STÁN Candle Co. is an independent candle brand based in County Dublin.
Named for its two founders, Stephen and Seàn, the two friends started making candles in 2020 during the pandemic and decided to share their creations with the world. The handcrafted soy candles are sustainable, eco-friendly, vegan and cruelty free.
We caught up with Seán Smith, one of the business owners, to find out more about the challenges of starting a side business during the pandemic and how Square helped them get started online.
Igniting a business idea
The idea for STÁN came to light when Stephen and Seán were out walking one day during the pandemic. They were both passionate about starting their own business someday, but unsure how to go about it. They both had a love of scented candles, however, they noticed that a lot of the candles they had bought in the past lacked quality and didn’t last very long. Plus, a lot of well-known brands use beeswax and stearic acid (a product of animal fat) in their candles. With that, the pair came up with an idea to create hand poured, high-quality candles that were amazingly scented, sustainable and vegan.
“We ordered loads of random bits to make the candles and then it took us 8 weeks to get the recipe right - the right wax, the wicks, the scent etc. There was a LOT of trial and error with the product but it was a labour of love, and we got there in the end!”
Neither Stephen or Seán had a background in business and experienced a few stumbling blocks in getting the business set up.
“There’s no step by step guide or help for setting up a small business. There’s also a lot more to do than you think, like registering the company and the beneficiaries. It’s a baptism of fire and you learn very quickly”, Seán laughed.
Moreover, it was also difficult to get the right materials and stock, as there were a lot of delays with shipping during the pandemic. Brexit also proved difficult with increased customs and pricing.
Keeping customers coming back
Seán and Stephen actively seek feedback from family, friends and customers to continually improve the quality of the candles and ensure they “do what they say on tin”.
As candles are a sensory product, Seán worried that customers wouldn’t buy the products without smelling them first. However, the influx of online shoppers during the pandemic made this an easier barrier to entry to the market and didn’t inhibit online sales. Looking to the future, the pair hope to get back to selling the candles in physical markets at the weekends to allow customers to smell the products before they buy.
Getting started online with Square
STÁN was one of the first companies to start trading with Square in Ireland. They used Square Online to create their own website and start selling online, while using the Square Reader for selling in markets.
“We had looked at Shopify but it seemed quite complicated to use. It was also a bit more expensive, so that’s why we decided to go with Square”, Seán explained.
Square was also really simple and easy to set up. You can set up and change your website easily, create coupon codes, take stock of your inventory so you know what’s available and what’s not.”
STÁN uses the Square Dashboard to look at what their best sellers are, the busiest days of the week and how the average spend is trending.
“I would 110% recommend it to another business. It’s a one stop shop and has everything you need. I was shocked to see that you could use Square gift cards and invoices. When we sell in shops, it’s great that we can now use the invoices.”