Four local women turn to social media to grow their home-based businesses –
Story and photo by Patricia Beech –
Starting a business used to mean finding the right commercial space in the right location, but with today’s technology, anyone can start and run a business online, often with little or no start up cost.
An increasing number of local young people are taking advantage of social media opportunities to build and market businesses that line up with their interests, skills, and passions – in addition to creating a secondary income stream aimed at increasing their overall financial security.
It was an idea that appealed to Courtney Rufener, a stay-at-home mom who uses Facebook to market her homemade candles and wax melts.
“Facebook is an effective business tool if you keep up with it,” she says. “I spend a couple hours every day uploading items, and if my customers see something they like, but want it in a different color or scent, they can shoot me a message, and I’ll make them to order.”
Rufener also provides several delivery and payment options for customers placing orders through her Facebook page, “Courtney’s Candles”.
“I ship, I deliver, and payments can be made through Paypal, Messenger, or cash – whichever is most convenient for my customers.”
She says she discovered her love of candle making while helping her young daughter make a candle from a simple wax candle kit.
“After we made the first one, my Mom wanted one, then my sister wanted one, then my Mom’s friend wanted one, and it just kind of grew and grew.”
Rufener’s candles and melts are made from soy and contain no chemicals or fillers.
“I do it all right out of my kitchen,” she says. “I play around with the wax and see what I can create and if I don’t like it, I just melt it down and start over.”
In addition to marketing her candles on Facebook, Rufener is a frequent vendor at local fall festivals where she displays and sells her scented wax creations.
Her popular wax melts, shaped in a variety of seasonal molds, are a best seller.
“For summer I sell stars, hearts, and sea shells, and this fall I’ll have leaf shapes, spiders, and skulls for Halloween. As the seasons change, the molds change.”
Facebook has also provided a marketing outlet for Angelina Newman who, in addition to working full time, operates Cocoa Rose Photography, sells Thirty-One Handbags, and is a Clever Container consultant.
“I started the photography business because there were no souvenirs of Adams County,” she says. “We really didn’t have anything that showed the beauty of our county and its history.”
When the John T. Wilson house in Tranquility opened as a Bed and Breakfast, Newman was inspired.
“The idea occurred to me to make post cards and mugs featuring different sites around Adams County like the courthouse, the Presbyterian Church in West Union, the John T. Wilson House, and several other attractions and landmarks.”
Newman runs the business out of her home and uses her Facebook page “Cocoa Rose Photography” to market her photography and local souvenirs. She says the public’s response has been very positive.
Her postcards and mugs can be purchased in several local businesses throughout Adams County, and she is also a frequent vendor at local festivals and craft shows.
A desire to stay home with her children motivated Rebecca Chandler to start up her own home-based jewelry business.
“I worked in an office for 13 years, but couldn’t find a good baby sitter so I became one,” Chandler says. “Now that my kids are getting older I wanted to do something that would allow me to spend more time with my own children, and have time to travel and do the things we want to do while they’re still young.”
Chandler says her sister influenced her decision to become an independent consultant for Paparazzi Jewelry and Accessories.
“My sister sold Paparazzi in her salon for a while, and I really loved the product,” she says. “Even though the pieces are only $5 each, they’re beautiful, lead and nickel free, and they hold up really well.”
Chandler uses her Facebook page, “Paparazzi by Rebecca Chandler” to market and sell her jewelry line which includes necklaces, bracelets, watches, rings, earrings, headbands, and hair clips.
She both ships and delivers customer orders.
Customers who join her VIP group at Rebecca’s Paparazzi can view her current inventory and schedule of live shows.
While she does most of her selling on Facebook, she is also an occasional vendor at local festivals and craft shows where customers can experience the quality of her affordable jewelry first hand.
“A lot of people can’t afford to buy from more expensive jewelry lines, but Paparazzi is something everybody can afford,” she says. “It allows people to do something nice for themselves, because everybody likes a new piece of jewelry.”
Stephanie Chamblin says she might never have considered starting her business, Butterfly Falls Soaps, had it not been for Facebook.
After paying $12 for a bar of old-fashioned pine tar soap, Chamblin says she decided to fall back on her own soap making skills to save money.
“When I was a little kid, my great-grandmother told me how she used to make pine tar soap, so I decided to make a batch,” she said. “I posted a photo of my soap on Facebook to show my grandmother, aunts, and uncles that I was making soap like Grandma did, and people were so surprised, apparently soap-making isn’t common anymore.”
Married and fresh out of college, Chamblin says she and her husband had only one car and were struggling to make ends meet.
“My husband was driving from West Union to Cincinnati every day to work, and I needed something to do. After I posted my soap on Facebook people began responding – they were excited to buy homemade soap because no one was making it.”
She began doing research to find a recipe for her own unique brand of soap. Using the Soap Calculator website, she developed her own soap recipe, then worked with a fragrance company to formulate her own scents.
She developed fragrances similar to the Victoria’s Secret brands, “Pink Sugar” and “Love Spell”, and a discontinued Bath and Body fragrance, Black Raspberry Vanilla, as well as natural scents like lavender and rose.
“I had no idea what to charge for my soap,” she says. “So I started by trading for items we needed, and for lard because my soaps are 100 percent lard-based. That’s how I keep my prices down – it’s not very expensive to make, and I find the quality and the lather is so much more soothing to your skin when it’s made from natural materials.”
As the demand for her soaps grew, Chamblin continued to develop new soaps and bath bombs that would appeal to her target audience of 20-30-year-old women.
“I started pouring it to get designs, I wanted to push the colors to create swirls through the soap” she said. She also makes fully-decorated carrot cake soap wedges which fit together to form a complete double-layer cake that has become her top seller for wedding shower favors and birthdays.
“They’re very fancy,” she say., “But my best sellers are still the old fashioned rustic soaps that are for skin disorders – like pine tar which dries up poison ivy and poison oak, and repels mosquitoes.”
As her business continued to grow, she decided to branch out into lotions.
“I wanted to make lotions because what I was buying at the store for my own use wasn’t working,” she adds. “I started looking into oils that penetrate deeper into the skin – like palm oil and argan oil – they’re more expensive, but they penetrate through all the layers of the skin, and they’re so much better than anything I’ve ever bought in a store.”
Chamblin says her success doing something she loves has made “such a difference in our lives financially”.
“I literally went from that first soap that I posted on Facebook to share with my family, to having a customer-base of 500 people.”
In addition to her Facebook shop “Butterfly Falls Soap” Chamblin is a frequent vendor at local village festivals and at the Adams County Fair’s General Store.