Square Trade Goods Co. is making candles and a handful of great products that we’re really into. And these candles aren’t your mother’s candles. They have a rich and organic quality to them that really make them standout. And with scents like Grass & Cedar, Tobacco Black Pepper, and Campfire, it’s easy to see why a guy would be drawn to this product. You can feel good about lighting them when you have company over. We always keep a few in rotation in our showroom, and many of our team members burn them at home. Alan Long is the man behind the Square Trade, and he has become a good friend over the past year. We headed out to Alan’s studio, right down the street from us, to find out more about his growing brand.
How did Square Trade get its start?
It started because I wanted a “campfire” scented candle but I couldn’t find one. I talked to one of my friends who had made some candles before, and he suggested that I try to make one. He said it wouldn’t be super difficult, so I tried it, and eventually Square Trade took off from there.
Did Campfire end up being the first candle that you released under Square Trade?
Campfire is what I wanted to be my first one, but it took about a year to get it right. The pursuit of that is what lead me to start making other candles that were a little less complicated to make.There are a lot of steps and factors to get right, so it can be a long process. I began experimenting with scents and then I started to find the process therapeutic in a way.
After you decided to dedicate more time to Square Trade, was the response to your candles immediate, or did it take time to gain recognition?
Some are immediate hits, while others only do fairly well in the beginning. I can’t keep Campfire in stock and I can’t seem to make enough of them. On the other hand, I don’t sell as many of one of my personal favorites, Rosemary Mint. The success or failure of a scent goes with doing this over the Internet – you can’t smell the candles. People have to take a leap of faith and hope that it smells good. For a lot of my scents, however, there has been a good response all the way.
You mentioned not being able to make some of the scents fast enough. Is scaling and growing the business a major challenge that you face?
Yeah, because I’m still doing everything myself. So it gets a little tricky because I’m trying to manage marketing, orders, wholesale accounts, acquire new wholesale accounts, and make sure that I have all the supplies that I need to make more candles. It can be hard to judge and juggle it all at the same time. There are some weeks where I don’t get any new orders, and then I’ll get five wholesale orders another. At this point, I kind of know what’s popular and what’s not. For example, I’ll make three times as many Campfires, as I make Balsam Firs. I can keep on top of it, but it can still be tricky doing it all myself.
Growing Square Trade form a one-person job into a team can be a daunting experience. Have you considered bringing more people on to help you out?
I’m at that point now, and probably within the next month or so I’ll bring someone on for part-time. The holidays are my biggest season because everyone is buying gifts, and last year was crazy busy. With the natural growth that I’ve had this summer; if I can relate this to anything that I’ve experienced last winter, things are really going to seriously pick up. I could barely keep up with it last year by myself, so I can only imagine what would happen this year.
Square Trade is growing into something much greater than a candle company. What’s influencing this expansion?
Square Trade started with candles because it was something that I knew how to make. Candles will always be a big part of whatever Square Trade turns into, but I just want to make things that I like and hope that other people like them too. I don’t necessarily know if that’s the best business practice, but that’s how I want to run it. I just want to make good products.
Your days are probably much longer now, but do you feel more fulfilled?
Yes, for sure. I can look around and say, “I did this.” It kind of started out of necessity because I was unhappy at my previous job and it turned into something pretty cool. Long days don’t feel like long days anymore. I feel super fortunate and lucky that people like what I make. If that was not the case and only I liked what I was making, then Square Trade wouldn’t get very far.
What are your future goals for Square Trade?
I just want to keep making products that I love and find useful. I’m working on a five-panel hat now and I’d really like to do a jacket in the future. I’m kind of just flying by the seat of my pants, but if I come up with an idea for a new product one day, that will be my next goal. I have a lot of short-term goals, but I haven’t set a lot of long-term goals, other than to be happy. I don’t need to make a million dollars, but I’d like to be able to live comfortably and enjoy what I’m doing. As oppose to hate where I go to work every day, and still not make a million dollars.
Square Trade Good Co. candles are available in our showroom, and online through their online shop. Visit their website to find out more.