How Cork & Candles Built a Successful Candle Business Around Customer Experience
Enter Cork & Candles, a highly successful brick and mortar candle shop in Pennsylvania that started as a local family business. Cork & Candles offers customers a unique experience when they enter the shop; a fragrance library filled with scents that bring back powerful emotions and memories, and that allows them to create a candle to take home with them by the end of their visit. Customers can even bring their favorite beverage to pair with a fresh charcuterie board or flatbread from their in-house menu.
Cork & Candles has become so successful, they’re even looking to expand to franchising.
We interviewed Founder and CEO Kenny Straub on the Handmade CEO Podcast, and he covered the origins of the business and how his family has built a successful candle business around customer experience. He also touches on some of the marketing initiatives that have made his family owned business such a success.
In this article, we’re focusing on the top 3 marketing tips that Kenny has found helped he and his family build a successful candle business.
1. Local Partnerships
Local partnerships have played a huge part in the success of Cork & Candles.
With any small business, word of mouth is key to getting people in the door. This is true whether it’s the doors of a physical brick and mortar store, or the “doors” of an online store. Partnerships are one way to increase word of mouth referrals. Partnerships also build interest within the local community in a highly authentic way.
The partnerships that Cork & Candle have focused on building have become a cornerstone of their company values. They’ve partnered with local yoga studios, local distilleries, and breweries. One way they’ve partnered with these local businesses is to co-brand and co-promote each other on social media in order to share each other’s eco-systems and audiences. It’s a way to build brand awareness for each other, build up the community, in addition to driving revenue for both businesses.
2. Gathering Authentic Reviews / Proactively Spreading the Word
Kenny touched on how for a small business, it is key to find ways for customers to proactively spread the word. One way to do this is through in-store reviews. Because Cork & Candle is a highly customer-experience based business (customers come in and can build their own scent), they have implemented a QR code system in their store so that customers can take a picture by the end of their experience and leave a Google review. This allows them to gather reviews on the spot, as customers have their experience top of mind. This closes out the experience and reduces distraction, and word of mouth has spread quickly with this method.
3. Creating Memorable Experiences
Kenny discusses a memorable experience of a particular customer who had recently lost a friend. She wanted to do something for a personal day, and she came in to make a candle in her friend’s memory. Part of this goes back to core memories that scents offer. This experience made a huge impact on her day.
But Kenny touches of something so important here: Being present for someone to create a core memory in the store, and really getting to know your customers on a personal level, is key to creating memorable experiences that will increase word of mouth and brand loyalty. Being present and adding that personal touch can also open people up to giving honest feedback on the spot. This feedback will help you grow and improve your business.
Tips for Starting a Candle Business
Kenny touches on a few tips for starting a candle business, which he mentions is actually quite low-barrier to get into:
- Figure out what it is you want to build your business around.
- Figure out who you want to sell to. What values are important.
- Don’t offer EVERYTHING – your business can’t be for everyone. Example: There are many different kinds of waxes such as soy, paraffin, beeswax, etc. There are different people within your community who will feel very strongly about the ingredients in your candles, and the less chemical testing you need to do, the easier it will be for you to find your audience. Try to focus on one type of wax and one type of wick.
- Get off the couch and start doing it.
To listen to the full episode with Kenny from Cork & Candle, click here.