Oyindamola Apanpa, a visionary entrepreneur, founded a startup dedicated to creating wickless candles and scented products, aiming to mitigate the widespread issue of household property damage. Over a 5-year period (2015 – 2019), household candle fires resulted in injuries, fatalities, and ~$278 million in direct property damage (on average,~20 home candle fires were reported per day). With no background in web design, Oyindamola successfully built the company’s website and launched an effective marketing strategy using social media, also boosting brand visibility through farmers’ market events in the Dallas/Fort-Worth area. This initiative stemmed from Oyindamola’s health-conscious approach and the alarming discovery that about 15% of household fires are caused by candle burning. The product line, initially featuring a flagship wickless candle, expanded to over eight different offerings, all toxin-free and safe. These innovative candles, designed for use with a wax warmer, effectively eliminate the risks of flame, smoke, and toxins, significantly contributing to both community safety and user health. Oyindamola Apanpa’s entrepreneurial journey is a testament to innovative problem-solving and a deep commitment to health and safety.
Grayson Mask: I’m very curious about the benefits of a wickless candle compared to a traditional candle with a wick. Could you explain your preference for wickless candles?
Oyindamola Apanpa: Thank you for the question. I started focusing on wickless candles shortly after the pandemic began in 2020. Initially, I used traditional wick candles, but after extensive research, I found that they pose significant health and fire hazards. To elaborate, about 10% of household fires start from candle burning, which increases during the holiday season. Additionally, burning candles, even those made with clean ingredients, can release harmful substances. This is because the act of burning can transform these substances, leading to the release of unpleasant odors and harmful toxins, like carcinogens, which can cause respiratory problems and even cancer. This led me to develop wickless candles. I identified the wick as a core issue and eliminated it. I provide my customers with wax warmers, which can also warm tea or soup, to release the scents from the candles safely and effectively.
GM: Was there a learning curve in introducing wickless candles, especially since many people might not be familiar with them? How did you manage to educate your customers about this product?
OA: Absolutely, there was a learning curve. Initially, I was a regular customer of traditional wick candles, and my transition to becoming more health-conscious, particularly during the pandemic, played a significant role. I realized that certain sensitive products, especially those used by women, could affect hormones, which I didn’t want to contribute to. This realization led me to create wickless candles. To address your question, we mostly sell at events, like farmers markets and other in-person gatherings. We’ve found that customers who are accustomed to wick candles enjoy a tactile experience with the product. They like to smell, touch, and ask questions before deciding to purchase. Selling at these in-person events has been invaluable for receiving feedback and educating customers on how to use wickless candles. To make it easier for our customers, we offer our products in gift boxes or bundles. These include a wax warmer, several wickless candles, and an instruction card with pictures and detailed instructions. This way, if they’re gifting it, the recipient doesn’t have to reach out to the giver or to us for instructions on how to use it.
GM: Regarding your in-person demonstrations, particularly at the Dallas Women’s Expo, could you share some strategies or advice on how you made your booth stand out among others?
OA: What I did was incorporate my love of flowers into the presentation of my products. I add flowers to my candles to visually represent their scents, which is something you can’t do with traditional wick candles due to the fire hazard. This decorative approach extends to my soaps as well, where I include dried flowers, herbs, and real fruits. Given that my customers appreciate these floral and natural elements, I decided to mirror this theme around my booth to make it more inviting. My husband and I designed the booth ourselves, decorating it with both real and artificial flowers to catch the eye. We also had tables set up for product demonstrations to showcase how the candles are used and to spread a lovely scent around our booth. This strategy was effective as people passing by were drawn to the pleasant aroma, prompting curiosity about where it was coming from. This booth design not only made us stand out but also helped in creating awareness. Many attendees at the event were unfamiliar with wickless candles, so our booth served as a means to enlighten them and spread more awareness about our unique products.
GM: When you were able to secure the Small Business Growth Fund grant, I was curious about how you made your application stand out for potential grants and where you typically look for local small business grants.
OA: To make my application shine, I emphasized the mission I’m on. The application criteria included being a woman-owned business with at least a 51% ownership stake. In my case, I own 100% of the company, which I believe worked in my favor. Highlighting my mission to help prevent house fires and promote health consciousness was also crucial. Additionally, the unique appearance and qualities of my product, evidenced through the pictures I included, played a significant role. Our major differentiation factor is the uniqueness of our product, which is still relatively unknown to many. As for finding grants, I’m an alumna of various entrepreneurial and leadership programs, which often share details about grants. Social media is another vital resource; it’s brimming with information about grants offered by NGOs and other organizations that support small businesses. Networking is also key. I’ve made many contacts through different programs I’ve participated in. We keep in touch and share information about available grants. Furthermore, I regularly check websites of organizations I’m affiliated with, and having an account with them means I receive notifications about new grant opportunities.
GM: I’m also curious about your involvement with Impact Venture. What benefits have you noticed from being part of an accelerator program?
OA: Before joining Impact Venture, I had participated in another accelerator program, but Impact Venture was particularly intense. I often joke that it felt like doing my master’s degree all over again. Every session ended with assignments that required serious commitment and effort, similar to a rigorous academic program. Through this program, I not only learned a lot but also made numerous connections and expanded my network. One of the key outcomes was the ability to restructure my business. I realized that certain practices I was following would slow down my progress towards my goals. Conversely, there were things I wasn’t doing that were actually hindering my progress. With the knowledge and insights gained from Impact Venture, I’ve been able to restructure and redefine various aspects of my business. This includes rebranding, improving packaging, and preparing to enter retail stores. Prior to my involvement with Impact Venture, and with DFW CPG group, I wasn’t fully aware of the requirements and preparations needed for a small business owner to approach big retailers. The program facilitated meetings with mentors and experts in the field, who provided valuable information and guidance on what steps to take and how to be ready to engage with potential buyers from large retail outlets.
GM: You mentioned receiving valuable advice during the accelerator program. Has there been any particular advice from the accelerator or from mentors that has significantly impacted your business and contributed to its growth?
OA: Yes, there have been two major areas where the advice I received has been transformative. Firstly, in marketing—creating effective marketing campaigns has always been a challenge for me. The program helped me break down this problem into manageable parts and find viable solutions. The second area is in raising funds and scaling the business. Before joining Impact Venture, I didn’t fully understand the importance of having a detailed scale plan. My goals were relatively modest: grow the business, eventually hire a team, pay myself, and create employment opportunities. However, the program taught me to think bigger. Now, I have a clear scale plan with specific goals and a financial forecast. One of the most valuable skills I acquired was learning how to pitch my business effectively. This new skill was immediately put to the test last week in a pitch competition, which went really well. I plan to participate in more pitch competitions in the future. These experiences have been instrumental in the growth and development of my business, and I’m grateful for the guidance and knowledge imparted by Impact Venture and my mentors.
GM: Regarding the pitch at the Capital One Conference Center contest, did you learn anything about what people look for in a pitch or speaking engagement? If you have just 60 seconds, what should the focus be?
OA: The key takeaway from that experience, and what I would emphasize to others, is to sell yourself. That’s the most important part. The pitch was part of a program called We Dallas, created by Capital One to support women-owned businesses. Although I had participated in pitch competitions before, this was my first in-person event. I was quite nervous, but what I learned, and what will help me in future pitches, is the importance of being yourself.
It’s crucial to be bold and comfortable. Remember, no one knows your business like you do. The goal is to create awareness about your brand and convince the audience why they should invest in your business or purchase your products as consumers. Also, it’s important not to be too rigid. Approach it as if you’re casually talking to a customer at a farmers market or another in-person event. This mindset can make a big difference in how your pitch is received.
GM: Do you have any future goals for Honey’s Scented Company that you’d like to share?
OA: Yes, we have big plans, though some had to be delayed. We’re really hoping that by the second quarter of next year, we’ll be able to open our first brick-and-mortar store in Dallas, possibly in areas like Oak Cliff, Bishop Arts, Uptown, Downtown, or along Preston Road. This store will not only be a retail space but also a place for us to conduct candle-making classes for both kids and adults. Our customers love these classes, and having our own space will facilitate easier organization of these sessions, as well as provide a production area.
We also plan to include a small gift shop in the store, featuring our products and other items from women-owned businesses. An important aspect of our store will be to create employment opportunities, especially focusing on women and young adults who have faced abuse, providing them with a safe environment. This initiative aligns with our goal to create more awareness for Honey Scented Company. In line with these plans, we’re also looking into crowdfunding to raise the necessary funds.