Her kitchen looked like a mad scientist had gone even madder. Wax stacked from floor to ceiling. Bottles of essential oils and fragrances covered every surface. Her five children helped her play and experiment. Leah McHenry loved every minute of it—creating handmade candles from scratch. She had never made a candle before in her life. But she was pursuing adventure and fun while taking a break from her other successful business. The result? A new handmade candle startup that made $62K in the first month. At just 15 months into this venture, revenue hit $2.5 million - and the team now has 25 employees.
Leah McHenry's business is Mythologie Candles. She sells handmade candles for fans of myth, legend, folklore, and fantasy. As an independent Celtic metal recording artist, Leah was preparing to release her fifth studio album. She set out to make an exclusive candle collection to accompany her album to facilitate a multi-sensory, immersive listening experience for her music fans.
Her vision rapidly exploded into a raging success. What started as a fun idea for her music fans became an in-demand brand, featuring multiple candles to match fantasy themes and home décor.
Leah is a member of The One Percent.
Resting for a Beat or Two
Leah never dreamed candle making would become more than a fun experiment while she was taking a much-needed break from her other business. Her first successful business was an education-based company. Through it, she taught musicians how to market themselves without a label. As an independent artist, she had years of firsthand experience in the industry. She wanted to share what she had learned with others.
Leah said she knew there was a serious need in the marketplace for guidance in the industry. So she felt like it was a promising business idea. After launching her course, it took off—fast! She was making seven figures within six months. Her husband, Steve, was able to quit his construction company. She went from a stay-at-home-mom of five to a leader in a hot industry.
However, she quickly discovered that running her course came with a lot of stress. From learning to be a copywriter to fighting off troll comments so common in the info marketing education space, Leah eventually burned out. She realized she needed to take a step back and recharge. As a result, Leah took the summer off. That's when she decided to pursue something fun to her, something she could enjoy with her kids: candle making.
Joy Lit a New Path
As Ryan says, 'When you do something for fun, that's when the magic happens. Do it because you want to. Then, when it takes off, you will often find there's nothing to lose."
She first thought of making candles to go with her music when she was producing her holiday album. She imagined how having the right aroma to go along with her albums would take the listening experience to the next level. Leah and the kids got to work in the kitchen. They combined phthalate-free, pet-friendly fragrance oils, premium coconut wax, and crackling wooden wicks to create a hand-poured, slow-burning, eco-friendly candle.
"The entire process was like a big, messy, fun family experiment for all of us. We definitely got our hands dirty!"Leah McHenry
Leah found conducting competitor research equally entertaining. She ordered candles from several different vendors in her area and assessed how they were doing things. What kind of box did they use? What type of packing tape worked best? Did they write a personalized thank you note? What felt special, and what felt "blah" about each candle? Did they try to upsell? She rated the competitor products and took note of what she loved. That way, she could implement those features into her creations.
Steve also got involved in the business, taking on a chief operating officer role. They put no real capital into the business to start and didn't take out loans or borrow from her other companies. Pre-orders funded everything, including a warehouse, commercial equipment and supplies, and staff. They just recently hired their fifteenth employee.
It’s Like Someone Lit a Fuse Under This Rocket
Leah says that the research she put into the business paid off. They were able to nail it right out of the gate. Within nine weeks of beginning to take orders, hitting six figures helped her know this was a business they could pursue and scale successfully.
Mythologie Candles launched six scents at a time. Because selling online doesn't allow for sniffing, their $20 sample pack sells like hotcakes. Once the customer buys the sample, they move onto purchasing a full size in their favorite scent. That virtually eliminates the work of reacquiring customers.
"Nobody questions paying for a candle. In my music info marketing business, people often thought they should get guidance for free. That gets exhausting. Mythologie Candles has truly been a joy business."Leah McHenry
Reveling in the Family Affair
Leah continues to homeschool her five children, ages 14, 12, 11, 9, and 5. Their homeschooling routine includes reading time each day. She reads to them whatever she's reading, like Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat by Michael Masterson. They find it interesting because they see it come to life before their eyes.
"They are right in the middle of it all—dinner table discussion, the business obstacles and challenges. They've heard the good, the bad, and the ugly, and they are also experiencing the successes with us," said Leah. "Through our journey, we encourage our kids to explore ideas without consequences, try things, change their minds, and learn how to follow their interests and gifts."
Leah's daughters are interested in homemade slime, so they've explored what it would take to run a business. She had them write an avatar sheet and consider the possibilities. They've learned so much outside of a formal homeschool curriculum.
It’s Good to Be Your Own Person
Because Leah considers herself to be her business's ideal customer, marketing has been effortless.
"Mythologie Candles is a sister brand to my music, which means there's a lot of crossover audience. In a nutshell, it's Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones nerds—a particular culture. Knowing that I am my customer makes it easy."Leah McHenry
While marketing has been pretty easy, Leah's business has encountered other challenges along the way. Like most businesses, COVID-19 threw a wrench into her supply chain. They dealt with the issue by being transparent and managing customer expectations. They made it clear it wasn't an "Amazon next-day thing."
She also said bootstrapping the business was a significant challenge. They committed to avoiding a debt situation with the candles. So it forced her to get very creative and avoid unnecessary spending. Leah knew profit had to stay #1 because she wanted this to be a fun business, and profitability is how you keep it fun.
Mythologie Candles currently only uses Shopify as its sales channel, not Etsy or Amazon. Leah says they want to focus on getting the production kinks ironed out before moving to Amazon or other channels. At the moment, their marketing focus is on running Facebook ads and building an email list with the help of an in-house marketing manager.
Leah McHenry's Singing Our Song
"As cliché as it sounds, it's so important to follow a passion. Turning passion into a profitable business is highly motivating. But if your heart and soul aren't in it, it will show in the numbers," said Leah. "If you lose your passion, something has to change. It might be worth taking a step back to see what happened along the way."
When it comes to Mythologie Candles, Leah knows the business must continue to be fun for her, or it isn't worth it. Her game plan is to simplify her life and enjoy the ride. She believes the process may inspire her to do another album sometime soon. Mythologie Candles is currently selling fall scents like Blood Moon Sky, Samhain Harvest, Gothic Cathedral, and the Mystical Autumn Sample Pack.
You can create your own immersive experience with Leah's music and Mythologie Candles. Find her unique Celtic metal albums on Bandcamp or stream on Spotify. Then, visit MythologieCandles.com to choose your favorite candle. (And yes, researching this article may have sparked a few purchases!)