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Lighting up online — Akron business owner uses TikTok to grow candle business

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Posted at 9:13 PM, Feb 15, 2023

AKRON, Ohio — An Akron small business owner is running her company and raising her daughter, as a stay at home mom, insider her Akron home.

Being a parent is a lot of trial and error, seeing what works for you and your family. For Kimberly Ochsenbein’s family, what works best is staying at home with their 3-year-old daughter Gracie.

Ochsenbein knew she wanted to stay at home with Grace when she was born.

“I was just trying to figure out what I could do to stay home with my daughter,” she said.

She said she has always been resourceful and crafty but it was only when she realized she could make a business out of something she loved: candles.

3 years ago, she started researching how to make her own candles.

“All day, every day, all night. It was nonstop,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out how to get the waxes, oils, wicks like learning different kinds of wicks, all of it.

"I brought the idea to my husband and I’m like ‘I really want to try to do this,’” she said.

She began experimenting, trial and error in her Akron home’s kitchen, with ways to make her candles stand out from other companies.

“I started thinking about how I can incorporate different waxes and different things and different textures of the wax to make things look more realistic instead of just a jarred candle,” she said.

She succeeded and founded her business: Akron Lights Candle Co. She makes unique, realistic-looking and all natural candles. Her candles look like iced coffees, milkshakes, champagne flutes and more.

Ochsenbein stumbled upon another successful recipe, too: sharing the behind the scenes of making the candles on TikTok.

“I actually didn’t think I was going to grow on there,” she said. “One of my first videos went viral and it had 11 million views within the first day and I was like ‘Okay, there’s maybe something to this. Maybe I should continue this TikTok journey.’”

Alexa Fox is an associate professor of marketing at the University of Akron. She studies small businesses like Akron Lights Candle Co. and the impact of social media popularity.

“A lot of people are using these types of social media platform to expand their reach and to reach new audiences. It is easy to use. In many cases it's free and you can pay, of course, to advertise on those platforms, as well,” said Fox. “It’s about building relationships and having regular touch points with your viewers, and that helps to build those relationships to be strong.”

Fox said 50% of users are more interested in a brand after seeing an ad for it on a platform like TikTok and 90% of people cite visual appearance as the reason they purchase a product after seeing it on social media.

Ochsenbein said the views on her first video translated to sales, too.

“It went viral and I sold hundreds upon hundreds, everything sole out within the first couple of minutes,” she said.

She stopped selling her candles on third party sites like Etsy and launched her own website.

“It’s all about trial and error and seeing what works best for your business, whether that’s organic content that you’re posting for free or whether that’s paid content,” Fox said.

Ochsenbein found behind the scenes, organic videos of her assembling the candles on TikTok were a pivotal ingredient to grow Akron Lights’ success.

She now posts 1 or 2 new videos a week, hoping to add to her 150,000 followers and millions of video views.

“I’m doing something that I absolutely love and showing everybody that you’re able to even in your kitchen,” she said.

And while growing her business she’s nurturing her daughter’s growth, too, right at home.

“I definitely want her to see that you can, you can do anything,” she said.

If you’d like to check out Ochsenbein’s products, just click here.

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