Student’s Candle Business Experiences Growth through Summer Founders Program
Last fall, Kelsey Lauer’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation (ENTI) class was challenged to make $500 in profit by the end of the semester. Lauer ended up surpassing that goal when she launched her unique candle business, Clove and Sprig.
“All my friends and family members use candles, and I love candles myself,” said Lauer, a junior studying public relations and advertising. “So, as a consumer, I saw the pain points – most of the candles sold at places like Target and Walmart burn too fast, they don’t fill up a room with a unique scent, and they often tunnel right through the center. 36 hours was the longest burn time I found – my candles have 82 hours of burn time, which gives a solution to someone who doesn’t have that much disposable income to buy a candle every single week.”
Lauer hand-pours all Clove and Sprig candles and makes them with 100% soy wax, which is biodegradable and burns clean with no smoke. Lauer said most candles are made with paraffin wax, which can be toxic and leads to a shorter burn time. Clove and Sprig candles also feature wooden wicks, which create a campfire crackling sound when burned. Lauer also said her startup is working towards selling 100% custom-made scents.
This summer, Lauer participated in the Invent Penn State Summer Founders Program, which provides students with $15,000 to work full-time at Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank on their startup, social good or non-profit idea over the summer. She said she has really enjoyed being around likeminded individuals and becoming a part of the entrepreneurship community throughout the course of the program.
“One of the biggest things that I learned through Summer Founders was how to really listen to my customers, and to not undervalue myself and my products,” Lauer said. “I had this preconceived notion that nobody would pay $25 for a candle, but there was a woman from California who paid $35 for one candle due to shipping costs, and then it happened again. You need to make sure you’re valuing yourself.”
Lauer said Clove and Sprig experienced unexpected growth this summer, when candles aren’t usually in season, so she really wants to be prepared for and facilitate that growth even more this coming fall and winter.
“What I love about working with Kelsey is that she has always been devoted to quality, regardless of where she was manufacturing,” said Ben Nason, Idea Catalyst at Happy Valley LaunchBox. “Between trying to maintain the temperatures, standardize scents, and manage fickle ingredients, it takes an exceptional amount of time and energy to keep quality at a high level. But despite all that, she has continued to grow her production without losing the ‘hand-made soul’ of the product.”
Lauer said her most recent accomplishment was getting her candles into Belle Mercantile in Bellefonte, a collective marketplace where a lot of local businesses sell their products.
“If you are a student working towards building a startup, don’t let other people’s achievements outweigh your own,” Lauer said. “It was hard for me especially this summer to take that chance and say I’m going to try something new on my own, while my friends and roommates got internships and were making steady paychecks. It can be hard to appreciate your own achievements, and I think if it’s something you really want to do, the act of going out and doing it is an achievement that shouldn’t be minimized.”
If you’re a Penn State student looking to spend the summer working on your own venture, applications for the next Summers Founders Program cohort will open in spring 2023 via the program website.
About the Summer Founders Program
The Summer Founders Program is a signature program of the Invent Penn State initiative and is provided in partnership with Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank. Startup funding is made possible through the donations of successful alumni entrepreneurs interested in supporting new student ventures. To learn more about supporting student startups at Penn State through a philanthropic gift, contact Heather Winfield, director of strategic initiatives in University Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.