How this entrepreneur turned her passion into a small business

Making personalised candles for family and friends was originally just a fun project for candle maker Sarah McIntosh to do outside of her flourishing career as a digital strategist.

Creating custom scented candles as gifts for family and friends gave Sarah a creative outlet to embrace her love of DIY.

Air of Grace custom candles

Air of Grace candles began as a creative outlet for Sarah McIntosh.


After receiving positive feedback from family and friends, Sarah was motivated to pursue candle-making as a business, and launched Air of Grace.

The time it takes to turn your passion into a business

As a downtime activity, Sarah could make candles when it suited her.

But as a business, she needs to dedicate time every day to help Air of Grace grow.

She sets aside 20 minutes every morning to manage quick business tasks.

That could include anything from responding to customer enquiries, to following up supplier deliveries, to organising her next market day so she can build her customer base.

Sarah McIntosh turned her passion project into a small businessSarah McIntosh sells her Air of Grace candles at markets to build its customer base.

She also spends an average of an hour each weeknight doing admin tasks, such as updating stock on her website.

“Nothing too strenuous – I enjoy it, so it’s relaxing for me,” Sarah says.

Weekends – particularly in spring and summer months – are often devoted to making and selling candles.

“That’s when I do the heavy lifting – making candles, boxing them, going to markets. They’re long days,” Sarah says.

 

On finding balance when an interest becomes a business

Sarah admits keeping balance between work, her business and her social life is tricky.

Sometimes that means declining more social invitations than she’d like.

“You just have to work hard, suck it up a bit, and be realistic about your priorities,” Sarah says.

Combining her business pursuits with social catch-ups is one way Sarah manages to keep a sense of balance.

“Last year when I did lots of markets, friends knew most of my Sundays would be spent at a market. They’d often come and visit and spend time with me, so that’s fun!”

She considers herself lucky to have her friends’ and family’s support.

“I’ve had so many people help me with candle-making and my market set-up…I might not have continued without their support.”

 

Lessons Sarah learnt creating a business from her hobby

Sarah says her entrepreneurial endeavours have actually helped her career as a digital strategist.

She’s refined her time management skills: “I try to be really efficient in my day job, so I’m not taking work home”.

“There’s an incentive for me to work hard in the office and do the best I can efficiently so the reward is more time at home to work on the business.”

She’s also gained a great understanding of how to problem-solve for her clients.

“On a daily basis I figure out how clients should spend their money, and I have to do the same for my own business, so it’s given me a greater appreciation for working with clients and the budgets they have.”

 

Make solid plans if you want to turn your side project into a side business

Sarah’s strategic strengths well prepared her to turn her interest into a business.

But she’s met many other makers at markets who haven’t thought about how they will keep their project going long-term.

“A lot of people I’ve met at markets dive into it with no real plan.”

Sarah, on the other hand, has already been planning how she can expand Air of Grace – from wholesale ventures to breaking into the interior design industry.

So does that mean Sarah might leave her strategy job to pursue her business full time?

“Of course as a business owner you aspire to be able to run it and enable your business to support you. But not just yet,” she says with a smile.

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