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Happy Eighth birthday, Soy Much Brighter!!

Happy Eighth birthday, Soy Much Brighter!!

| Katie Upchurch

This lil biz is EIGHT years old this month! It's not clear what day I officially opened the business, because I really didn't realize it would grow into what it is today. Either way, it's been 8 rad, eye-opening, challenging, fulfilling, hard, educational, and special years. This business and the community it has forged has grounded me in ways that I didn't foresee in the outset of starting a candle company.

I am so grateful for the friendships and connections I've made over the years. I'm super grateful that you enjoy my creations enough to keep coming back! And I'm extra grateful that I've cultivated a team of really cool people that bring our candles to life everyday at the workshop.

I started making the candles in October 2014 in my small Natick, Ma apartment. I took the money from a bonus I received at my job and got enough supplies to make 20 candles. I watched YouTube videos by amateurs and through trial and error came up with my own recipes and process. I don't know if it was luck or what, but I thought the candles were good enough to start selling them only a month later. I listed them on Etsy, I signed up for arts markets, and I sold them in the retail section at my partner's mom's hair salon. And we still use the same exact recipes and process today!

My friends and family were the first to buy, lucky them! Haha JK. Actually, lucky me. Back then, the candles were not as aesthetically appealing as they are now. It's still crazy to me that folks bought them with the original look.

From the start, my main strategy was to vend at as many arts markets around New England as possible, since candles from a new business needed that real life interaction to trust that they would smell good. Doing these in-person shows created word-of-mouth and repeat customers (most of you!) which fostered the growth we saw over those first few years.

I was fortunate enough to be able to quit my job only 6 months after starting the business. I dove heavily into retail outreach and tried to get the candles in as many shops locally and around the country as possible. The first store I ever pitched to was Davis Squared in Somerville, Ma who still sells the candles to this day!

In 2016, my then-partner and I set out on a year-long cross country trip in a camper trailer with our pup and cat. I took the business production along with us. Yes, I made candles in 50 sq. ft. of space and used a lobster pot and hot plate to melt the wax. It was a wild time to say the least. I thought maybe I could find new shops to sell the candles and vend at different events across the states. While I was able to find markets to sell the candles in Los Angeles and Dallas, it was clear that those were not my target clientele. I did however find several shops to sell the candles with. A few of whom I am still in contact with and who still support the business. I met one of the shop owners while having wine at a tiny bar in Santa Fe, New Mexico!

That trip gave me with tons of inspiration for new candle scents. It was during that time that several of my custom blends were crafted. Midsummer Glow was inspired by the days I spent on the beach in Malibu. The Moon Phase Collection was born out of the magic I experienced traveling up and down the 101 of California and star gazing from our various camp sites at night. While the experience was like no other, I craved being able to grow the business which meant I needed more space. Back to New England we went! 

SMB saw the biggest growth when the pandemic hit in 2020. Folks were working from home and craved a homey ambiance while zooming the day away. So much so that I could not longer operate from my apartment and moved into my first 400 sq. ft. studio in Lowell, Ma. I hired on my first employee (Hi Bentley!) to help pack orders and a short 2 months later we already needed a second studio. So, we rented an additional 400 sq. ft. space in the same building to accommodate.

At that point it was clear those separate smaller spaces (one on the first floor, the other on the other side of the building on the second floor) were not a good long-term solution to our production needs. So I started looking for a warehouse early in 2021. The North Shore of Massachusetts was really calling to me, so I focused my search there. When nothing was turning up, a friend suggested I look for retail spaces. Having a brick and mortar crossed my mind from time-to-time over the years, but it never ended up panning out. I thought maybe I'd give it a look just for the heck of it. My first search turned out a space in downtown Beverly that included a super cute retail area and the perfect manufacturing space in the back. WITH a garage door - which was a must have for the types of supply deliveries we receive. I viewed the space the next day and was signing papers the following week.

I never had a retail space, but I vended at enough shows and had been friends with enough retail shop owners to trust that I could figure it out. And that I did. I gradually gathered furniture, display material, and products from other small businesses over the span of two months. We opened the Beverly shop on June 12, 2021 and it's been super fun ever since. I was able to hire on two shop keepers and one permanent candle maker to help with candle production. And that brings us to today! The candles have been on the shelves of over 500 retail shops and we've sold candles to every state in the country. Plus a few to other countries like Australia, Canada and the UK.

Eight years of nice smelling candles and incredible connections has left me feeling tons of gratitude. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and the business and our team. You're the reason we're here!

I'd love have you join in on the convo! How did you discover SMB? What was your first experience? What's your favorite scent? Let me know in the comments and I'll choose one person to send some birthday goodies to :D


  • Posted by Jill C. on

    Happy birthday, SMB! I think I first found your candles at a holiday market in 2016. I wanted every scent but picked just two and immediately started following on Instagram to find out where to buy more. I had been looking for a more environmentally friendly scented candle option and was happy to support a small business. My current favorite scents are Campfire Stories and Yule Blessings!

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