How a Teacher Turned Her Side Gig Into a Profitable Business

How a Teacher Turned Her Side Gig Into a Profitable Business

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Kristen Fusaro-Pizzo is the founder of Bath, Body, Candle Moments, a skincare and candle company she started to recreate nostalgic moments as scents. Always a crafter and an animal lover, she turned her candle-making hobby into a business that provides candles and a line of skincare products that are vegan, sustainable and cruelty-free (certified by Leaping Bunny and PETA). Kristen says she measures her success not only by the business’ bottom line, but also by the good it’s doing to help care for animals. “We donate a portion of our sales every month to Staten Island Hope Animal Rescue,” she said.

For Kristen, the ability to combine her creative passion with a cause is what motivates her.

“That someone else wants to buy my art, that’s the dream, isn’t it!”

Here, Kristen explains her business story — the struggles, the successes and the strategy behind it all.

From a Hobby to a Full-Time Business

I’ve been an English teacher for 10 years. Now, I’m an assistant principal. I’ve been in education most of my life. It’s connected with my current business because they’re both about communicating with people and listening to their needs and wants and using that to come up with something that’s more efficient, better, and healthier.

I’ve always been a crafter. I would always make stuff for myself and give it to my friends and family. They always encouraged me to go ahead and sell what I made. I was off for the summer because I was teaching at the time, so I thought maybe I could give it a shot. I decided to learn the regs, learn as much about business as I could, and see if maybe I could turn this into something. It ended up blowing up and becoming a full-time business where I would spend the entire night working on it. I didn’t expect to have the response that I did. I thought it would just be a side hobby.

Financing the Company

I started the business by borrowing about $5,000 from my retirement to get kicked off with the right equipment. I was easily able to pay myself back within a year. We’ve been in business about a year and a half and became profitable this November.

I have credit in the name of the business – I opened an American Express card with the name of the business and a bank account with the name of the business. I am technically a sole proprietor, so that works in tandem with my personal credit. I have been offered Net 30 terms, but I just don’t use them, because I just don’t like things outstanding. I pay for things right away. That’s more of my nature.

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It’s just now that I’m starting to think about cash flow in the bigger picture. Before now, it was really just a month-to-month thing. At first, I took all the money we were making to pay off whatever supplies I needed to physically make the product. Then, I made it my goal to pay off all the equipment I had purchased. Now, I’ve paid off both those things, so whatever money we’re making is profit. We’ve reinvesting that into more professional packaging and replenishing supplies. Also, we’ve applied for a federal trademark on our name. There are still some major improvements I envision for the business, and we’re doing those little by little as we make more money.

Business Challenges & Rewards

Right now, the most challenging thing about running a business is finding balance. I’m working full time as an assistant principal and then I have to go home and work full time for the business because I have an event on Saturday. It’s hard to find a medium and to find a place for me where I’m not crashing from sadness or stress. It becomes so much and very lonely. Even though my husband helps me, it’s really just me making the products and packaging. It’s hard to find a place where I’m still a human and still a friend. At home, we had to make a paradigm shift so that I’m not coming home and cooking dinner. Instead, I come home and start my second job and my husband will make dinner and clean up.

The most rewarding thing is the fact that we became so successful so quickly. I couldn’t believe that I could actually do it. And the fact that we are saving animals is extra rewarding. It’s really awesome to know I play a part in a kitten finding a home or at least getting some healthcare. Alone, it’s hard to find money to donate yourself, but now I have this extra capital, so I’m able to do that.

Advice for Would-Be Business Owners

I didn’t know anything about business when I started out, but I learned that naming your company is so important. I would run your company before marrying a name. I had originally named us “Candle Moments.” I did all of our paperwork in Candle Moments, but then I realized I didn’t want to just do candles. So, we became Bath, Body, Candle Moments. It’s a horrible name, and I recognize that. I had to reinvest to make sure I had a logo that appears nicer than what the name sounds like. Now, I have to try and put a trademark on it, but I know I’m not going to get approved the first time around because you can’t trademark “bath” or “body” or “candle” or probably even “moments,” but maybe some combination of such. Getting the right name, waiting and doing the trademark research beforehand is so important. That was my biggest mistake, because that’s my identity.

Also, when starting out, ask yourself if you are really filling a need for anybody. Is this just a creative hobby? What are you offering that’s not already on the market? If you can’t figure out who your target is and why they need your product, then maybe it’s not an ideal business. I’m not saying nobody’s going to buy anything, but it would make your life easier to understand why someone would need what you are making.

What’s Next for Bath, Body, Candle Moments

We just launched a deodorant, which I’m really excited about. Our customers kept asking us for a natural deodorant because of all the concerns linking antiperspirants to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. It took us a lot of time to come up with a formulation that worked for us. As far as grander horizons, we are focusing on working with other small businesses. We’ve teamed up with a New York photographer to turn our product labels into photographs of New York State. The “moments” will be represented by pictures of our own state. We want to find a closeness to our state and to create some nostalgia with our moments.

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About the Author — Ashley Sweren is a freelance marketing writer and editor. She owns her own small business, Firework Writing (http://www.fireworkwritingonline.com/), located in San Jose, California.

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2 responses to “How a Teacher Turned Her Side Gig Into a Profitable Business

    1. I agree, great example of entrepreneurship! She’s seen success remarkably fast and hopefully will find some balance too.