by Bob Grawey
Beth Jewett of Otsego wanted more than anything to stay home with her two daughters, Kathryn Makenna and Payten Del. She also wanted to find home products that would be better suited to family members who have allergies and asthma.
The young mother began researching the Internet for a way to address both desires, and out of that effort a home business, MakennaDel, was born.
It is Jewett’s five-year-old soy-based candle company that offers over 50 fragrances she has concocted using pure soy products and top quality oils.
Jewett learned how to make her soy candles through online research, many months of trial and error and some occasional tears, she admits.
It took eight months of testing before the entrepreneur finally produced her first soluble candle.
Of the more than 50 fragrance blends she has since developed, a full one-third are the result of customer requests. Her newest fragrance from one such request, lavender pine, is a combination of two fragrances Jewett already had and has become one of her most popular sellers.
“I had a customer who had a lotion in that fragrance and asked if I could come up with something similar,” Jewett says. “I have multiple different pine (fragrances) and I just began mixing them with my lavender to see which blended better.”
Coming up with a new fragrance takes a week from the time Jewett mixes testers (soy wax with various amounts of fragrance and varying sizes of wicks), curing time and actually testing the candles to see how it burns and smells.
“It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Jewett says. “Every fragrance might take a different-sized wick or a different amount of oil before I get a final product to add to my line.”
Jewett’s soy candles are popular with people who have allergies because the fragrances, though they fill a room, do not overpower one’s senses. She says this has been a selling point for many of her customers.
Another selling point is that each six ounce candle burns 40 to 45 hours and does not create the common black soot many other candles leave behind.
“I had to paint one of my walls,” Jewett says, “because of the black soot from other candles I used to burn.”
After burning 40 hours, the strawberry-scented candle she displays is as fragrant as a new candle not yet burned. And Jewett’s candles burn evenly instead of the hollowing out in the middle around the wick.
One of the more unique fragrances in the MakennaDel line is Campfire. It smells just like a campfire someone might have in their backyard. Many of her customers, Jewett says, purchase this one to put near their gas fireplace.
Other scents one can find in her line include Eucalyptus Spearmint, Lily of the Valley, Grandma’s Kitchen and Tomato Leaf. It seems there are as many unique fragrances such as Leather and Fresh Cut Grass, as the more common ones like Lilac and Cucumber Melon.
Jewett says she has hand-poured 30,000 soy candles so far, and customers can expect consistent fragrance levels from candle to candle, as each batch is measured to her exact specifications.
Now in her sixth year, Jewett is venturing into soy lotions and liquid soaps. Most of her candle fragrances are available in this new line of products as well.
She says customers with eczema and psoriasis “swear by my lotion.” Jewett tells of her father-in-law who suffered from severe cracks in his fingertips.
Since he began using her soy lotion, the cracking has completely healed.
It is the candles, though, that keep the Otsego woman busy the most. Her online sales are strong throughout the United States, and she has received orders from as far away as Norway.
Craft shows are also a big part of Jewett’s sales efforts, as she takes part in approximately 50 shows a year in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which she says would not be possible without her husband, Chad’s, help and her family’s support.
“When we first started, the girls were so little we made a fort for them and their toys under our display table,” Jewett recalls. “Once in a while they would lift the side to look out at customers.”
Since business has grown so much in the five years since that first soy candle, Jewett now gets help with shows, deliveries and child care from various family members and friends who pitch in as needed.
Growing her business in the future, Jewett has her eyes on the Minnesota State Fair and is making her second attempt at landing a spot in the popular Minnesota get-together.
The MakennaDel line is currently sold in retail shops around the state, including Ivy Cove in Rogers, and Jewett is hopeful that retail presence will increase in 2011.
Those interested in Jewett’s soy candles, lotions or liquid soaps can give her products the “sniff” test at the Elk River Arena Craft Show May 7–8. Hours for the show are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday while Jewett’s booth will be open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
More information on Jewett’s MakennaDel products can be found on her Web site at www.makennadel.com.