How to Bring Valentine’s Day Home
When Ashley Shillingford and her husband Femi launched ReWax and UnWine in 2018, it wasn’t just for the joy of candle making, it was inspired by Ashley’s joy in bringing people together. “It was born because of the party and the community,” she says.
That community spirit has seen ReWax and UnWine grow and adapt as a successful eCommerce store, even during the coronavirus pandemic. What began with a very personal, scent-based experience has grown into a business with global reach, built on meaningful connections with suppliers, customers, and other entrepreneurs.
Start simple, and listen to your market
ReWax and UnWine began as a seller of organic coconut wax candles, but it grew as Ashley paid attention to the aspects of the business that generated the most excitement, even if they weren’t what she first expected. The first sparks came when she was looking for a natural, holistic activity to work on with her mother-in-law. The first attempt didn’t go so well.
“It sucked, actually!” she says, laughing. “It was the worst candle ever!”
But the wick of inspiration was lit and she was compelled to learn more. After taking her first steps in the “University of YouTube,” she moved on to professional courses and expanded her network by talking to manufacturers and suppliers.
Almost as soon as she was selling candles, she found that it was the process of creation that was generating more interest than the actual candles. So she gathered supplies and friends, asked them to bring the wine, and developed a new event-based experience: “It turned into a party.”
Build on your connections
Before the pandemic put in-person events on pause, ReWax and UnWine had built a customer base across New Jersey and New York, as well as a brick-and-mortar location in New York City. As word spread among a growing community of customers through social channels, candle making with a generously poured side of wine was proving popular for all kinds of events, from birthdays to bachelorette parties.
The first wave of the pandemic, however, hit hard. But while Ashley had to close both physical locations for five months, she used this as an opportunity to imagine bigger possibilities.
“It gave me time to strategize and calm down from all the hustle and bustle,” she says. “But I was still working, I just wasn’t customer facing.”
The reinvented offering was built around candle making kits that could bring people together in ways she hadn’t previously anticipated, from children connecting with far away parents to make candles together over video chat, to businesses looking for team activities for workforces who had never had to work apart before. It also extended to selling candle making supplies, as well as selling private label candles to those who suddenly had time on their hands to start their own candle making businesses.
The corporate sessions eventually extended to clients as far afield as Dubai and India, realizing a dream Ashley had had since she first started the business—and one she plans to maintain long after the pandemic passes.
“I would always tell my husband, I want to reach the world,” she says. “I don’t want to just be focussed in New Jersey and New York, I want to be able to reach people everywhere.”
5 tips for experience-based online businesses
Since 2018, Ashley has learned what it takes to set an experience and community-based business up for success in the online world, even during a pandemic. We asked her to share her tips:
To clearly communicate the product offering, she makes sure to foreground the beauty of the end product through quality photography: “Photography is key. Your pictures have to be really appealing and interesting.”
Descriptions must be detailed and specific. With all kits, customers need to know exactly what they are going to get: “They should not have to call you for questions.”
Using Wix’s local delivery feature means she can respond rapidly to her customers in local zip codes: “I find that really helpful because people buying the candle supplies or the kit just want them the same day.”
Repeat business and word of mouth are key, and they should be nurtured through education and one-on-one contact. But Wix’s email automations also help: “I love that after someone books, I can continue to market to them and get them to come back with a discount code.”
Pay attention to your referral sources. Asking customers where they came from during checkout alerted Ashley to a surprising amount of traffic coming TikTok, a platform she hadn’t yet set up a presence on: “That’s this whole new world of social referrals, which is really cool.”
Find new ways to make it special
In preparation for Valentines Day, Ashley is designing collaborative online kits with a create-a-cocktail business. As with everything in her business, she knows that it’s crafting and curating special experiences that will continue to set her apart, even when she’s able to throw parties again, and bring people together as she loves.
“Ultimately when we’re selling online, it’s more about the connection and the activity than the scent,” she says. “There were a lot of challenges, but it’s all coming together now.”
Want to sell online? Start your eCommerce business today.
Marketing Writer, Wix eCommerce
Brielle is a Colorado native with a passion for innovation and helping to mobilize entrepreneurs. Brielle is a marketing writer for Wix eCommerce, which powers over 700k online stores worldwide.