What started as a hobby quickly transformed into a business when companies like Anthropologie started contacting Jennifer Gunn about her boozy soy candle line, Wax Cabin Candle Co. Jennifer’s story starts with packing up her monotonous corporate life that required sitting in a cube all day to follow her passion of making delicious-smelling candles (with fun names like “Brunch”). We’re inspired not only by Jennifer’s ambition to find her “spark of joy,” but her dedication to raise funds for child victims of slavery around the world. This talented graphic designer sat down with us to discuss the book that inspired her major career move, her future goals of expansion and her favorite places to spend time with her daughter around New Jersey, like Alstede Farms in Chester.
Creator of Wax Cabin Candle Co. & NJMOMpreneur Jennifer Gunn
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Jennifer: Wax Cabin Candle Co. is a lovely, cozy and boozy soy candle line that offers unique scents, but also a pretty accessory for your table. I had noticed that candle lines were often catering towards one or the other, a beautiful scent, but a tragically ugly label or a pretty jar with a cheap paraffin scented candle. I wanted to carefully develop a thoughtful and beautiful candle from top to bottom – a candle that was a show stopper on your counter and filled the room with a soy scent that made you fill with delight.
Have confidence that you can be successful if you’re ready to push something beyond a hobby. Have confidence if you need to ask for capital. Have confidence if you need to ask your partner to help out more at home so you can succeed, and have confidence that even if you have a failure or bad feedback, eventually, it will be right. Keep going. – Jennifer Gunn, creator of Wax Cabin Candle Co.
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Jennifer: While sitting miserably in a cube at a previous corporate job (a trite storyline), I was trying to find a hobby that would spark joy. The goal was never to make money, just to find something for myself that wasn’t at the gym or supermarket or a boutique … something actually fun. At the time, the stress of being a new mom, sleepless nights and monotonous work days were weighing on me. Anyone with a child knows that your life changes focus from you to your child and if you let it continue that way you’ll feel lost. It’s very easy to let a hobby diminish and the Mom guilt takes over. After reading, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up, by Marie Kondo, I felt the ambition to make a major shift. The book is about organizing the physical stuff in your house… putting cluttered toys and clothes away, in order to declutter and “spark joy” through simplicity. The undertone of this book is that joy is the most important emotion to feel.
Two weeks after finishing Marie’s book I took the idea of sparking joy seriously and I booked my first trip since having my daughter who was two at the time. My husband and I visited Charleston, South Carolina. We stopped in a shop called, Candlefish, a brick and mortar gift and candle shop that I fell in love with. This industrial space was filled with the most thoughtful and visually beautiful gifts and candles, it was a graphic designers dream. I left the shop and thought – I’m going to design beautiful candles. I know that sounds painfully simple, but it was! I was going to go on a journey to make candles and aspire to make the most beautiful labels. Brunch was my first candle.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Jennifer: Once a week, I take my daughter to the library and she is normally decently behaved. One particular library day she decided to have one of those epic meltdowns which triggers other moms look at you and tell you with their eyes… don’t worry I’ve been there, honey. The next week I brought the librarian, Ms. Helen, a Wax Cabin Candle as a peace offering. She took the candle home and showed her daughter and granddaughter who instantly recognized the brand. Her granddaughter is a web designer from Iowa and said she loved the brand’s social media and marketing. The compliment and recognition made me feel like a superstar. It was the best feeling and a huge bonus to know that the brand was recognizable in the Midwest and not just locally.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Jennifer: My undergraduate degree is in design from the School of Visual Arts and my MA is from Savannah College of Art and Design. The focus of my MA was in product and display design. I love the entire process – the idea, naming, branding, production and marketing. I have zero experience making candles. That was a journey of success and hard failures. I read everything I could about being a Chandler (candle maker, not a Friends character), wax, wicks and vessels. For weeks, I burned awful smelling candles, candles that burned too quickly, too slowly or not at all. I figured it all out by trial and error.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Jennifer: Eight weeks after launching Wax Cabin Candle Co., Anthropologie contacted me. They wanted my candles. I barely knew what I was doing and I had signed a contract to make almost 7,000 candles in 20 weeks. My marketing plan to send candles to radio and podcasters had worked in my favor. Since I was either working in a cube or home alone, I often would listen to podcasts. I had a feeling that coming up with constant content wasn’t an easy job. I packed up candles and shipped them to all of my favorite podcasts that I felt had a relative audience in hopes that they would talk about them free on the radio. I was able to get on Z100 a few times, Ross Mathews’ Straight Talk with Ross Mathews, Housewives Kiki Show, Seattle Live with Carla Marie and countless social media posts. A marketing hunch I had regarding working with podcasts had worked.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Jennifer: Many people don’t know that I make candles. I have a full-time job, where I work remotely as a Senior Graphic Designer for a Pharmaceutical technology company. Wax Cabin is something that’s done in the early mornings before my daughter is up, after 5 pm, and on weekends.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Jennifer: Wax Cabin Candle Co. is moving. I am looking for a larger space to work. I’m ready to get bigger and I’ve always felt that in order to make that jump, I need to get a larger space than I need and to fill it. We are selling the Wax Cabin aka our home in Mendham, and are on the hunt for a home with a barn to revamp.
NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Jennifer: Wax Cabin has a candle called Unlikely Heroes Sunrise. This candle donates a percentage directly to the charity. The candle has appeared at Riley Rose and is available online. 20% of all profits of this candle will be donated to Unlikely Heroes, an organization that rescues, restores, and rehabilitates child victims of slavery around the world.
NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Jennifer: I have two non-parental role models. Joan Rivers is the first. I’ve always adored Joan because she was not only a fantastic, self-deprecating comedian but also a loving mom. To me, she was a great role model in showing that a woman doesn’t need to drastically change her personality and career and fit a mold once she brings a child home. Your career, humor, personality, and ambitions can still be intact, for the most part.
My second role model is Gabrielle Reece. Gabby Reece is a professional athlete and model married to the famous surfer, Laird Hamilton. Gabby is a 6ft 2”, strong, powerful woman with children. I am so impressed with seeing a very tall woman, bc I am almost 6ft tall and rarely do you see female height celebrated. Her dedication to health as an entrepreneur, author, athlete, model is an impressive feat. While these 2 women are dramatically different, I admire the type of moms they are.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom (or parent/role model) ever gave to you?
Jennifer: I think I learned the valuable lesson of being aggressive, but pleasant from my mom. She is able to tell you directly what she needs, but with a smile.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison
Edison was famous for never giving up in his search for the construction of the electric light bulb. The quote resonates with me and my personal mantra that, “eventually it will be right.” I tell myself this when I can’t figure out how to resolve a design issue or while I am working on any frustrating task. Keep going… eventually, it will be right.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Jennifer: I’ve always loved the beach. New Jersey in the summer is beyond fun, I adore Manasquan and Point Pleasant. In the fall, Alstede Farms in Chester is the best place to let your child run free and pet and feed the animals for only .50 cents. The winters are rough ha! I usually hibernate and make candles all winter.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Jennifer: Sometimes my daughter says something so ridiculous I actually cry laughing. This past weekend I took my daughter to get a Halloween costume. To celebrate the fact that she made a quick and fantastically inexpensive selection, I told her she could pick out a piece of candy, while we were in the check-out line. My almost 4yr old looked at me and said, “Don’t worry mom, I already got myself a candy.” Confused, I asked her what she meant, “Oh,” she said, “I picked some out and put it in my pocket.”. I didn’t realize kleptomania started at such an early age. Now, I did give her a verbal scolding but the best part about being a mom is drinking a glass of wine with my husband after she goes to bed and crying laughing at the absurd things she does.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Jennifer: I would tell them to have confidence. Have confidence that you can be successful if you’re ready to push something beyond a hobby. Have confidence if you need to ask for capital. Have confidence if you need to ask your partner to help out more at home so you can succeed, and have confidence that even if you have a failure or bad feedback, eventually, it will be right. Keep going.
For your own candle during the month of November, use discount code NJMOM for 10% off.