Turning a hobby into a dream job

John Shirley, Jr.

Danette Hagen Thacker

Many of us have hopes and dreams to do something greater than we are currently doing. Creating some sort of reality out of that which we can reasonably call a “dream job” usually involves a certain amount of risk and possibly eventually stepping away from a safe and dependable job.

If you know what I am talking about, even if your dream has nothing to do with starting a business, enjoy the enlightening story of the owner of Riverside Soy Candle LLC Owner Danette Hagen Thacker.

It seems the dream of owning a craft-centered business started with Danette’s mother.

“My mom is real crafty,” Danette said. “So, we always did crafts and things like that.”
She didn’t just learn crafts from her mother. She also learned about making some money off those crafts.

“Me and my mom were going to do festivals and she does hats and different things like that,” Danette said.  “So, I just wanted to join in with her. So I decided to try soy candles and they just sort of took off and now it is my full-time job”

When Danette first started her candle business, she had a job as a receptionist in a dermatologist’s clinic. It was a long time before she decided she was getting so much business she should consider quitting her “day job.” As time went on, she did scale her receptionist job back to only one day a week.

For the first five years, she made candles in her house. When she finally outgrew her basement she got a shop. She knew then there was no going back.

“When I opened my shop, I quit my job and became a full-time candle maker,” Danette said.
Soy candles are renewable and clean-burning. They also burn at a lower temperature, making them last somewhat longer.

She now makes hand-poured candles with more than 40 scents. She makes all kinds of custom items such as “Personalized Pet Memorial Candles.”

Her candles are usually labeled to conjure up images of the northland with names like “Superior Breeze” and “Duluth Outdoor.”

“People like the smells and I like to give them unique names,” Danette said. “So, I think that is what people are really drawn to is the Minnesota theme.”

Her candles are carried by small businesses all over the area and she does a lot of business through her website.  Shortly after she started her website, she knew things were for real.

“I started my website probably four years ago,” she said. “Yes, I guess with the website and wholesale accounts I was like ‘OK. I have to give up my other job and focus on this.’”

Her Facebook page also has lots of good information and fun contests.

She currently does not have any retail hours since she is busy and is the only one working at the shop.
If you want to see how she makes the candles you will have to sign up for one of the workshops she teaches. She has had groups come to make candles by pouring wax into their own vessels. She also has programs to help organizations fund-raise.

Her mother was a big part of how she started in the business. Although she mostly works alone, she still gets lots of help and support from her family.

“I have family that volunteers once a month,” Danette said. “My mom, my dad and cousin come in and they wick a ton of jars.”

Danette started with a hobby that eventually became her full-time job. Increased success over time led her to completely commit to this path of wax. Danette knows about having a dream and she knows about persistence. She has some advice for those trying to do something similar.

“I say just be patient and just keep going for it,” she said. “Because if you work hard enough I think it will happen eventually.”