Valley Wax is a manufacturer and retailer of homemade scented candles, sunglasses and screen cleaners that was started in January 2014 by Cameron Parsons, Bogdan Sandru, and Tyler Snowdon. As of April 2014, Valley Wax candles were only available in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The company was started as a venture in our Entrepreneurship class (MGT 372) with a monetary goal of making at least $750.
History / The Venture TeamEdit
Valley Wax was started in Harrisonburg, Virginia when Cameron, Bogdan and Tyler decided they wanted to sell candles to friends, family and JMU students. The company was self-funded using the owners' money and any profits from the business were poured back in the venture to repay for more candles to be made or for other .All three original owners are Management majors with TIE concentrations at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The group made their first candle on February 17, 2014, and the rest is history.
Cameron Parsons is a senior Management major at JMU from Chantilly, Virginia.
Bogdan Sandru is a senior Management major at JMU from Herndon, Virginia. He was born and raised in Romania, and came to the United States when he was 12 years old. Once the semester is done he plans to take his expertise and everything he learned at JMU and especially Entrepreneurship to the working world at Penn Schoen and Berland in Washington DC.
Tyler Snowdon is a junior Managment major with a Minor in Computer Information Systems at JMU from Fairfax, Virginia. He was also born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia. When the semester finishes he hopes to find an internship that will be able to use some of his skills learned in Dr. Wales MGT 372 class.
Our most important question was: "What product will we be able to produce cheaply and easily, that we can sell to the JMU community?". We decided that there wasn't a single product that could encompass this, therefore we brainstormed and came up with three ideas: candles, screen cleaners, and tie-dye. After a questionnaire was drawn up, we handed it out to classmates and other JMU students. With the feedback we recieved, we planned to move forward with the candles and screen cleaners, and decided to wait on the tie-dye because of the colder weather. After our first test run with the candles, we asked ourselves, "What can we do to differentiate our candles to make them more appealing?"
Big Idea HypothesisEdit
JMU students want and need nice smelling rooms. We wanted to provide a product that could change the scents in any room, be affordable, and be environmently friendly. Our products are not only affordable and eco-friendly but they are also hand made by us in our homes.
Early AdoptersEditEarly adopters of our candles and screen cleaners included our friends and family. Everyone needs candles around their house to create a relaxing aroma or to cover up bad smells, and every one of our friends and family members could agree with that. The screen cleaners idea didn't catch on to the extent we expected, but our friends and family did concur that it was indeed a good idea. With the candles we could all agree that our market for the candles should be targeted predominantly towards females. Obviously it is in no way feminine to have a candle as a male, but it doesn't solve a need with the males the same way it does with females. Pertaining to the screen cleaners, we learned that some adults liked the idea more than our generation, therefore our market for them could consist of both genders and all ages.
The process of making the candles was not a very expensive or timely one. The steps to making candles are as follows:
- We decided to use soy wax because it was relatively cheap, eco-friendly and renewable since it is made from soybeans. It also burns the slowest out of all the other wax giving the customers the best value for his money. We doubled boiled the wax and added oil-vased dyes and essential oil for scents. Once the wax is ready to be poured we placed wicks in our candle holders or containers and poured the wax. We let the wax cool for at least 24 hours before lightining it.
- Soy Wax
- Large pot/Small pot
- Essential oil scents
- Oil-based dye
- Wicks/ Wick holders
- Candle containers/molds
The first batch of materials for the candle making process was purchased at the local Michael's off Reservoir Street. Once we ran out of materials, we realized it would be cost-saving to order in large quantities off Amazon to ensure a lower price per part/ounce of wax.
To complement our homemade candles, we decided to take a little bet and invest in some screen cleaners off of Amazon. Because they were fairly cheap we thought we could make some good profit margins off of them. We thought it would catch on with the JMU students and we could collect enough money to fund some of our candle venture, but we had trouble selling them successfully. We did have a few returning customers that came back and bought another screen cleaner but there weren't that many.
The screen cleaners were manufactured and shipped to us before we got on our hands on them, therefore we were not able to capitalize on any innovation with the items. However, because we were making our own candles, we had the opportunity to try to innovate our idea and product further. At first our innovation idea was to try out different scents. After more exploration of scents, we tried putting the candles in different containers for appearance and value differences. We also tried to mod-podge some of the containers to give the affect of the appearance of a different color.
MVP Evolution:EditThis gallery shows how we got from a simple candle to a masterpiece.
Final Business Model:Edit
Link to Murally page: http://mrl.li/1mT89De
Lessons Learned & Advice for Future Entrepreneurial StudentsEdit
Our overall lesson learned from the team venture was to fail fast and learn quickly. Expect to fail and to have unexpected setbacks, because what is most important is how you learn from it and use it positively. Making a new minimum viable product each week allows you to master your craft through repetition. The new MVP each week might also help you realize you should cut your losses and move on to other opportunities. Another quick piece of advice for future students is to find a problem or a pain that JMU students or residents of Harrisonburg have. With that pain or problem, find a solution or remedy to it, and incorporate that into a product that will self itself. The last piece of advice is to get out there and interact with other students and adults around the area. Give them a quick 30 second questionnaire to see which ideas are worth pursuing. See what they think of your products and obtain as much feedback as possible to create improvements. Your interactions with other individuals will also lead to more sales, as you learn the art of persuasion and master your sales pitch.
Link to YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW5umK2bGwg