By Katherine Gotthardt | Photos by Rob Jinks
There’s a reason why Shining Sol Candle Company in Manassas is a multi-award-winning business, and it’s not all about numbers.
While Founder Pete Evick and his team are certainly business-savvy, since 2012 hundreds of thousands have been drawn to their soy candles because of a production process engineered by dedication, creativity and optimism. Art and science have pushed this local business into overdrive.
“Candle making certainly is an art form,” says Evick, who is also an award-winning musician and author. “The process of candle making is like being a musician. And there’s a science. For example, the size of the wick is the most unexamined part of candle making for hobbyists. People want full burn pool, and we take pride in our candles offering them this.” He explains the basics of candle wicks: “Too big and the candle burns too fast. Too small, and the wax won’t burn to the bottom of the jar.”
It took several years for Evick to create the perfect wick. That doesn’t include the time it took to formulate the scents and name them. Then there’s the color. “The color is done in layers. It’s like a painting, such as in our Artisan Collection and the best-selling Mermaid Cove candles.”
Evick gives Sarah Rodriguez, a long-time friend and business partner, credit for a big part of the artistic vision: “Sarah goes above and beyond with design. For example, she’ll include a wax mermaid fin, a wax turtle or multi-colored wax in the artisan designs.”
The third partner, childhood friend Deron Blevins, has a twenty-plus year background in graphic and web design, as well as marketing. He creates the attractive labels featured on the candles. “It takes all three of us to create a work of art,” Evick says.
The Reality and Education of the Starving Artist
Coming from a music background, Evick knows about starving artists and the kind of sweat equity needed to make it in any creative industry.
“The starving artist thing weeds out who should be there and who should not,” Evick says. “What I mean by that is there are people who don’t want to put artistic effort and work in. There is an element of suffering for art.
“As soon as someone who truly isn’t passionate about something is financially uncomfortable, he or she usually leaves the business, making way for those who are willing to starve for the art.” Evick says all three partners of Shining Sol grew up in working-class families, and there’s an inherent aspect of suffering and determination that comes from that. Evick’s mother was ill most of her life. According to him, she lived because she had a will to survive. Evick’s father served in the military and worked as an auto mechanic. “Work ethic is very important,” he says, and that has contributed to his attitude about business and hard work.
Evick said of his father, “My dad woke up and worked until he couldn’t anymore. Then he went to bed, woke up and started again. He didn’t pass many things on to me, but this he did, and it was the greatest gift I could have been given.”
Also fueling his motivation has been Evick’s long-ago chosen educational path. He did not pursue the traditional college route once graduating from high school, opting instead for art and entrepreneurism. Evick sees his children heading in the same direction and doesn’t want their options to be limited. Shining Sol has become as much of an educational vehicle as it has a business.
“I didn’t take the college and schooling route aimed at music and noticed both my children are of that [same]mindset,” he says. “We have always tried to put them in good schools, but they seem like they will take this other path, working straight out of high school. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t support them.”
Evick’s friends went to college during the dot-com bust. He saw them study to enter jobs that suddenly didn’t exist. “The job you trained for probably won’t be there once you graduate,” he says. “That idea scares me so much for my children that I want to show them entrepreneurial skills. I want them to see you can start something from the ground up. I want them to understand that if you sell a candle for $25, you don’t make $25.”
Evick’s secret to staying positive and avoiding being overwhelmed? “When I went into music, I decided I was going to give it everything I had. It’s the same thing with this business,” he says. “I had to succeed; it is all the way to the top or nothing. I’ve never once in my life experienced the feeling of ‘I want to give up.’ I’ve never felt like it wouldn’t work. It has to, or I don’t eat or pay my mortgage.”
Even so, Evick offers this advice for managing that determination and not getting discouraged: “Early on, I realized you shoot for the stars, but you take one step at a time. You climb those stairs one step at a time. By doing that, I’ve found no goal is unachievable.”
Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed.,([email protected]) is an author and poet, as well as the vice president of content marketing for Prince William Living.