While over 54% of Americans turned to cooking during the pandemic and 16 million new Netflix registrations have kept others occupied, some people became entrepreneurs. Jada Bednar and Ellie Ghingo, seventh graders at H.B.Whitehorne Middle School, and Ava Tsettos, a friend from West Caldwell who is a seventh grader at Grover Cleveland Middle School, turned a newfound hobby into a rapidly growing small business, JAÉ Candles LLC.
The trio met in early September through Bednar, who was friends with Tsettos from childhood and had befriended Ghingo as classmates. Out of curiosity and boredom, the girls visited a candle crafting website to learn how to make candles. They had no prior experience making candles, but took a trip to Michael’s, the craft store, to purchase supplies to give it a try.
Once discovering how much they enjoyed crafting together, the girls began selling their candles door-to-door and through word of mouth and social media. After seeing how much people enjoyed their creations, they started an Etsy page to see if their idea could grow. They added Facebook and Instagram and, by early October, the girls had sold more than 1,000 candles. An 8 oz. candle costs $16.50 and a 12 oz. candle costs $22.50.
“We started this idea out of something fun,” Bednar says. “We never thought it would take off like this, but social media helped a lot. It is really exciting to see our idea succeed.”
JAÉ candles are made with all-natural soy wax and low-smoke cotton wicks. Initially, the girls made candles in whichever scents they had materials for, but they then experimented with other fragrances to create original candles like Peppermint Eucalyptus and Hot Cocoa. Most of their holiday candles are sold out and they have a waiting list for their “New Year, New Light” 2021 collection.
The hobby became a job, with the girls working over five hours each day, including weekends, in Bednar’s house-turned-workshop. Since they are all doing remote school, they begin working by the early afternoon and finish by the evening, taking breaks to do homework and completing school assignments in between their virtual classes.
To keep up with demand, they split responsibilities, including not just the actual candle making, but also labeling and packaging. Efficiently working as a team to market their business, they are also learning a great deal about business operations: When they learned that Etsy would impose high fees on their sales if they sold more than $10,000 in a year, the girls turned their business into a limited liability company and created their own e-commerce website. They also got the rights to sell at the Metuchen Golf and Country Club and Fairchilds Market in Roseland, and these venues now comprise the bulk of their sales.
In addition to making the candles, the girls spent much of their working hours analyzing supply and demand to ensure that they have enough materials, and figuring out how to fairly distribute their product between local customers and retail locations. They are learning all of these entrepreneurial principles in a trial-by-fire as they navigate the world of business.
“We purchase materials on our own and take many trips to the craft store,” Ghingo says. “Each week we look at how many requests we have and whether or not we need to put up a waitlist on our website. We also track our budget closely and plan to use our profit toward business expansion and buying more materials.”
The girls agree that their biggest challenge is keeping up with a growing business, as they never dreamed it would take off so fast and furiously. Keeping up with sales and organizing requests for individuals, and now vendors, are things they tackle as a team.
“I’ve never seen young girls more committed to something to spread joy,” says Bednar’s mother Tanya Tamburin. “They begin working after school until late at night, by the end of the day, we have to tell them, ‘we’re tired!’ We support them in any way that we can, but they are so independent and self-motivated and doing everything on their own.”
The friends say their biggest surprise so far is the positive response to their idea. That was given a further boost when they were recently interviewed by CBS News’ John Elliott. They want to expand JAÉ and they are eyeing possible future careers in business.
“Everything we do, we do it together,” Tsettos. “Starting a business together made us closer friends and made people happy during a bad time. We would like to thank our loyal customers for their support. If the pandemic didn’t hit, we may have never started this new hobby!”