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Guelph candlemaker is on fire

With quirky names like “Workin’ Pine to Five” and “Pear Pressure,” candlemaker Katrina Bell’s success with her business, the Copper Bell, just makes scents.

Collage of various candles available at Copper Bell

For customers that missed going out for brunch during the pandemic, candlemaker Katrina Bell had the next best thing: an aromatic candle made with a blend of grapefruit, orange and champagne, aptly named “Day Drinking.” With laugh-out-loud monikers and unique scent combinations, it’s little surprise that The Copper Bell quickly outgrew its home-based space in Guelph, Ontario, after its first year. Katrina, a former Business Development Manager, originally crafted creations as a side business until COVID-19 prompted her to switch to full-time.

As a long-time candle-lover, she was dismayed in having to give up her sweet-smelling décor after the birth of her daughter. Unfortunately, the ingredients now brought on uncomfortable headaches. Diving deeper, she found that using organic soy wax and phthalate-free fragrances kept the scent and eliminated the side effect. She uses the natural material to create, as her motto states, ‘Soy candles that don’t suck.” Katrina shares how her business became a burning success.

Rogers Business: First off, how do you come up with these great names for the candles?

Katrina: I have jokingly called it the naming committee for years. I’ll come up with a new candle scent and a friend and I will just make jokes back and forth about an ingredient in the candle.

Rogers Business: How much of your personality is part of the brand?

Katrina: I feel like the brand is me in a lot of ways. It's such an extension of me and my life, and my terrible sense of humor!

Rogers Business: Why do you think candles are so popular?

Katrina: I just think there's something so cozy and comforting about a natural flame. People are looking for little bits of comfort. And if that's a candle or getting your nails done, it’s like a small luxury that still allows you to feel like you're treating yourself when everything else is really difficult and hard.

Rogers Business: What's the biggest challenge in operating as an online shop?

Katrina: We're in an industrial area in the city. There’s no foot traffic. The only people who come in are people who know me. I think just the constant struggle for anyone online is marketing and getting in front of new eyes or even the same eyes and reminding people that you exist. There’re new little candle companies every day because there's very low barriers to access. So, a lot of people, especially over the pandemic, picked it up as a hobby and would start selling. Finding a way to stand out is key.

Rogers Business: You share tips and lessons online for other small business owners. Why did you decide to do this?

Katrina: I'm still very new but as a small business owner I see other small businesses posting and I see people struggling with things that I managed to figure out. I get a lot of joy out of helping people and if I can share a tip that helps, why would I not do that?

Rogers Business: When did you know it was time to move out of your home and into a dedicated space?

Katrina: It kind of took over most of my house. I had a little 10x10 office, but it started spilling into the hallway and then it took over my dining room. I look back at pictures now and laugh. Thank God my husband was willing to put up with that!

Rogers Business: How do you come up with your scents?

Katrina: Just a lot of experimentation and playing around with different scents and then burning them, giving them to friends, saying, OK, what do you think of this? What's your feedback? Does it smell too much like a public bathroom?

Rogers Business: You feature a customer on your website in a section called “Becci's Favourites.” What is the story behind this?

Katrina: I just thought it would be so cool to highlight real people who like my product and who have their own opinions. There’s a unique collection of things that she's interested in. It's just a different way to think about how you present your products and information.

Rogers Business: What advice would you give to other women who are thinking of starting their own business?

Katrina: I don't know anybody who works for themselves or who's done anything in life that hasn't failed at something. I think reframing failure is important. If you try something and it doesn't work out, it's not the end of the world. It's just a lesson for you.

Rogers Business: Where can we find your business online?