Pandemic sparks entrepreneurship for rural candlemaker

Talia Waller

Middle school teacher Talia Waller started making her own organic candles for fun because the price point for similar products are so high in stores. In the early days of the pandemic, her candle-making hobby became a successful side hustle for Talia. These days, Catherine Ann’s Candles—named for Talia’s two grandmothers—is a thriving business with a storefront and bulk contracts with her local supermarket.

So, how did this rural educator scale her business during a pandemic so successfully? By believing in herself and tapping into her local support system. 

As a Black woman in rural Georgia, Talia faced a lot of doubt when she first started her business. But she says, “​​Don’t give up on your passion just because people may not see your vision. You will eventually find your niche, market and support that will help your business grow and thrive.”

For years, Talia has been selling her natural organic candles made of soy wax to friends and family around the holidays. But when school went virtual in March 2020, Talia found herself with extra time on her hands. She found stress relief in her candle-making and she quickly began to perfect her craft. Not long after stay-at-home orders ended, Talia started selling her candles at local farmers markets and seasonal festivals. She successfully landed a bulk order with a sustainable supermarket located in Madison, G.A.

It was such a successful sale that Talia started marketing bulk orders to local grocery stores and shops, and because of that outreach her business picked up exponentially. She was able to move her business out of her house into a brick and mortar and was even able to hire her first employee. 

Talia has not only loved running her own business, but she also loves the community she has been able to build. Talia has started hosting candle parties where people can come in as a group, drink wine, eat snacks and create their own candles to take home.

As a new shop owner and employer in the time of COVID-19, it has been important for Talia to keep her employee and her clients safe and healthy as best she can. Talia has successfully been able to tap into free resources from our partners at Health Action Alliance to help guide her.

She says, “These resources provided the guidance I needed to continue hosting my in-person candle-making events safely while reminding me to monitor my and my employee’s mental health during these unprecedented times.”

In a time of such uncertainty and stress, Talia feels blessed to have had this time to pursue her passion, engage her community and find stability. 

Talia says, “Candle-making has been so therapeutic for me throughout the pandemic. I love that I can share that experience with my friends and neighbors in a time when community is so important.”

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