GTPulse: Interlochen Woman Finds Business Success in Northern Michigan

A few weeks ago I wrote about Crystal Crate and Cargo in Beulah. The gift shop has a trove of treasures, and after interviewing the owner I walked around to take a few pictures of them. A stand of locally made candles caught my eye, but I couldn’t photograph it. Each time I circled back around to it, the same woman was perusing the display, adding another candle to her armful every few minutes.

“I just love her candles,” she said to the cashier.

“They do great here!” the cashier replied.

Owner of the shop Sally Berlin spoke highly of the Interlochen woman who ran the candle company. She talked about how she was happy to carry her items in the store, and how lovely it had been to watch her grow from a small business to a thriving one.

Emily moved up to Interlochen after marrying her husband. Originally from Indiana, there is no playful competition to be had with her about which Midwest state reigns supreme.

“I grew up in Indiana but I moved to this area in 2002 when I met my husband, he built houses up here during college after we met. He asked if I wanted to move up here and I said sure!  I was blessed enough to grow up on a lake, but my two brothers and myself, we all live in Northern Michigan now.”

5:14 Candles started out as a way for Emily Pangborn to pass time and make the kind of candle she couldn’t find in the stores.

“When I first came here I worked as a nanny. After we had kids I started working midnights at Munson. So that’s what I did when the kids were little so we didn’t have to put them in daycare. But once all three kids were in school full time I was just bored. I felt like I needed to find a hobby that I loved. I started making candles because when I bought some they always gave me headaches and they wouldn’t burn properly. I thought, maybe I can do this a little bit better.”

She never anticipated that the small side project would turn into a full-time business, but with her candles now sold in 15 local stores, along with her website, that’s exactly what happened. 

She knew going into business would have its challenges.

“Going into business was intimidating. I’m a people pleaser and I don’t like hearing no, or hearing someone say they don’t like my products because I take it personally. But I absolutely love what I do. And once I start talking about it I get into a comfort zone. I know my product, I know it’s a good product, but I have to get past that personal part of rejection. My first store was the Red Door Coffee House in Lake Ann, now that store and Crystal Crate and Cargo are my number one sellers.”

Emily’s success can be attributed to her hard work as a business owner, and also to her extensive knowledge of what makes a good candle. When I talked to Emily about my mild obsession with having candles at home I brought up a recently purchased one from Target that had disappointed me. It smelled great in the jar, but has almost no scent when it’s lit.

“What it sounds like to me is there’s no heat throw, which means the oil to wax ratio is off. There’s a lot of science behind getting it right, but I’ve learned a lot and kind of nerd out on it now.”

She’s already had investors interested in producing her candles at a larger scale. Though she hasn’t found the right deal yet, the attention has been encouraging.

“I’m working with a business advisor, and I do have people interested in investing. I’m already bursting at the seams out of my shop in the basement. It began in the kitchen, then my laundry room, now candles are half of my basement. There’s growth on the horizon, someday I think I’ll get there, but for now, the candles are still going to be hand-poured by me.”

Her candles are made with soy and fragrance oils. Soy is safer than paraffin because it doesn’t get as hot or emit soot like paraffin wax does, and fragrance oils are stronger smelling than essential oils alone. The scents that Emily makes for the candles are inspired by the seasons, and parts of her life.

“My husband and I went to Maine for our 15th anniversary. I had never smelled balsam trees before. We were hiking and eating fresh blueberries and I took some of the branches home in a little Ziploc bag because I had to recreate the fragrance of that moment. A lot of my fragrances have stories behind them.”

5:14 Candles are available throughout Northern Michigan and through their website. Experience a variety of different scents and find out why they’ve become a staple in local candle lovers’ homes across the region.

“For now, it’s a one-person show. This has been a huge learning experience for me and I’ve loved every part of it. It’s been a blessing.”

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Categories: GTPulse