In April of this year, after spending much of the previous 12 months navigating teaching methods that bounced from virtual to in-person with restrictions, to in-person with fewer restrictions, a lightbulb went off over Joe Weaver’s head. The lightbulb — an idea — centered around making and selling his own line of candles, something that had for some time been flickering in the mind of the physical education and health teacher at Gravelly Hill Middle School in Efland.
About 20 years ago, when he and his family lived in Michigan, Weaver dabbled in candle-making, using paraffin wax, mostly as a way to do something he found to be fun, and because his family enjoyed candles, it was an alternative to the expensive name brands. That’s about as far as he went with making candles then, as the Weaver and his family would later move south to North Carolina, where he was essentially hired on the spot for a teaching position with Orange County Schools.
Jump forward a couple of decades to the Covid pandemic, and the thought of making candles returned to Weaver. “The effect of being home as a teacher, being home the length of time that we were, gave me some time to resettle my thoughts and goals,” he said. “I just said, ‘If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it.’”
In early spring, Weaver again began researching candle making. He opted against using paraffin wax as it is a byproduct of petroleum, and instead chose all-natural soy wax and cotton wicks. He researched different jars and label styles.
But what would he call his line of candles? He liked the word ‘wicked,’ because it could be interpreted two different ways: ‘wicked,” like something sinful; and ‘wicked,’ like something with a wick. Like a candle. Weaver didn’t want to use his name, but decided he was OK with his nickname, which is ‘Weave.’ Wicked Weave’s Candle Studio was born.
“My slogan is ‘A Man Cave Creation,’” he said. “Back in maybe January or February, I started doing some stuff in my garage and kind of created a man cave. I got a projector and some sports memorabilia. I just settled on that slogan. It all just came together on that label.”
Weaver sold his first candle on May 17. The man cave part of his garage now is where he devotes every Sunday to making candles. “Once I bought a wax melter that melts 65 pounds of wax in an hour, almost every Sunday, I can whip out over 100 of these little jar candles.”
When Weaver was first launching his small business, he planned to focus on online sales. He understood he might have to do a market or craft show here and there to get his name out, but his website was where he expected to do most of his business. After doing a Saturday market in Raleigh, Weaver was hooked on in-person shows.
“Every time I sell something to someone and they like it, I get an adrenaline rush and it’s just addicting,” he said. “With candles, people want to see them and smell them and touch them, and and it’s hard to know what something is really like if you’re seeing it for the first time on a website. So it’s really something that needs to be out there.”
The only real drawback to shows, Weaver says, is the physical toll can be exhausting. “I have to haul all my stuff and candles are heavy. It’s a job and it’s a long day. It’s exhausting but it is a lot of fun when you get real positive feedback. It’s good for the psyche.”
While doing markets and craft shows have led to online sales from previous customers, it has also spawned opportunities to have Wicked Weave’s candles in stores. Weaver was approached by Ashley Moore, owner of Petersons’ Consigning Design in Cary, who had previously purchased some of his candles. In an email, she asked if Weaver would be interested in selling his candles to her at a wholesale price, so she could sell them in her store.
“She’s quite a seasoned retail person, so I learned a lot from her and she helped me with with the business things,” Weaver said.
Meghan Clawson, who was opening Oak & Arbor, also reached out to Weaver about purchasing Wicked Weave’s candles at wholesale to then sell at her store in Raleigh. His candles also caught the attention of Christine Lovecchio, who owns the Artisan Collective at Tanger Outlet Center in Mebane, and Southpoint Mall in Durham.
“She’s become a believer because they’re selling. She’s placed three or four orders from me, so my candles are at her stores.” In all, Wicked Weave’s candles are available for purchase in seven stores locally. “Candles are popular and there’s a lot of competition, but I’m convinced it’s a combination of being creative, hard working, using the right materials, and doing a good job of being consistent with how they’re made, then people will jump on the bandwagon. And several have.”
For now, Weaver is burning the candle at both ends. As well as his sales are doing, Weaver said he is not yet turning a profit. The costs of materials and upgrading equipment used for making the candles, along with the time limits of having a full-time job, have curtailed his revenue potential for now. Depending on the size of the show or wholesale order, Weaver stays busy building inventory. He is careful to not end up in a situation where he is unable to keep up with demand, but is hopeful the balance tips far enough in favor of candle making that he is entirely able to devote his time to his craft.
“It is an escape,” he said. “I’ve always been the cook for our family and people that know me and know that I like to cook, and I’ve heard that my food is edible and they like it. The process is the same it’s you know, having really good ingredients. Timing is important. Temperature is important. And it’s an art and a science. I’m kind of a left brain, process-oriented person. That’s what it is.”
His most popular candle fragrance is Oakmoss and Amber, which he said is “more of a manly” fragrance, but is very popular with men and women. His second most-popular is Caribbean Salsa, which has a fruity smell with coconut and lime. Weaver said candles with holiday-themed scents will likely be very popular for upcoming shows.
Weaver said he will probably outgrow his garage space before long, and ultimately, he’d like to have a brick-and-mortar storefront to make and sell his candles. Six months ago, he said, he would never have believed that to be possible. Even though he still finds satisfaction in teaching, he is hopeful he can soon pursue his other interest. He said he owes much of his growing success to other vendors and shop owners, and his wife and sons, Reese and Ryan, for giving him support and promoting his business to friends, family, and others.
Wicked Weave’s Candle Studio can be found at www.wickedweavecandles.com; and at the following locations:
Perterson’s Consigning Design, Cary;
PERCH Home Furnishings, Mebane;
The Artisan Collective, Tanger Outlet Center, Mebane, and Southpoint Mall, Durham;
Oak & Arbor, located within Norwood Road Garden Center, Raleigh;
Piedmont Feed & Garden Center, Chapel Hill;
Southern Acorn Market, Hurdle Mills