Lighting Up Your Life
By Bruce Freeman
Carol Devlin, founder of JerseyLite Candles, became a candle maker because her survival of a life-threatening illness taught her that life is short. She realized that discovering something you really like to do is a gift that makes every day a joy.
A self-confessed workaholic, Devlin was often recognized for her outstanding contributions to the Atlantic City, New Jersey casino organization for which she worked. As a go –getter, Devlin chafed under the restrictions placed on her by the recovery process. To help the time pass and to provide a focus other than her illness, Devlin started making candles as a hobby. She gave them away to everyone she knew and people loved them.
Exactly one year after returning to her much loved job at the casino, she realized that she was back in the same stressful pattern and that she hadn’t lived up to the promises she made when ill to change her life. She quit that October day in 1999 and hasn’t looked back since. She decided that she wanted to make and sell candles and that she wanted to build something that would live-on, long after she was gone.
Working from her Mays Landing kitchen, Devlin perfected a fragrant candle which smells as good when it burns as it does when you hold it to your nose. Though it’s time consuming to create even-burning new fragrances, Devlin believes it’s worth it to be the best. She decided to make the candles affordable so that her friends could buy them, so overhead has been kept low. Her first delivery of 2000 jars made the move from manufacturing in a heated 5 x 8 foot shed to more significant space imperative. That afternoon, she and husband Bud, began looking for a new home with room for JerseyLite Candle to grow.
Soon installed in a 1000 sq. ft former limousine garage, JerseyLite’s first sales were through craft shows at local churches. With no formal knowledge on how to approach the market, innovative marketing ideas soon helped push JerseyLite’s sales along.
At Halloween during the first year of operation, Bud dressed up as a fire log and delivered a small sample candle and a brochure to local homeowners, door to door. People loved the candles and began ordering more almost immediately.
Working with a very small budget, the Devlins developed a web site, but realized they needed an image of size and respectability. Utilizing what they had on hand, they took a 34-foot RV that they didn’t really use any more and gutted it. Working on it themselves, they created a beautiful oak-paneled, rolling candle shop. Next, they creatively painted the outside of the RV to create a tasteful moving billboard and hit the road to sell candles in large mall, corporation and hospital parking lots.
The RV gives the impression that the company is large and well financed. The Devlins utilize the RV during high parking lot travel times (morning, lunch and evening) and sell directly to employees and visitors. Donating a portion of the sales to company charities helps smooth-over concerns for executives who have never been approached with a concept like this before. Working with elder-care facilities and hospitals highlighted the need for a no-flame alternative to candles, so Devlin created “aroma sand” and added it to her growing product line.
Professor Bruce’s Words of Wisdom
The Devlin’s innovative marketing approach highlights one of the qualities many successful entrepreneurs seem to share – good old American ingenuity. Now, JerseyLite has developed display systems for a vendor program as well as an independent distributorship program and is expanding rapidly. Once they create a larger base, they hope to open JerseyLite Candle stores.
The Devlins know that starting a business is not for the faint-hearted. It took five years to get up and running to the point where Carol feels she can concentrate on developing new products, while Bud handles sales. Still, Carol has stayed true to the promises she made herself when she was ill and invests in her personal health by working out, taking vitamin supplements, getting adequate rest and regular check-ups. The Devlins work very hard everyday, but they bask in the glow that the candles shed on their life.
Transport the store to the customer.
Could This Work For Me?
Approaching an entrenched market from a different angle can be successful when applied in a low cost way.