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THE CANDLEMAKER

Artisan makes soy-based candles

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THE CANDLEMAKER

Maria Passetti shows just a few of the handmade soy candles that she sells as part of her business born out of a holiday hobby.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED April 30, 2013 2:05 a.m.

Editor’s note: A butcher, a baker, and a candle(stick) maker. As part of The Bulletin’s Q&A series with people in the community, it rounds out a trifecta with Manteca-based artisan Maria Passetti – who has grown her hobby of making soy-based candles into a healthy side-business.

Maria Passetti had a short budget and a long Christmas list.

And she wasn’t going to cut anybody out.

So rather than skimp on store-bought items, she looked inward and came up with an idea that would not only satisfy her expansive extended family, but also provide the opportunity to learn a new skill at the same time.

She made candles.

Soy-based candles to be exact.

While most of those available on retail shelves contain chemical-producing petroleum, Passetti came up with a cocktail that was clean burning, efficient and organic – sticking with the process long after Christmas came to perfect a recipe.

The Bulletin caught up with her just three weeks removed from the annual Crossroads Street Fair, where she had a booth to promote Passetti’s Soy Candles:

 

There are a lot of candles out there. Why soy?

“It’s eco-friendly and it’s good for us. It doesn’t burn black like petroleum-based candles, and it wasn’t for the color that I add because the customers like them they would be 100-percent organic – the clear ones are. Soy is a vegetable.”

 

Other than the wax, what other additives are there?

“There are lots of things that go into it. The soy is soft so you have to add a thickener, and then there’s the color and the scent and other additives to help make everything gel together. When you pour it wax shrinks so you have to pour it in layers and it takes a little while to get used to how that works.”

 

What kind of candles are your favorite to make?

“Lately I’ve really been focusing on the jar-type candles. People like them and I’ve gotten pretty good at making them. They burn on average for about 160 hours, so they last a while.”

 

Was there a steep learning curve when you first started?

“I made a lot of candles before I found the recipe that I really liked. I’d give them to family and friends to burn them and tell me what they thought. They’d give me back the jars and let me know what their experience was like so I’d know what to do the next time around.”

 

What’s your favorite part about making candles?

“It’s like therapy for me. I work long hours – 10 to 12 hours a day – and I can still come home and make a few candles afterward. It’s peaceful.”

 

Ideally, where would you like to see your business?

“I’d like to have my shop one day. My husband said it would be better to be in the mall – have one of the carts in the middle so you had all of the traffic – and I think that would work too. But I’d like to have a place where I could talk to my customers and make my candles.”

 

With a small business, how do you get the word out to prospective customers?

“I hand (out) my business card everywhere that I go, and on the weekends I like to try and go to craft fairs and festivals and places like that – where I can meet people and talk to them. There are a couple of teams that fundraise with me as well and that really helps generate customers.”

 

What’s the most difficult part of what you do?

“Not being able to buy wholesale I’m limited in what I’m able to sell them for to my customers. There are so many things that go into it, so being able to buy in bulk would change things a lot. I’d be able to sell them for less.”

 

If you had to pick a candle to burn for yourself, what scent would it be?

“I like the Victoria Secret’s candle called Pink Sugar. It’s a very girly scent. But most of my customers really like the pomegranate candle. It’s got a very sweet and ripe smell – I like that one as well.”

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