Maker Stories: Episode 61: D’Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company [Podcast]

Welcome to Episode 61 of the Indie Business Podcast! Today's Maker Story introduces you to D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company in Raeford, North Carolina. D'Shawn, a teacher by trade, started making candles as appreciation gifts for her co-workers. Everyone raved about them, so she started selling them at the local farmer's market and craft shows.

After teaching for 20 years, D'Shawn experienced a brief but life-changing conversation with her school principal that confirmed she'd had “enough.” She quit her job shortly thereafter, and began making and selling her candles full-time.

In this episode, you'll hear D'Shawn tell her Maker Story in her own words, plus you'll hear all about how she used grit and determination to secure her first studio space — the only one available in her entire county. One of the best things about this episode is the get-it-done entrepreneurial mindset D'Shawn displays. As she shares her experiences and how she makes business decisions, you'll see exactly how her approach has helped to propel her business to great success in just two years. Enjoy my interview with D'Shawn NOW!

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Episode Show Notes

Here are the topics discussed in this episode, with time stamps to help you find the information that most interests you:

  1. D'Shawn shares the story of how she started her business, including transitioning from her full-time teacher job to selling her handmade candles at local farmer's markets and craft shows. (starting at 2:50)
  2. Why D'Shawn tells people not to quit their day jobs. (starting at 7:30)
  3. How D'Shawn has organized her product line. (starting at 9:48)
  4. How the Southern Elegance Candle Co. sales strategy has evolved from the “shotgun approach” to one that is more selective. (starting at 13:34)
  5. D'Shawn shares her Amazon selling experience, and what she recommends you consider in terms of where you sell your products. (starting at 15:24)
  6. D'Shawn shares what guides all of her business decisions. (starting at 18:24)
  7. D'Shawn shares how she hired her first employees. (starting at 21:39)
  8. From a single wide trailer to a retail office maker space. (starting at 26:00)
  9. D'Shawn shares that she is determined, plowing forward even in her county, which is economically depressed (starting at 27:37)
  10. The importance of family support (starting at 30:39)
  11. D'Shawn is grateful for the options she is able to make in her life and her business. (starting at 33:56)
  12. Why D'Shawn is not interested in opening a retail store, and what is on the horizon for Southern Elegance Candle Co. (starting at 39:51)
  13. About the fur coat and the convertible Jaguar (starting at 41:25)
  14. D'Shawn's limited edition holiday scents (starting at 43:00)
It is hard work. It is worth it. I am sticking with it, says @dshawnr about her candle business.Click To Tweet

D'Shawn Russell, Southern Elegance Candle Company

Episode 61: Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode

In this episode, D'Shawn and I mentioned the following resources.

  1. D'Shawn's website: Southern Elegance online
  2. D'Shawn's Instagram: Southern Elegance on Instagram
  3. Online shop: Etsy
  4. Online megastore: Amazon
  5. Ecommerce platform: Shopify
  6. D'Shawn's county: Hoke County
A business decision is good, until it's not. (via @secandleco)Click To Tweet

D'Shawn Russell, Southern Elegance Candle Company

Summary of D'Shawn's Tips for Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs

  1. Decide to do it, and then figure out how you'll actually do it later.

    In business, you have to make decisions without knowing how you'll carry them out. D'Shawn shared that the most important thing is to just decide. The details will come later.

  2. Gather your supporters.

    Know what your supporters are good at and what they are willing to do to help you, and leverage that.

  3. Don't let your business take over your life.

    if your business it taking over too much of your personal life, ti does not have t. I don't need a multi company if that means I have to sac my relationship with my husband and my son.

  4. You don't have to explain yourself.

    Do what is best for you at any give time in your life and your business. You don't have to explain your decisions to anyone else. If you serve pizza three days in a rose because that's what works, then do that. There's no right way to do it. There's only what works for you,
    your family, and your business.

This is my race, and I'm going to run it the best way I know how. (via @@dshawnr)Click To Tweet

D'Shawn Russell, Southern Elegance Candle Company

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.