Community//

“Align your passion or commitment” With Chris and Cyndi Hileman

Once you align your passion or commitment to sustainable products an entire customer base opens up because you have a unique element that adds value to people’s homes, lifestyles, and gift-giving. It says you care. And the profit from that is two-fold. You feel great about what you’re putting out there, or in our case- […]

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Once you align your passion or commitment to sustainable products an entire customer base opens up because you have a unique element that adds value to people’s homes, lifestyles, and gift-giving. It says you care. And the profit from that is two-fold. You feel great about what you’re putting out there, or in our case- not putting out as part of our zero-waste packaging- and you see the results of how people value it- with a great business model, production, etc. It’s definitely worthwhile to get a foothold in sustainable production that is also environmentally conscious.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris and Cyndi Hileman, co-founders of Hyggelight, The Growing Candle.

Chris and Cyndi Hileman had been madly searching for a great business venture since the day they met. They wanted to bring something of value to people that also meant something to them.

Hygge (hoo-gah) is the concept of finding the special moments in everyday living- spending quality time with people, enjoying the outdoors and creating an atmosphere of coziness. The Growing Candle does just that and more- a zero-waste product that starts as a luxurious candle and transforms into a pot of wildflowers creating a healthy atmosphere for your and the planet.

Their family business in Toledo, Ohio is passionate about eco-friendly manufacturing, producing less than one household garbage bag of waste per month, and leading the reusable “growing candle” industry.

Forever Hygge Inspired + Planet Obsessed

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Chris: With a lot of kids! We were a large family living under one roof in Toledo, Ohio. I’ve always been curious about how things work, new ways of problem-solving, engineering and green technologies. I like taking the opportunity to travel and research different places- and we continue to do that as a family of 4 now. Our most recent trip was to Iceland. Our next plan is to get to Brazil after covid. I believe there’s always room to improve! We continue building on that in our business.

Cyndi: I grew up in Florida! So the winters in Ohio came as a shock to me. We were a small family with some strict rules. I remember playing outside a lot and spending a good amount of time reading…yes, I was quite the bookworm. I’ve always been interested in ways to add value to products and new ways of thinking about anything from candle containers to the toys they give your children at restaurants. Oh! And I’m looking forward to our next vacation. We’ve worked hard this season. We’re also getting ready to move to a new location in an up-and-coming area of downtown Toledo.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

We want to change the way people approach single-use products and improve the lives of people and the planet with ours. We are trying to cultivate a progressive eco-friendly lifestyle that adopts the concept of hygge– creating a feeling of being comfortable + empowered by your surroundings- to encompass self-care and hope for the future! Taking care of the planet is not just a hobby. It’s something we can build upon with creative solutions and artful design.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Chris: It gets cold in Toledo, Ohio! Cyndi and I were researching what people in Denmark do to stay warm and cheerful, especially after we moved back from warmer places…

Cyndi: Yeah, like the Sunshine State. We read some really great books about the concept of hygge. One that I always reference is The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. I had started doing some candle pouring of my own, when a friend of mine sent me seed paper labels. So, I was standing there holding them wishing I could do both immediately (I’m a bit of a plant addict) when we had a lightbulb moment. It immediately lent itself to eco-friendly home decor and earth-friendly design. And it had that hygge-like content of being comforting and cozy no matter what the season.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

We were always searching for a great business idea to dive into after we got married. So it wasn’t hard to get behind this concept once we sat down with it and really worked out the logistics. In our first year, we were a feature on forbes.com. We just kind of took off from there. Our advice is: Be prepared to work harder than you ever have, make the best of every opportunity and always take your time and be intentional when it comes to the big decisions. The rest is just life! You get what you put in.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

Test the market. For the first 4 months we operated out of the basement in our home and went to arts and craft fairs. Once we received a good amount of feedback, like great sales numbers and people saying, ‘you should be on Shark Tank!’ we were confident this was something people would want. We just kept adding more elements in and building on projections and what we believed we could handle. It’s not a fail-safe process, so you have to be able to take risks. Owning a business is a good source of “Happy Trouble” as someone we met in Iceland calls it. You think about it constantly.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Cyndi: Our second appearance on Good Morning America happened simultaneously to the spread of covid-19, a lockdown and me being 9 months pregnant! We had no idea what was going to happen. The west coast was airing breaking news during our segment, we had prepped all the inventory according to new workplace guidelines for safety…But it all worked out. We sold out of 10K candles in 90 minutes and our baby was born after the sale! I think it’s safe to say all of this really had an impact on how we think about risk today.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

Chris: In the beginning I had this obsession with lowering the per unit manufacturing cost. Most suppliers offer price breaks for larger orders so when ordering custom packaging tape, I was impulsed into ordering a larger quantity to try to lower our per candle cost. I thought I ordered enough tape for a year but we received this giant palette that we are still stocked with to this day!

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Chris: I would say Sandy Spang for sure. She was a client of mine when I was selling credit card machines at my previous job. She is the commissioner of small business services here in Toledo, and former city councilwoman. She has been our biggest mentor from finding our first studio space to guiding us through our first economic loan that has paved opportunities for us from nationally televised spots on GMA to our new pouring equipment. I’ll never forget our phone conversation when she said, “You’ve got to get this business out of your house! It’s going to drive you crazy!” That was after we shared our numbers just 5 months into Hyggelight.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Focus on climate change and the small ways- which are overall the big ways- we can make a difference for our waste production. If more politicians on the local level would make this a priority, we could really transform our lifestyles to be more eco-conscious and to the point we wouldn’t have to really think about it as much- it’s just the way of the world, it’s how we operate. As a community, we have to keep this conversation front and center- continue doing our part and support each other for a healthier world.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

Once you align your passion or commitment to sustainable products an entire customer base opens up because you have a unique element that adds value to people’s homes, lifestyles, and gift-giving. It says you care. And the profit from that is two-fold. You feel great about what you’re putting out there, or in our case- not putting out as part of our zero-waste packaging- and you see the results of how people value it- with a great business model, production, etc. It’s definitely worthwhile to get a foothold in sustainable production that is also environmentally conscious.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Chris: Don’t buy so much tape! You’re not going to be selling that much to start off.

Cyndi: Have more fun! Don’t get caught up in what you think people expect you to do.

Chris: Don’t talk about work outside of work! As business owners and partners you have to be able to prioritize each other and get back to the real reasons you started.

Cyndi: Your rate of growth will be different than that of other companies. Keep it steady and most things will happen when they happen.

Chris: Having kids and running a business is a lot harder than you think. Originally we thought, ‘how hard can this be?’ But learning how to balance everything has been a real challenge. Stay true to the ‘whys’ when you feel overwhelmed. That helps us out a lot.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would say it’s all about educating yourself to find the best ways you can be impactful. And kindness on its own goes a long way. Find ways to better our communities and get involved, keep working toward a healthy planet.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Cyndi“Unfold your own myth.” — Rumi

It is easy for me to see what other people are doing, but I use this quote to check in and be authentic to what I want for me, my business and family. It helps me stay true to what I want to do/be.

Chris“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.” — Jerzy Gregorek

I keep this quote front and center on my desk. It’s one of two actually, but I like this one because it feeds my energy and passion for our business.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Cyndi: I’d say Joanna Gaines. Her drive to stay true to herself and family is inspirational. Also, I feel like we would have some fun stories to swap with each other and some things in common.

Chris: Sam Harris. He’s a neuroscientist and public intellectual who’s most recent work focuses on the research behind mindful meditation. I’ve followed his work since my freshman year in college. He’s had a big impact on my philosophy of life.

How can our readers follow you online?

thegrowingcandle.com

@thegrowingcandle

Forever Hygge Inspired + Planet Obsessed

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