips would be to research the market to see who your competitors are and if there’s room for your product or service, and do this before you spend a lot of money and resources starting a business. Think beyond local, and if your product will be attractive to a wider audience, find out who they are and how you’ll reach them. Realize that you may not be profitable for several years, and that building a business takes lots of time, hard work, and patience. Create a good pricing structure, especially if you want to attract wholesale clients. You need to look at the whole picture.

Q6 WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS GOING WHEN THE MOST CHALLENGING TIMES COME YOUR WAY?

When I see how far my business has come even though there’s been some years where I’ve questioned if all the hard work was worth it. It’s truly been a labor of love getting to this point and the icing has been the fantastic people I have met thru this journey. For example, one of my best friends is someone I met because of my business. She saw my advertisement in our local paper in 2007 and called to see my products. We have been friends ever since, and I have met other customers and friends through her. This has been repeated again and again. I meet new customers and store owners, as well as other business owners through the Indie Business Network, and all together, these wonderful things in my life inspire me to keep me going.

Q7 WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING A MEMBER OF THE INDIE BUSINESS NETWORK?

The Indie Business Network provides me with great peace of mind in that I have product liability insurance for my handmade candles. The icing is the wonderful networking and business resources that come along with it. Members freely and generously help each other, and Donna Maria and her staff provide great opportunities to help our businesses grow.


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The best product liability insurance, mentoring and coaching for creative and handmade entrepreneurs is at Indie Business Network. Click here to grow your business and live the life of your dreams today!
  • lorinova

    Admitting that you won’t be profitable the first couple years is so hard – but it’s still so worth it to take the plunge! Sounds like Brenda has a wise & well-thought-out business plan :)