Name: Travis Troyer
Business: Basik Candle Co.
When Travis Troyer moved from Texas to California, he wanted to change more than just his home state. He’d spent ten years working in corporate America, and Travis was ready to be in control of his own future – and his own business. After signing up for a variety of creative classes at a local studio, Travis fell in love with the process of making coconut wax candles. In remarkably short order, Travis launched the Basik Candle Co., a company that proudly offers luxury candles at an affordable price.
Travis will be selling his Basik Candles at the Bazaar at this year's SOLD OUT QB Connect 2017 in San Jose.
Travis, tell us the story behind your business.
I worked in accounting and IT for about 10 years doing software implementation. While I was successful in my job, I was frustrated by my experiences in large corporations. For example, I’d get excited about projects that could potentially save the company a lot of money, make a process significantly more efficient, improve employee satisfaction etc., only to have it killed or get lost in a steering committee. It was so frustrating.
When I moved to San Francisco to be with my partner, I realized it was a good time to explore new options. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I knew I wanted to start my own business. I took some classes at WorkShop SF, and during a candle-making workshop, the instructor shared her story about starting her own business. It inspired me.
I spent about nine months in product development before releasing our Basik Candle Co. products to the world.
What separates your candles from the pack?
I always assumed the more expensive candles would have better, more natural ingredients. However, I discovered even the “best” brands use paraffin wax, fragrance oils with phthalates and lead-core wicks. I wouldn’t want these sorts of ingredients in any candle in my home! I knew I could make a candle with better ingredients and sell it for a lower price. Our coconut wax candles are environmentally friendly, with 100%-cotton wicks and skin-safe, phthalate-free fragrances.
My customers often tell me they’d pay twice as much as I charge for candles, but I love making products that are affordable for a wider audience. My margins are healthy, and I’m able to make a profit. I’m proud to create candles that people can buy over and over without worrying about their credit card bill.
What’s growth been like for you? Have you had to scale up?
We sell directly to consumers on our website, and we’re also in 50 or so retail stores across the country. I much prefer to sell my candles in small boutiques rather than big box stores because I like developing personal relationships with the retailers who sell the candles. I’ve taken a “curated” approach to sales, because I don’t want my products to be something you can find anywhere and everywhere. I’d rather be in a few stores in each major city than be in 50 stores in San Francisco.
We participate in a lot of local craft fairs such as the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. After our first fair, Basik Candle Co. blew up overnight! At that point, I realized I needed to scale up immediately. I went from having a couple of small melting pots to ordering a commercial melter. I also hired my first employees, and we moved into a commercial space.
What do you hope to gain from QuickBooks Connect?
I always learn something from conferences like QuickBooks Connect! Before I was invited to participate in the Bazaar, I was planning to attend with a regular ticket as a business owner. I knew I’d get lots of new ideas and connect with new people.
One of my main business challenges is procurement. For example, I spent months trying to find and source things like high quality, reinforced black cardboard packaging with white print. It wasn’t easy! I think some of the sessions at the conference will be helpful. Plus, I know there will be other business owners around who can help me troubleshoot.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My business has grown substantially since I started, and I still work a lot of hours. I believe in delivering the highest quality product possible, so I stay as close as I can to our production process. I spend 80% of my time doing production, and the rest managing orders, connecting with retailers and other administrative tasks.
I’m very busy, which makes it tough to find time to do any paperwork. That’s actually why I love QuickBooks – all my accounting is handled automatically. I only have to spend a few hours taking care of it each month.
At this stage in your business journey, what are you most proud of?
One of the things that led me to start my own business was feeling tired of all the red tape and inefficiencies in the corporate world. Now, I’m proud to be able to make intelligent, creative, flexible decisions quickly and be open to every idea. I also want Basik Candle Co. to feel like a family. I want to pay people a living wage and treat them with dignity so they feel valued and respected. That’s huge to me.
One more thing: I love sharing information and ideas with other business owners. At the Renegade Craft Fair, bouncing ideas off of other “makers” has been one of my biggest resources. When people ask me where I got my packaging or my labels, I’m always thrilled to pass along that information. It doesn’t hurt me to help someone else. It feels like a small way I can give back.
What advice would you give to a small business owner who’s starting out?
I encourage small business owners to think quality over quantity when they’re developing new ideas. Rather than trying to sell a lot of things, start by doing one thing extremely well. In my case, I'm planning on launching diffusers, hand soap and a number of other products. But I won’t start selling those items until my candles are as good as they can be.
The other piece of advice is to trust your instinct. You should always listen to what other people have to say, but at the end of the day, you have to trust your gut.
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