People

A Better Candle

Kalamazoo Candle Company

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Kalamazoo Candle Co was founded on a simple premise: You deserve a better candle. Caring a great deal about the impact it has on the environment as well as its community, this candle company believes in the commitment to sustainability and locally sources the highest-quality materials to make an artisan product at a fair price that is both authentic and unique. Each candle is crafted to provide the longest and cleanest burn, meticulously hand-poured and thoughtfully packaged. Founded in 2013, this local wholesaling company has become known for developing sustainable practices in candle production and distribution and for its support toward non-profit organizations, shedding light on SDGs 8, 11, & 12.

Author

Megan Schaser

Megan Schaser

School

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University

Professor

Timothy Palmer

Timothy Palmer

Innovation

Kalamazoo Candle Company’s vision involves making an all-natural candle that can allocate longer burning times with all recycled and reusable materials. From start to finish, the company’s innovative candle-making process is entirely hands on to ensure every candle is up to its standards of perfection and produced and consumed responsibly.

The candles are made from the finest locally sourced American-made materials including 100% natural soy wax, paper-core cotton wicks, high quality fragrance oils free from added dyes or toxins and topped with a wooden lid. They are each hand-poured into elegant glass containers, recyclable and reusable on the consumer’s behalf, while the wooden lids can be returned through the company’s program that puts used candle lids back to work. Any wax that is leftover at the end of a production run is either hand-poured to produce a layered waste-reducing candle, offering various scents, or a fire starter. The fire starter is the company’s newest sustainability initiative in which candle making waste is further repurposed for campfire enjoyment.

The company also utilizes technologies such as a 3D printer and “cardboard shredder.” The 3D printer is used to align all the wicks so they can be made on site, custom to needs, without bringing in additional waste through use of a third-party. The “cardboard shredder” repurposes the jar delivery boxes into durable and uniquely woven, yet simple, candle holding material; allowing for another use before ultimately being recycled. For shipping, wood shipping pallets are available through a partnership with local craftsman and a disability services organization to reuse and repurpose this source.

This sustainable business model developed through the company’s overall care for its environmental impact, analyzing each stage of the production cycle as well ways to elongate the products’ life cycle and committing to the ongoing process to find green initiatives that work. Owner and Founder, Adam McFarlin shares, “I didn’t have a strong background in sustainable practices. Kalamazoo Candle has taught me more than I originally brought to the table.”

A Better Candle

Inspiration

Adam McFarlin, Owner & Founder of Kalamazoo Candle Company, shares the inspiration behind the product:

“When I started Kalamazoo Candle Company, I was making candles in my bedroom on a fold up table next to my bed. My first customers were eight independently owned brick & mortar stores around my hometown, Kalamazoo. It is because these first eight stores gave my candles a chance, gave ME a chance, that Kalamazoo Candle Company is where we are today: over 1,000 stores carrying our candles, a production facility, two retail stores of our own, and 30 employees.

When you shop at a local store you aren’t just supporting them. You support every Maker’s product that is in that store. Says Adam, "Every small business starts somewhere, whether a kitchen, garage, or in my case, a bedroom. We’re only able to grow with the support of our community, near and far."

Sustainability factors were adopted and continue to be as the company looks at things like cost, availability, etc. Kalamazoo Candle Company didn’t want to be one of those brands that only makes single use products. So, as they learned about what is needed to make a great candle, they also learned how to utilize those individual aspects from a sustainability perspective to create multiple uses or be able to recycle. It’s an ongoing initiative that will continue being a focus for the business for years to come.

Overall impact

Kalamazoo Candle Company’s “better candle” positively impacts the business, society, and the environment. Committing to sustainable production oftentimes requires increased costs, but much of these costs are managed through the company's minimalistic approach. By eliminating waste in all ways possible and leveraging its relationships with local vendors, the company delivers the highest-quality products at a reasonable cost. This allows for a positive contribution to the environment while offering a fair retail price so their products can be enjoyed by various demographics.

In addition, Kalamazoo Candle Company demonstrates commitment to giving back to its community and employees. They opened a retail store in Kalamazoo with the goal of producing more jobs and encouraging residents to shop locally. Any increased profits as a result of increased sales are delegated towards increasing employee wages to cover their individual needs. This candle company also proudly supports non-profit organizations with donations and its generous fundraising program.

Furthermore, using only all natural, high-quality ingredients, their long-burning candles are enjoyable for its consumers as well as the environment. It allows for a long, clean burn while holding materials that can be reused for many lives, positively contributing to the environment. As the company continues to expand, its sustainability practices are actively monitored and reassessed for the sake of enhancing these positive impacts.

Business benefit

Kalamazoo Candle Company acknowledges there is always an upcharge when you purchase a product that is made more sustainably but being able to contribute to this cause is something this company is passionate about. Thus, they price the candles reasonably so multiple audiences can afford them and avoid raising prices unless it is an absolute must. Its goal is to cover employees’ needs and cover the costs to produce its products. Adam McFarlin shares:

“I think it has positively impacted revenue, sales, and the way our brand is viewed. We want to be known for our humble beginnings and sticking to our core values. Sustainability practices aren’t going anywhere, if anything they are becoming more popular, and more people seem to care about the longevity of our planet. I believe that continuing in this direction is something that our customers appreciate. We know our employees do!”

Social and environmental benefit

Benefiting the environment, the company’s minimal waste approach encourages reusability and/or recycling of nearly all its production materials while its products offer traditional candle scents without toxic ingredients. Their technologies also mitigate outsourcing in order to reduce unnecessary packaging and transportation. Additionally, partnering with MRC, a local craftsman and a disability services organization, allows wood shipping pallets to be reused and repurposed rather than be placed in landfills. As for society, Kalamazoo Candle Company’s profits are disbursed among employees to effectively raise their wages while contributions are also actively made towards local non-profit organizations.

Interview

Adam McFarlin, Founder & Owner

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Kalamazoo Candle Company

Kalamazoo Candle Company

Kalamazoo, MI, US

Business Website: https://kalamazoocandle.com/

Year Founded: 2013

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

Kalamazoo Candle Company is a small town candle company with a big promise: natural, nontoxic, vegan candles; ethically hand-poured in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They produce 100% natural soy candles with a long and clean burn, have a passion for supporting local businesses, and continuously look for new ways to reduce and eliminate waste.