From Candle Making Hobby to Community Hero, Infusionsoft Celebrates Thriving Small Business
(Chandler, Ariz. – November 11, 2015) In celebration of Small Business Saturday and Shop Small, Infusionsoft is highlighting successful modern small businesses that are profoundly impacting the world. Milkhouse Candles is an example of how a small hobby can turn into a thriving small business that is positively impacting their local community.
From pastime hobby to $3 million thriving small business
Founders of Milkhouse Candles, Eric and Janet Sparrow, enjoyed making candles in their Osage, Iowa home together as a favorite pastime hobby. After giving candles away to friends and family for some time, they realized they could make extra side cash by selling them for a modest profit. It didn’t take long for a local fan base to take hold and for the Sparrow’s to realize they could make a business from this, which is exactly what they did in 2002. Eric quit his job as a third grade teacher to work on the business full-time, while Janet would help in the evening hours, until 2014, when she quit her job as an occupational therapist and became Milkhouse Candle’s VP of people. Fast forward, the now swiftly-growing $3 million business and owner of the largest soy candle manufacturing facility in the country has been adding production staff at an incredible rate.
“Many people assume they need to have a 9 to 5 corporate job in order to pay the bills or that they can’t make a living following their dreams. But as Eric Sparrow demonstrates, that is completely false,” said Clate Mask, Co-founder and CEO of Infusionsoft. “Anyone can live the life they want if they are willing to work hard for their success.”
New way of manufacturing candles: a product of American agriculture
Multiple research discoveries emerged on the levels of toxicity paraffin-based candles produce, such as the commonly cited research study conducted by South Carolina State University in 2009: Frequent use of certain candles produces unwanted chemicals. Essentially, paraffin wax releases carcinogens when it burns, similar to the pollutants that are emitted from the exhaust of a diesel engine.
Given that paraffin-based candles are predominantly found on store shelves, Eric and Janet decided to continue creating a great candle experience, but without the toxic risk. Eric stated, “We wanted to create the best possible future for our children and our children’s children. We knew it was time to use our passion and influence to make a bold shift in candle making and create a healthier alternative for people.”
The Sparrows were standing on a gold mine- surrounded by soybean farms that can be used to manufacture soy wax. Eric partnered with best friend and local farmer, Al Witt, to produce the soy beans used to create the all-natural candles.
Community revitalization: the ripple effect of a successful small business
In the summer of 2014, citing the financial impact of the 2008 American economic crisis, S.C. Johnson & Co. closed their soy candle manufacturing plant in New Hampton. This left dozens in the community without employment and the Sparrows without a soy wax distributor. Eric and Janet Sparrow jumped into action, invested in the community that first invested in them, and took over the 130,000 square foot facility with plans to bring back the jobs that the community lost.
“I was here when the original candle factory closed down, and I know how important those jobs were to our community,” said Chickasaw County Farm Bureau President, Travis Swehla, in a recent article on IowaFarmBuraeu.com. “It’s great to have Milkhouse Candles in our community and getting some of those jobs started again. I’m looking forward to their future in New Hampton.”
The21st Century way of running a small business: Powered by automation
- Keeping customers close with CRM solutions
Over the course of their business, Milkhouse Candles sold over five million candles. Handling that many customers as a small business can be challenging. Therefore, Eric did what most entrepreneurs do and researched a way to scale his business while still taking care of each customer. He leveraged Infusionsoft to manage his customer relationships using automation. His sales team now automatically gets notified when they have a lead, sends that lead a free candle, and still remembers to call them two weeks later to personally ask about their experience with it.
Eric said, “Infusionsoft allows us to treat our customers less like consumers, and more like humans…actually, more like friends. We know exactly who our customers are and how to take care of them.”
- New school practices for old school trade shows
There are a few reasons why trade show marketing won’t die anytime soon. In the case of Milkhouse Candles, smelling a candle is a part of the candle experience. Eric upgraded the trade show experience by using Mobile App, Snap by Infusionsoft. Using the app, he can simply take a picture of a person’s business card at the trade show and the Infusionsoft campaign he built launches after applying a tag at the point of entry. After a person stops at the booth and gives their contact information, they automatically receive an email with additional information on the product.
- Asking the experts: a fundamental practice to business growth
Selling a niche product and adopting modern marketing practices are not enough to be a successful small business, as Eric realized. He actively relied on the knowledge of small business experts and referenced educational resources.
Eric talked about the immense value Infusionsoft provided as a small business expert:
“There is so much I didn’t know, and so much I don’t know. Fortunately, Infusionsoft has a whole ecosystem of support and has more to offer than just a software solution. I can rely on the small business experts and community of partners anytime I need. They can take me where I need to go and walk me through the steps. Even better, they understand small businesses. When I was at ICON, even though Clate was speaking to a room of 4,000 people, I thought he was speaking directly to me and talking about my small business. He knew exactly what our challenges were and how to solve them.”
Before Implementing Infusionsoft:
- Revenue: $1.5 Million
- Employees: 13
After Implementing Infusionsoft in 2013:
- Revenue: $3.5 Million
- Employees: 33
Milkhouse Candles was recently recognized by the International Farm Bureau Federation with the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa Leader Award. Currently, Eric and Janet are focusing on the growth of their business and moving forward with the production of his new factory in New Hampton.
To read more about inspiring small business owners, read Infusionsoft’s small business success stories.