Making hand-poured candles that look like delicious desserts
22-year-old student Tiffany Tan spends four to five hours making her own candles that look good enough to eat.
At first glance, the @dodi_sg Instagram page looks like a local shop selling gourmet drinks or artisanal cheeses.
But upon closer inspection, you will be surprised to find that these vibrantly-coloured drinks are actually quirky candles made with a soy wax base.
The candles are carefully made by Tiffany Tan, a 22-year-old undergraduate studying finance and economics at the Singapore Institute of Management.
She initially started her company Dodi to sell flower bouquets, but when she discovered she could make her own candles at home with soy wax, she transitioned to making candles with dried flowers.
“I realised a lot of people were making those candles and the competition was quite intense, so I diverted the attention to something different,” she said.
When she saw a strawberry candle online, she was inspired to make her own strawberry and chocolate milk candles. As she loves eating, she has continued to make food-inspired candles, including breakfast cereal candles and cheese candles.
Selling sustainable candles as meaningful gifts
Tiffany makes her candles with natural soy wax derived from vegetable soybeans, as it is more environmentally-friendly compared to paraffin wax.
Her efforts to be more sustainable, however, come at a cost.
Tiffany’s candles, ranging from $15 to $24.80, cost more than soy wax candles from other companies, and she was worried that would deter potential customers from buying her products. Even when they did buy the candles, Tiffany was afraid they would not meet her customers’ expectations.
She said: “Customers are paying money for this, and it’s not cheap. I had some self-doubt – what if I screw up? What if people say it sucks?”
Thankfully, her worries were dispelled as some customers liked the candles so much that they bought more as gifts for their friends.
Tiffany is grateful when customers buy her candles as gifts. To her, it shows that her page “looks legit” and her customers trust her.
“I really appreciate people who trust me and can order the candles online without smelling them,” she said.
Difficulties of running a business while in school
While Tiffany has a friend to help her with Dodi’s finances, she does everything else by herself. This includes replying to emails, talking to delivery drivers and making the candles themselves, all while juggling her schoolwork as a university student.
And because the soy wax can get separated from the candle’s glass after a few months, she cannot prepare the candles too early.
“Sometimes people order candles in bulk and they need it in a week, but it takes some time to make,” she said.
While her process of making each candle is different, she generally has to wait four to five hours after hand-pouring the wax to see if the base looks satisfactory. If it does not, she takes everything out and repeats the process until she is content.
Then, she adds the wax decorations, which she has dyed prior.
“My candles are not like any other candle that you can just buy from the store. They take time and hands to make. They’re impossible to make in a factory,” she said with pride.
Despite all the effort she puts into her candles, some of them are never used – as the candles are fragile, they may break during delivery. In that scenario, she has to repeat the tedious process of making candles, and exchanges the broken one for a new candle.
Starting a business at a young age
Even when Tiffany has to remake a candle she spent hours working on, she does not let setbacks deter her.
Knowing the risks that came with starting a business, she had already prepared for potential losses or problems.
When asked for advice to youths who wished to start their own business, Tiffany noted that there is a lot of uncertainty that comes with starting a business as your income can fluctuate.
She said: “You might lose everything that you invested. You need to plan out and cover your finances or you’ll run out of cash very easily.”
Tiffany also added that you have to let go of your ego, and get opinions or advice from the people around you.
She said: “When people tell you something is wrong, you have to fix it.
“At the very start, it’s not about earning as much money as you can. It’s about focusing on your products and their quality.”