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Riley Asks: A Chat With Rose Powell of Rose + Co Candlemakers

Riley Curry sits down with 14-year-old entrepreneur Rose Powell to discuss how Rose got started as a young business owner, what her creative process looks like and the lessons she’s learned during her entrepreneurial journey. You can shop Powell’s candles on the Sweet July website and in-store.

Riley Curry: I’m eight. I heard you started Rose + Co Candles when you were my age. How did you get started?

Rose Powell: My dad had started making candles just for around the house as a hobby. So I started making them with him, just to pass the time. And we got a lot of new neighbors in our neighborhood, so we gave them to them as welcoming gifts. They really enjoyed them, so we decided to try selling them. My parents used to have these things at our house called trunk shows, where they would sell their products to people that they knew, who would come to our house, and some of their friends who also had businesses would still sell their stuff. So I decided to try selling my candles at one of their trunk shows, and it worked out really well. We just kind of kept selling them after that, and the business just kind of grew from that.

Curry: Is it fun to have your own business?

Powell: Sometimes it’s a little bit stressful. A lot of people just have to do work, but since I’m in school, I have to do work and I have to do school. But it’s really fun to just have a little bit of freedom, and it’s kind of like pretending to be an adult sometimes. I feel like it’s kind of similar to going to an amusement park and getting to ride in those toy cars—you get to pretend to be an adult for a little bit.

Curry: How do you come up with the names for your candles?

Powell: We kind of base the names of our candles off of either inspirational things or things that are really popular in culture. One of our candles is named [after] a really popular line in one of Lizzo’s songs. And then another candle is named “Herstory” and it’s kind of like an uplifting candle, it’s for all the women in our lives and in the past that have paved the way for all the girls and boys of this generation and the present generations. We really try to either make them a cultural reference or something that has a good message behind them. We basically just sit down and write a really long list of names and then once we pick scents we pick names that go along with those scents that we think would match well with them.

Curry: Is there any one candle you love the most?

Powell: My favorite candle is probably “Boss Life.” I personally am very sensitive to fragrances—it’s kind of funny because I work with fragrances all the time, but I can get sick very easily from very strong fragrances. And it’s a strong fragrance, but it’s not like a nauseating one. So I really like that one. And I also just like the name “Boss Life.” It’s kind of just like you’re a boss no matter what anyone else says, you know, and so I just really liked the message behind the name as well. That one’s definitely my favorite candle.

Curry: What is your favorite part of the business?

Powell: My favorite part is just hearing how happy it makes other people. I always get such nice DMs and comments from people and lovely emails. Especially when we get repeat customers, when they write little notes on their orders and talk about how much they loved our candles, or they post about us on social media and how much that really helped them and made them happy. And especially the people who are working as police officers or nurses, just the fact that when they come home after those difficult jobs during COVID, and it just brings them a little bit of relief and relaxation—I feel like that’s the best part of it all, just making people happy a little bit. The fact that my craft can do something to make people feel a little bit less stressed out and a little bit happier is really fulfilling for me.

Curry: What’s it like working with your dad?

Powell: It’s really good, especially because I’m still a child. We have people that work with us that are adults, and technically I’m their boss and it’s kind of an awkward relationship, because you know, you want to be respectful, but at the same time, you’re the boss of someone. So it’s easier with my dad, because obviously it’s my dad, and it’s not like I’m going to be uncomfortable around my dad. Also it’s kind of fun, because then I have some sort of authority that I wouldn’t have unless I had a company and I get to boss him around sometimes, which is always fun, to boss around your parents, since they’re always bossing you around. Sometimes it’s difficult because obviously it’s your family and there’s this saying—don’t mix family with business. Sometimes that’s true, because sometimes it’s difficult to separate personal from work life, because they’re so blended together. But I think especially since I’m still a child, I feel the best adult to work with is my father or my mom, or just someone that I’m really close to. It’s honestly just fun to work with my dad because everything’s just a lot easier that way.

Curry: What is the process of making the candles?

Powell: First we have to melt the wax in this big industrial thing that we call the wax melter. And then while the wax is melting, because it takes a long time, we put wicks in the jars, and we use these things called wick stickers that help the wicks adhere to the bottom of the jar. And then when the wax gets hot enough, we add the fragrance oil, and we have to mix that up, and we have to let that cool down. And once the wax has cooled down, we pour the wax into the jar and then put these things called wick bars on the wicks which keep the wick in place while the wax is cooling. And then we let it harden overnight. Afterwards, we take off the wick bars, clip the wicks, put on the jars and any finishing touches like labels. We also wipe down the jars in case there’s any wax spillage on the end, and then they’re ready to be sold.

Curry: What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever experienced starting and growing your own business?

Powell: It’s just kind of getting our brand out there. In the candle business, there are so many different candle companies. It’s really just like, ‘what makes you different from other candle companies?’ And also marketing in general. I am definitely not an expert in marketing. And my dad is not an expert in marketing, especially like online because so much marketing now is on social media and stuff. You really have to work hard on creating your own brand. My brand has grown a lot as I have grown and my style has grown as well. So branding changes a lot.

Curry: I read that a portion of the sales from your candles goes to supporting girls’ education. That’s super cool! Where did you get that idea?

Powell: When I grow older, I want to be an activist specifically for women’s rights, gay rights and also African American rights. I have the kind of platform that can really uplift girls around the  world and show that no matter your gender, no matter your race, no matter your age, your sexual orientation or anything like that and no matter what other people say, you can really achieve your goals if you try to for it. And I feel like if I have a platform in which I can spread a positive message, I really want to do that. I feel like growing up in America, we just take things for granted that in other countries girls don’t have and we don’t even realize it. To us, education is just a basic necessity. For a lot of girls around the world, they don’t receive that kind of education, they don’t receive that basic right and necessity and I think it’s really important to try to give back to those girls and try to help them out as much as I possibly can. Even though I’m still young, I’ve experienced a lot of times when people have told me I couldn’t do something because of one factor or another. It really hits an emotional chord for me to see what happens to those girls who are told they can’t receive education because of their gender. And so I think my main goal is always to try to uplift and give voice to those who don’t have a voice of their own. And I just think it’s really important to give money and proceeds to organizations that do exactly that.

Powell: I was wondering, do you have any interest in starting a business or doing anything like that?

Curry: When I grow up, I want to run my own business and I want my business to either be making toys—half of it I want to go to charity and the other half I want to save up.

Powell: I feel like people would really like that because some of the profits go to charity and also, if you have something special about your dolls like, you know, something that maybe helps kids get over fear or another benefit for kids. I know a lot of my dolls that I still use to this day are things that bring me comfort and when I’m feeling down, I can just hug one of my teddy bears, and then I feel better. You know, something that kids will want to use for a long time. I think toys are a really good thing to do.

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