Mother-daughter team love candle
Karen Jones didn’t
want to be cleaning houses for the rest of
“I’ve always been a
treehugger,” she laughed. “I’ve always cared
about what was good for the environment and
nature, and I wanted to see what I could do
to keep that up.”
A desire for a new
career, and the opportunity to work with her
daughter Kelly Robeson, led to a
sweet-smelling success near the Big Swamp
outside of Bladenboro.
Country Cottage Candles
was one of the first in the eastern U.S. to
use soy-based wax. Jones said while
researching candlemaking, she was shocked to
find out what goes into most paraffin-based
“You have the dregs from
an oil drum,” she said. “Then you have to
add something to get rid of the petroleum
smell, as well as adding things that won’t
react with the first set of chemicals.
“We don’t do
Candles uses essential oils and natural
ingredients, as well as the clean-burning
soy wax. The women add or change scents and
aromas along the way, custom-blending some
while deleting some from the line.
“If one doesn’t sell,”
Robeson explained, “we aren’t committed to a
big warehouse full of them. We just quit
making that scent and move on to one that
The soy-based candles burn
clean, as opposed to burning halfway
paraffin candles, leaving a scorched, sooty,
smelly jar. Quality control takes place in
the kitchen sink – candles are randomly
pulled from each batch, and burned 24 hours
or more to make sure the aroma is
consistent, but not too strong, and that the
candles burn cleanly.
The milder nature of
cottage candles was very important to the
“We have people who say
they are allergic to candles, but they like
ours,” Robeson said.
Since 1994, the women
have run the candle shop from Jones’
father’s ”pouting house,” a fishing and
hunting cabin built decades ago. Jones and
her husband raised their family in the
former man cave, and the candle
company takes up much of the space in a side
building once used for fish fries and family
events. Big Swamp comes right up to the back
steps of the home.
“It’s hard to work
sometimes, when the fish are jumping and the
ducks are flying,” Robeson laughed.
Both Robeson and Jones are
always looking for another possible product.
Curiosity about how to make those well-known
pine tree car air fresheners led Jones to
look into the accessories.
“Do you know how much
the paper blanks cost?” she said. “It was
Jones was convinced
that Country Cottage should have an air
freshener line. “People hunt around here,”
Robeson said. ”You know what a truck can
smell like by December.”
Jones found out how to
make recycled paper for use as a
scent-holder, but their first attempts at
cutting out the traditional freshener
patterns failed miserably. The jagged,
irregular cuttings gave rise to the country
cottage “Ugly Stix”, not to be confused with
the popular fishing rod with a similar name.
Made of 100 percent
recycled materials, Ugly Stix are designed
to work whether they are clipped to a sun
visor or dashboard –or hung from the
rearview mirror in the traditional manner.
“We have had real good
response from these,” Robeson said. “People
are surprised, and they like the fact that
it’s all recycled.”
The women did the craft
show route for a number of years, but the
increasing popularity of social media and
the Internet, combined with the rising cost
to attend craft shows, led them to a more
direct marketing route.
“We don’t have website,”
Jones admitted, ”because so many people go
straight to Facebook now. Plus, there’s too
much of a chance in this day and age of
people hacking your site and stealing
people’s financial information. I don’t care
what safeguards they say are in place—once
is enough, and I don’t want to be
responsible if someone steals from my
customers.” The candle firm does accept
credit cards via a secure reader.
While the candles are
being carried in a number of retailers –
including New York and Wisconsin – most of
the candles are sold online. The company
delivers its candles via the U.S. Postal
Service, as well as in person.
“If you’re close by,”
Robeson said, “we’ll meet you somewhere. We
like meeting our customers, anyway. We like
Robeson said half the
enjoyment of the business comes from working
with her mom.
“Not everybody gets this
type of opportunity,” she said. ”Plus it’s
fun to see people when they open one of our
candles for the first time.”
You can find Country
Cottage Candle Company on Facebook.