By Jamie Siebrase | Nov 17, 2014
5 (plus temps for the holiday season)
Employees: 15 (plus temps for the holiday season)
President Shannon Cumberland began making hand-poured botanical candles in her kitchen with an old crockpot. Now her company manufactures upwards of 100,000 candles a year.
Cumberland, an accidental chandler, originally intended to sell flowers, and was hocking dried floral arrangements at fairs when she realized she'd have to differentiate herself if she wanted to compete in the oversaturated gift industry.
The answer was boutique-quality candles made with natural fruit and flora. Almost immediately, Cumberland sensed she was onto something. "I maxed out my credit to raise capital, and applied to two gift shows," she says. Cumberland was shocked when she was accepted into the shows, and even more surprised when she sold $257,000 worth of candles that year.
Cumberland's first big move was from her kitchen to her basement, where she produced eight varieties of candles. Rosy Rings operates out of a 30,000-square-foot facility in Denver today, Cumberland buys her wax by the ton instead of by the pound. The company's sales for 2014 will be around $4 million from candles as well as potpourri, sashays, diffusers, and home fragrance sprays. Approximately 10 percent of Rosy Ring sales are direct, and the rest are wholesale. You can find Cumberland's candles in about 2,000 retailers worldwide.
A lot has changed since the '90s, Cumberland says, but the process remains the same. Sure, there have been attempts at becoming "more automated," as Cumberland puts it. "But our employees are always faster and better than the machine," she says, explaining that most of her competition hand-pours their candles, too, because the equipment for pouring is expensive and inefficient.
What sets Cumberland apart is her elaborate process. "I'm always joking that nobody will knock us off because our candles are too labor-intensive," she says. A single botanical candle, Rosy Ring's bestseller, takes two days of pouring, stuffing, re-pouring, melting and wrapping to make; technically, it's two candles in one.
The Spicy Apple Candle will set you back $55. It's no ordinary candle: Each one weighs five pounds and lasts 200 hours. "People always want us to make them smaller so they will be more affordable, but we can't because then the flowers and leaves inside would catch on fire," Cumberland says.
Since Cumberland's line is inspired by nature, she thinks it's fitting that Rosy Rings treat the environment kindly. Cumberland uses natural products like beeswax and soy wax, her glassware contains 40 percent recycled glass and her tins have 30 percent post-consumer recycled content. In addition to recycling most of the plastic, metal, glass, and cardboard in-house, Cumberland also use biodegradable shipping materials.
Cumberland has been approached by corporations like Target and Bed Bath Beyond, but has always refused. "We want to keep the product boutique," she explains. "I think that's why I always come out with stuff that's a total pain in the ass to make."
What Cumberland lacks in formal education and prior business experience, she's easily made up for with drive, passion, and guts. "I made a ton of mistakes, and I guess I'm one of those people who has to learn that way," she says.
Challenges: Keeping up with growth. From pouring 500 candles in a kitchen to manufacturing tens of thousands in a warehouse, Rosy Rings has had growing pains along the way, and is always looking for ways to hone her process. "Making adjustments isn't always easy, but it's necessary," Cumberland says.
Opportunities: "It's pretty typical for companies to have five different names that are all under the same umbrella," explains Cumberland. Last year, Rosy Rings introduced a new division called Peacock Parfumerie, and Shannon wants to add more lines in hopes that international reps will pick them up.
Needs: Sales have skyrocketed, and Cumberland needs a larger space for manufacturing her goods. "We are just bursting at the seams -- that's what our building looks like," says Cumberland. Two real-estate deals have already fallen through, but Cumberland says she's keeping her fingers crossed for the next.