Shining Sol Candle Company
Shining Sol Candle Company, located in Manassas, Virginia, was founded by Pete Evick in 2012 in a basement. In 2014, Deron Blevins, a lifelong friend of Evick’s, became co-owner and by 2016 they formed an LLC once they opened a brick-and-mortar location in Manassas. Now with two retail locations — one in Manassas and one in Myrtle Beach — and production facility, Shining Sol Candle Company employs 18 full- and part-time employees. This maker offers a wide range of fragrant candles, wax melts, apparel, room sprays, custom and private label creations and more.
Gift Shop Plus stopped in to visit with Blevins in the Manassas retail store to see — and smell — the unique handmade candles and other products it offers.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your business.
Deron Blevins: Shining Sol Candle Company was founded in 2012 by award winning musician, producer and author, Pete Evick, who has worked alongside music icon and TV reality star Bret Michaels as guitarist and music director for the last 18 years. Pete also happens to be a lifelong friend — we met in Cub Scouts when we were ten. While on a long overdue break from touring the world years ago, Pete developed an interest in candle making. While it started as a quiet hobby…he quickly developed the desire to create something new and different with this timeless art of candle making. At the time he also wanted to teach his kids about entrepreneurism. Little did he know the journey that would lie ahead.
What are your product offerings?
DB: We offer various size and shaped jar candles ranging from classic country to contemporary black matte jars. We also offer wax melts and travel tin candles, as well as room sprays. In addition to our own concept and themed candles, we offer full private labeling and custom candle creations whether it’s for events, client gifts, business gifts, zoos and more. With candles there are few boundaries in what you can create; it’s just a matter of how big your imagination can be. We also offer unique touch wax warmers, which are a massive hit with our customers.
Where do you find inspiration for your design concepts?
DB: We like to keep our ears to the ground to see what people may be into that isn’t too trendy — so it will have longevity in our lineup. We also go with the “everyone loves ___” concept, such as mermaids, dragons, the beach — fun themes like that. Sometimes a fragrance house will introduce a new scent that we immediately have an idea for and sometimes it may be a passing comment we hear that sparks an idea. We have many different personality types here at Shining Sol so there’s never a shortage of inspiring ideas!
Did any new products surprise you because they were more successful, or less successful than you thought?
DB: Every business owner would like to think that all their ideas are home runs but that certainly is not the case. We had a product we called Sizzling Citrus, which was a unique scent combining chili pepper and citrus. It turned into a love/hate — with more hating it than loving it! Our Dragon’s Lair candle was a bit of a risk in that we did not include what one might think would be the obvious — smokiness. We went with a sugared fruit and citrus combo to embrace the “wise, majestic and powerful” elements of a dragon. It worked out exceedingly well and it’s one of our best-sellers.
Share with us any trends you see which impact your concepts or product offerings.
DB: With COVID we’re noticing people want to be “swept away” whether it’s to the beach, to the mountains, anywhere other than the living room. We are fortunate enough to offer a scent for most people’s love and interests since we have over 75 individual scent profiles across our products.
What are your best-selling products?
DB: Our all time best-seller is Mermaid Cove, which is one of our Artisan Collection candles that contain wax embellishments on top. In 2020 our best-seller was the Sunkissed Candle (Coastal Collection), which we dub “the beach in a jar.” We developed Sunkissed directly with a fragrance house as our very own scent. We have a handful of consistent top-sellers that include: Dragon’s Lair, Shenandoah, Honeysuckle Jasmine, Them Bones, Turtle Bay and Biloxi Rain, to name a few.
What are your future aspirations for the business?
DB: Managed growth. We sometimes get questioned if there’s a conflict of opening our own stores, selling directly and growing our wholesale family. There’s not. I think we all forget how big this country is and how much opportunity there is, geographically, for us all. Plus every shop has it’s own foot traffic and it’s own loyal customer base.
We hope to continue to build our brand into not just a great candle brand but we want this to embody a Shining Sol lifestyle. We’re fortunate to have a devoted customer base that not only proudly burns our candles, but they also sport our apparel/gear. We plan to open more of our own stores in the future.
We currently have two stores (Manassas, Virginia and North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina) with a third store opening March 2021 in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. In addition we are continuously adding new wholesale partners. To date we have over 100 stores across the country stocking our products. We hope to continue growing our “candle fam” and reach 200 by the end of 2021.
We also sell direct to customers through our website where we’re continually adding new features to enhance the user experience. This also includes engaging with everyone through our social media channels — and we’re not shy about firing up a live stream and just “having fun with it”.
Are you exhibiting at any of the trade shows? If so, which ones?
DB: We just completed our first trade show at the Grand Strand Gift & Resort Merchandise show in December 2020. We were thrilled at the outcome! By the time this interview is printed we will have completed a small appearance at the Atlanta show. We hope to do more specialized trade shows in the future.
If you aren’t exhibiting at a show, how can retail buyers connect with you and search your offerings?
DB: If we can’t be tracked down at a trade show, we are always available in a multitude of ways. We have a wholesale inquiry page at www.shiningsol.com/wholesale or we can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, phoned at 571-208-1189 and we even have customers inquire through Facebook Messenger or Instagram all the time. We have a digital catalog that we can email or a printed catalog that we can mail. It’s actually important for us to try and cater to the most comfortable way a retail customer prefers to do business with us through — as the saying goes: “it’s all good!”
Tell us about Shining Sol’s wholesale ordering process.
DB: We like to keep things simple, literally. We have a minimum $200 starting order — that’s it. We do offer full-rack purchases, which are becoming increasingly popular. If I had to add one more requirement, it’s that we try to allow our retail partners to have space, meaning, we try to not have shops too close to one another when selling our products. Retailers can access wholesale by visiting www.shiningsol.com/wholesale/.
Tell us how your wholesale offerings morphed into both a wholesale and brick-and-mortar approach.
DB: Our business morphed very organically and we’ve also been very fortunate to have opportunities that found us. We started in a basement selling to friends and family, which turned into selling to customers across the country through a small website (due to our founder Pete’s touring duties). With both active owners having grown up in Manassas, Virginia that allowed for us to know a lot of people over the course of many years, and on a whim we were offered our first brick-and-mortar in 2016 by a friend who was closing one shop to concentrate on her main shop.
All during this time we would have other retail shop owners come across our candles via friends, family or having stopped into our Manassas shop. We would also go “old school” and cold call, or walk into, shops and offer to send samples to see if they would like to stock our products. Our North Myrtle Beach shop happened because we vacationed there for ages and knew it would be a perfect spot to open a shop one day, specifically at a complex called Barefoot Landing. We had our name on a waiting list watching for the perfect spot for over three years.
Rehoboth Beach came about when we asked friends to “keep an eye out” in case a shop closed and couldn’t make it past this COVID mess. This exact scenario happened for us and we had the no-brainer decision to jump at an opportunity to set up in another awesome beach town that not only is tourist heavy, but also caters to locals as well. We like to engage with the local communities where we set up and not just be another gift store; that’s very important to us.
Describe the successes you have had during the pandemic in both the wholesale and retail settings.
DB: We have been amazingly fortunate to have grown in all four quarters through COVID; both on the direct to customer side as well as via wholesale partnering. In two words — we hustled! We also adapted. When shops had to close we pivoted to offering local delivery to our local customers. It worked so well we continue to offer that even still and will beyond COVID.
We launched our North Myrtle Beach store at the height of COVID, which some called us crazy to do. You only live once right?! Candles have been a good space to be in through this tough time so we try to maintain a “business as usual” approach and thankfully it worked in our favor.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your business and/or team?
DB: We like to share our magazine mentions and interviews on social media, so knowing that our customers will also be reading this we want to say: THANK YOU! We cannot express how thankful we are to be in the position we are given — the 2020 roadmap we all had to navigate. We are also grateful for our entire Shining Sol Candle Company team and the way we all kept our sanity (mostly!) during this heavy growth year. We couldn’t be more proud of the way our entire team stepped up and helped move the company forward, because it does take a team.
For potential retail shop owners reading this that may be on the fence wanting to try a new candle company in their store, I say, let’s chat! We have candle scents and styles for any store type so please reach out and let’s say hello to one another. We don’t bite, I promise! We’re happy to provide references to other shop owners who have Shining Sol Candles, which are among their top selling retail products. That makes us extremely proud.