Hire the right people. I’ve had a couple of bad experiences hiring family members so as easy as it seems it simply move available family members into a role, take the time to consider if they have the skill set to handle the job. I didn’t think about how I would handle addressing problems with their performance and behavior in the workplace.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tay Watts.
Tay Watts is the founder and Chief Chandler of Posh Candle Co, self-proclaimed Glow-Getter, MSW, and Mom of two boys. She enjoys the freedom of creativity and ability to inspire other women to stay lit. When Tay is not making and burning candles, she enjoys eating her way around Los Angeles with her hubby, lounging around doing nothing and spending quality time with her adventurous sons.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I guess it started back in 2014 when I started candle making as a hobby, giving them as gifts to family and friends. Then, two years later I was shopping at Target one day and couldn’t find a candle that I liked. Everything felt the same and like something I’ve already seen before.
Around this same time, I was a new mom and also in grad school. I had resigned from my stressful job, as my supervisor was pressuring me to work overtime on short notice — not something that’s easy to do when you have a new baby and are also a full-time grad student! A short time later I found out I was pregnant with my second son. I knew I needed the income to support this new addition to our family, but also knew I’d need something with more flexibility to manage my home life, plus my last year of school.
That’s when I had the idea to start a business. During my shopping trip to Target, I realized there was a gap in the market. Why not create the line of candles that I want to buy, but couldn’t find in stores? Specifically, I wanted to make candles that would inspire and empower women to be their authentic selves while celebrating creativity, entrepreneurship and design. I made the “Boss Lady” candle first, and within six months, through a Facebook Group we received our first bulk order of 5,000 candles. We’ve been going ever since.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
It was difficult to wear so many hats behind the business on top the pressures of keeping up as a spouse, mother, sister, friend and more. There were times when people wouldn’t hear from me for weeks, and I would become overwhelmed with guilt. When I look back at those times, it was really me getting into my own head and feeling this need to keep up when all I had to do was lean on my support system.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I think about this a lot and the common theme I find is simply resilience. I haven’t always had it easy in life and I watched so many women before me survive difficult times so when things are hard, I welcome the challenge and keep going. I often laugh with friends who are also navigating the same journey and we cheer each other on. We’re constantly reminding each other that challenges fuel growth.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
What I’ve had to relearn recently is that your inability to control a situation is teaching you how to let go. Business is up 400% this year and we’ve had to completely shut down our wholesale division to accommodate retail orders, along with outgrowing our warehouse space that we moved into in June. We’re also in the midst of a staffing issue and we’re trying to figure out how to fill positions safely during this time with so much changing quickly. There is a lot going on but we’re so lucky to have an amazing and patient support system that will continue to help us be successful.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I’ve made was taking that order for 5,000 candles and stacking it so high on a pallet that it looked like a giant Jenga. It was totally dangerous. The freight company immediately rejected it once he arrived to take it away and I remember this look of confusion on his face. We were on a tight deadline, so I remember sitting on the ground, worn out and near the point of tears. At that time, I hadn’t been sleeping or eating well for a few days, I was wrapping up graduate school and my youngest was 3 months old, so I was all over the place. We had to take it down, put it back into the storage unit and try again the next day. The important lesson I learned was about self-care; do the research, grab support, take breaks and eat. Those are the things we often forget when we’re trying to do it all.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As I said, I started Posh Candle Co., after realizing the candle aisle at my local shops didn’t have candles that really spoke to me, so I set out to create a line that was nothing like anything I’d seen in stores. We use catchy phrases and statements that encourage a positive mindset, promote self-love, spark laughter and celebrate hustle. We also know that something as small as lighting a candle has the potential to spark amazing things, so each candle is made out of love, fun and excitement for life.
We’re also more than candles. We’re passionate about supporting and uniting women who are also navigating entrepreneurial journeys. We make it a point to give back, form partnerships, support projects from organizations and fellow entrepreneurs and create meaningful relationships with the mission of helping women stay lit.
For example, I received a Facebook Message from a boutique owner in Canada, which led to us forming a partnership. Since then, we’ve broadened our reach, and I’ve now worked with over 100 other women-owned small businesses!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
One of the major tips I would recommend is to prioritize what matters. Often, we are in circles where there’s a million things going on, opportunities are coming our way and we fear missing out to the point of becoming overwhelmed. You don’t need to do everything and be seen everywhere. Focus on what is truly driving you in the direction you’re heading, and the rest can wait. Also, schedule your downtime to include activities that are not business related. If you have a packed schedule of candle making, it can be physically demanding so make sure you schedule production to optimize your time and allow your body to rest.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why.
- Have a plan to outsource. Let’s just say that I’ve had a difficult time letting go and, in the end, it’s only prolonged the suffering.
- Hire the right people. I’ve had a couple of bad experiences hiring family members so as easy as it seems it simply move available family members into a role, take the time to consider if they have the skill set to handle the job. I didn’t think about how I would handle addressing problems with their performance and behavior in the workplace.
- Always keep learning. I love learning new things, but I had no idea how challenging it would be to have to learn how to sell, how to keep customers, learn advanced social media techniques and more. Be prepared to be in an ongoing state of self-development.
- Focus on yourself. It is a true skill, but I’ve learned to keep my eyes on my paper, stay in my own lane and most importantly, take the time I need to nurture the people and things I love outside of running a business.
- Find an authentic tribe. Network carefully and never allow people to waste your time. Curate contacts that are mutually supportive to avoid people taking advantage of you.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!