“I never planned for this to happen,” says Kelli Gaertner when asked about how she established her business, Kanda Candles. When she was a single mother, she worked two jobs to make ends meet. “One day, I expressed to my mom that I couldn’t even afford to purchase a vanilla soy candle,” Kelli recalls. “She asked, ‘Why don’t you make one?’”
While Kelli thought it was a joke, her mother was serious. She purchased her daughter a candle-making kit; and, after a few attempts, Kelli perfected a vanilla candle. Word that Kelli could create incredible candles quickly spread, and soon, people started inquiring about where they could purchase her products.
”After a lot of thought and some online marketing classes, I decided to take the leap to Instagram in 2016,” she shares.
In 2018, she bought her first manufacturing location, which also serves as a retail store.
However, like many people, Kelli feared losing her business because of the COVID pandemic. “The day I signed the lease for my second location was the day we went into lockdown,” she explains. Although she had bad days, she persevered. “I made it through, and the candle business helped me survive,” she says.
Looking Toward the Future
As she has built her business, Kelli believes her biggest “win” has been discovering her creativity. She also loves that she can give people a second income, collaborate with various rescues to help raise money for their causes and meet new people who support her dreams.
Kelli’s hard work has paid off . . . and she isn’t slowing down. “My goals for my business are to continue creating the most amazing-smelling candles and to expand into a new space in the next two years,” Kelli explains.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Kelli knows firsthand that launching a business is taxing. “This is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, so you need to have a strong support system. I’d like to thank my husband, Art, my parents, Ken and Jane, my brother, Ken, and my two best friends, Lori and Christy. I would never have made it this far without them. They all believed in me, no matter what, from day one,” Kelli says gratefully.