Wendy Millsap will always remember the smells wafting through her house during the early days of her candle-making career.
She transformed her Peak’s Addition home into a makeshift factory. Hard candle wax arrived at her door in 10-pound slabs. Millsap would liquefy it in a melter, pour the hot wax into pitchers via a spigot, add custom fragrances and pour the scented goodness into candle containers. Lastly, she placed the wick and waited for it to dry. She did the production in the dining room, the labeling and shipping in the living room and the label printing in the office. There wasn’t much room for anything other than candles, but that is what it took to get her brand off the ground.
Millsap learned how different fragrances affected the wick size and material, and she worked to make sure her candles burned evenly across the surface. “It’s a science,” she says.
Millsap ventured into business by forming the Lakewood Candle Company. At first, she made candles for local home tours. Soon local stores and corporate clients were buying her creations.
In 2011, Millsap left a career that included working in the music industry, yearbook consulting and software implementation to manufacture candles full-time.
Lakewood Candle Company still exists, but it only makes private label candles for larger companies.
Her latest project is Brighten the Occasion, which launched during the holidays last year. Brighten allows patrons to design their own candle labels using pre-made holiday, sympathy, graduation or Mother’s Day templates. They can also personalize the message or upload an image for the label via the online portal.
Custom fragrances have names such as Bonnie and Clyde, which is a leathery favorite, and Grapefruit Black Currant Rose. Occasionally, Millsap receives requests to create a candle fragrance from a client’s favorite perfume.
In April, Brighten sponsored a gala benefitting Minnie’s Food Pantry. She made custom candles for the event’s special guests, including Oprah Winfrey, Joel Osteen and Emmitt Smith.
“It’s fun to get back to the roots and interact with the community,” she says.
Millsap considers the candles to be a long lasting equivalent to flowers. “Smell triggers memory and emotion,” she says. “Whether it is a life event or signature scent of a brand, people remember or associate that moment with the smell.”
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.