Cheers to Twenty Years!!
With a full and grateful heart, we are celebrating 20 years in business!!
People often ask, "How did you get your start?" . .
Like all the best small businesses, La Petite Abeille (The Little Bee LLC) began at the kitchen table. Nearly twenty years ago, I was decorating our home for a black-tie Christmas fundraiser and wanted to have beeswax candles burning everywhere! I had occasionally bought them in a nearby town, but was having trouble finding enough of them with the quality needed to burn as long as I wanted. I decided to try making them myself, and although the ones for the party did not turn out exactly as intended, the beeswax continued to beckon. My second son arrived soon after, and I found myself practicing techniques (at the kitchen table) at nap time. I researched extensively and tried and tested at every turn, making them only for family and a few friends. I became determined to learn all there was to know and how processes could be improved. My older son even placed in his school's science fair by performing several tests on the candles! Thankfully, my husband and family (and lots of Faith) were sources of encouragement..
One day, I was shopping a favorite boutique and practically by accident asked the owner if she ever carried rolled beeswax candles. She said she would love to, but that they had become hard to find. I told her I made them, and she asked for samples. I had no brand, no packaging, no tags, no clue, but I brought her samples of tapers strung on long wicks to hang on a dowel over her register. They sold. I began delivering more frequently and making more sizes. . and about a year later she asked if I ever thought of putting "a little sparkle" on them. Honestly, the thought horrified me. I wanted to remain respectful of the understated elegance and authentic feel of my products, while giving tribute to the beautiful tradition of beeswax. But sparkle? That simple request required almost a year of research and trial (and lots of error) to develop our proprietary system for creating our signature Glint Collection. This step began to give a sense of things to come..
Quickly I needed a line sheet, packaging, a logo, tags, some kind of marketing plan, and figure out how to manage sales and manufacturing time. Because my family was young, I purposefully kept the business small, but one store turned into two, then five..all within driving and delivery distance because shipping was something that hadn't yet occurred to me. The "how to ship" was an enormous hurdle, as was invoicing systems, payment processing, policies, taxes and licenses, record keeping, accountants and lawyers,. . and on it went. I was a pharmaceutical rep before "retiring" to have children and knew nothing of these things. A beeswax candle company, really?
My beloved father, who lived with us in his final years, encouraged me to rent space for my growing business. We were lucky to find a rough little room downtown under the river bluffs of our small town, and I was able to hire my first helper, and then eventually two more as we gently expanded. Being a mom was my first job priority, but as the boys grew, the business was able to grow, and I managed to maintain the flexibility to volunteer and do all the things our family enjoyed. It was a blessing to be able to grow slowly and purposefully.
Understanding shipping and then a website meant more expansion. A few years ago, we moved to a larger location near the first one and are currently an outstanding team of six, with hopes of expanding our space again very soon. We have been fortunate to attract the finest retailers with our products, and we take our responsibility for that service very seriously. We understand the upscale allure of our products, and our quest for being - and staying - the best has never stopped. Listening and learning from our clients continue to be our greatest sources of inspiration - and we are truly grateful!
Cheers to Twenty Years!!
Ruth Wilkerson, Founder & Principal