SOUTHERN ELEGANCE CANDLE CO. - OWNER, D'SHAWN RUSSELL SHARES HER STORY AND ADVICE ON STARTING A BUSINESS

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I met D'Shawn, owner of Southern Elegance Candle Co., when she joined the R.Riveter Post to Pillar collection (click HERE, to check it out). I immediately felt like I knew her for years in our short conversation over candle scents for her line at R.Riveter. At this time she had been in business for almost a year and was already in 30 stores in North Carolina. I was blown away by her tenacity, enthusiasm, knowledge of business, and overall passion for her company. I truly look up to D'Shawn and respect her opinion! She has recently been a wealth of inspiration to me.

D'Shawn wasn't always "the candle lady." She worked in education as a teacher, educational facilitator and also an administrator.

 

I actually started the company because, in a moment of frustration, I quit my job. Since, I didn’t have any other plans, I decided to take my candle hobby and turn it into a business.
— D'Shawn Russell

 

Were you nervous about developing a product that you could possibly have a lot of competition? If so, what made you overcome that and launch Southern Elegance?

I wasn’t really worried about the competition because I was so busy running my own race. I knew I wanted to be the best, but I never looked beside me to really get an idea about what was really happening in the industry (a move I don’t recommend). I have no business background and had no idea about what I was doing. As a result, I didn’t know how hard it was going to be or the things I needed to worry about. So, I didn’t worry about a lot of things. I didn’t have any real fear of failure because I knew I could always go back to teaching.

 

As we all know starting a business takes a lot of time and dedication? What drives you to keep going?

I like being #1.

 

What do you think lead to the rapid success of Southern Elegance?

Strong branding and a clear vision. My brand is pretty direct... it is all (good) things Southern. If you are from the South, live in the South or even visited the Southern United States, you get what I am doing. And, I did every craft show, festival and vendor event I could find. I got to know my customers very well. I got a lot of feedback from doing these events and talking to them. I used that information to help narrow my focus even further when choosing new destination name, and fragrances for the candles.

 

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What inspired you to name your company Southern Elegance? Does that same inspiration lie in the names of each candle?

Honestly, Trademark issues. That wasn’t my first choice for a company name. But, it was one I could trademark. Once I was able to get the trademark, I then developed the whole brand around that name. So, the candle names and fragrances would be a reflection of living in the South.

 

What do you see in the future for Southern Elegance?

Can I say world domination?

 

I love it! I think you can drop the mic after that statement. What advice would you give someone starting their own business?

Don’t do it. It is hard work, your relationship with your friends and family will suffer. You will have no time or money. You probably won’t make a profit until year 4. If that warning is enough for them to quit, they don’t have what it takes. If they still do it after I tell them everything that can go wrong… then they will probably succeed. If they don’t care about that stuff, and feel like they can figure it out and weather the storm for 4 years… then take the plunge.

 

Since we are in the midst of the holiday season, What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Being with my family! My sisters are the best sisters EVER! And they are so funny we laugh and have a good time whenever we get together.

 

What is your favorite holiday dish?

Whipping Cream Pound Cake. My mother in law taught me how to make it.

 

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