How The Really Useless Candle Co. became a really useful side hustle

6 min read
Emma Fletcher

There’s no denying Covid-19 has hit Australian businesses hard, but the impact on the arts and entertainment sector has been devastating and ongoing. Overnight, theatres and venues closed their doors, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work and struggling to find support.

So, what do you do when the show can’t go on?

Well, for enterprising entertainer Debora Krizak, it was time to put on a show of a different kind. Applying her considerable creative skills, she launched a side hustle to make up for those lost earnings and The Really Useless Candle Co. was born.

The Really Useless Candle Co sells handcrafted candles labelled with cheeky slogans.

Thinking outside the box

An acclaimed musical theatre performer, singer, dancer and writer, Debora is used to doing it all.

To be successful in my industry, you have to be a survivor.

“You have to be everything. You have to be a producer, you have to be a writer, you have to hustle and create your own work. This was no different.”

With both her and her husband suddenly out of work and with extra time on her hands, Debora knew she needed to put it to good use.

“March 2020 was when it all hit, and everything shut down. I spent two weeks on the phone trying to get assistance and then it was ‘right, what are we going to do now? I still need to be creative. I’m not the sort of person who can just sit around and watch Netflix.'”

The Really Useless Candle Company LogoBrainstorming the idea

Debora calls her candles ‘conversation starters’ because the irreverent slogans on each candle are designed to evoke a reaction, be it a laugh or a gasp.

“My candle slogans all started off as quotes from movies or musicals. ‘What is it you can’t face?’ from The Sound of Music, ‘Nobody puts me in a corner’ is a reference to Dirty Dancing, ‘You light up my life’ is a Debbie Boone song.

“Even the name, The Really Useless Candle Co, is a nod to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful Group, one of the biggest theatrical companies around.”

Still, Debora sensed she was onto something. Buying a hobby candle-making kit, she started experimenting at her kitchen stove, learning through trial and error.

I do everything myself, although I’ve got the industrial-sized wax burner now!

“I make the candles, I design the labels and I box them all up. Everything is sourced here in Australia, from the wax and the wicks to the scents and glassware.”

Building a website

Once she had a viable product to sell, it was time to build an online store.

Really Useless Candle Co Candle Closeup

After looking at different options, Debora used GoDaddy's do-it-yourself website builder to quickly get her website up and running.

“I found it so user-friendly and easy to get started with,” she says. “There were clear steps laid out and I could go through and do each section. It brought it all together and I didn’t have to worry about the backend, it did it all for me.”

Debora found the designer-made templates a big help, along with the fact that she could start a website for free before she committed. “I really liked the design element of it. It was simple, but I could still choose my colours and position things the way I wanted it.

I could see how things would look on a mobile. It was quite effortless in getting it up and ready to go.

Debora insists that if she can do it, anyone can do it. “I’m not really tech-savvy at all and I found that one of my biggest achievements, aside from actually making the candles, was actually making my own website!”

Lessons learned

While the word ‘pivot’ is at risk of becoming overused, the truth is, the ability to adapt quickly to fast-changing conditions is a crucial factor in surviving an ongoing crisis like a global pandemic.

That pivot might be:

“What I’ve learned is that you can never predict what will be successful or what will take off,” says Debora. “I never anticipated the success of this. It was a way for me to stay relevant and keep myself out there. That’s where the whole idea really started.

I didn’t have any expectations for it, so I wasn’t too attached to the outcome.

I had a captive audience at that time as we were all in lockdown and everyone was online shopping. Before I knew it, I had 2,000 hits and it really took off.”

Debora’s top tips for new business owners

If you’re looking to make that post-pandemic pivot, getting started can feel like a lot. Debora’s best advice for anyone thinking of starting an online business is:

  • Don’t worry too much about whether it will be a big success or even a big business. Do something you’ve always wanted to do or something you love.
  • If you’ve got an idea, write it down and start researching. Is there already a market for your idea? Will people buy what you’re selling?
  • Find your point of difference, what sets you apart from someone else. How can you bring the essence of who you are and what you do to your product or business? Find a way to engage people and make them want to visit your site.

Related: How to create a minimum viable product

So, what’s next for The Really Useless Candle Co?

Debora has big plans for her little-business-that-could:

  • Broadening her product range
  • Refining her existing productsReally Useless Candle Co holiday setting
  • Growing her reach on social media

“At the moment the candles are very black and white, so I’m trying to find a way to branch out and next year bring in some more products that are more visually appealing and feminine.

I still want to keep the cheeky side to it though; that’s my point of difference.

Although she’s outgrown the kitchen and taken over the garage, Debora hasn’t had to hire anyone just yet.

“I want to enhance what I’ve started so the personality of this product is at the forefront. I want people start to talking about it, possibly get my products into some storefronts, maybe even The Inappropriate Gift Co. Who knows!”

Lighting the way

The future is certainly looking bright for Debora and her sassy side hustle — even with her welcome return to the stage as a performer in the musical MammaMia!

Why not seize the opportunity to turn your idea into a successful side hustle? With GoDaddy’s easy-to-use website builder, your secret passion project could become the next big thing and take centre stage as an online business star.

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