Shire Fire Candles was started by the two girls as a family business.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Grace Proskin and Isabella "Izzy" Brown were on a family trip to Ireland in June when they found a candle shop, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere.
Inside there were tons of candles all inspired by the Irish countryside and the shopkeeper told them all about it. When they got home, they couldn't stop talking about it.
That's when Grace came up with an idea: let's start our own candle company.
"When we came back we were like 'why can't we do this? I really want to do this, this is really interesting.' We wonder, as a family, what it feels like to be in business together, own a family business. All of the candles are touched by our family members," Grace said at her home on Friday.
Her father, Daniel Proskin, found some sample kits online for the girls to learn how to make them. They experimented with different scents and perfected the skill of making candles. Then they developed a business.
"I was not filled in on this. But they decided to start a candle company and they brought it up a few weeks later," Izzy said of the decision to actually start a business, but she said she thought it was a good idea and was all for it.
The entire family, Grace, Izzy, Dan, Alicia Stevenson, and even 3-year-old Emma Proskin, all have roles in the production and they proudly say that everyone in the family touches each and every candle before it is sold.
But Izzy and Grace know who's the boss: they are.
Nearly every day after school, Izzy and Grace start making homemade soy-based candles. And on the weekends, they ramp up production even more.
"They are inspired by scents and colors in the Berkshires," Grace said.
Dan said he and Stevenson inspect the candles and are teaching the girls about making the best product they can to sell.
"We've been working with the girls to make sure the quality of each and every candle they make comes out as good as it possibly can be. Yes, it is a company owned by an 11- and 10-year-old but at the same time, eventually, it gets to a point where if they aren't releasing a quality product, the cuteness factor kind of goes away," Dan said.
And the girl's are loving it. Stevenson said the other morning she was looking for Izzy to get her to school only to find her in the workshop gluing wicks into the jars to prepare for the evening's candle making.
They have three year-round scents right now. The first, MassMoCA, has a chocolatey mocha smell that reminds Grace of the coffee shop there. Life's Precious Moments, which is pink and smells like a rose, is a special product because a portion of each sale goes to Moment's House. And, they have Berkshire Vanilla, which Izzy said smells like an ice cream parlor while Grace feels it is more of a cozy, calm home smell.
Now that fall has arrived, they developed a seasonal line as well. Their most popular is the Apple Cider Donut, inspired by Bartlett's Apple Orchard. Bartlett's even bought 60 of them to sell at the orchard. They also have Apples of the Berkshires, which either smells like an apple shampoo or a freshly picked apple depending on which girl you ask.
And Izzy's favorite of the fall scents: It's the Great Pumpkin Izzy Brown.
"We're still working on the winter scents and the spring scents," Izzy said, as sample jars of scents are neatly organized in their workshop for them to test out and make decisions on what the next line will smell and look like.
The candles come in three different sizes: 8 ounce for $8.99 and 16 ounce for $15.99 at retailers; and a large 22 ounce jar for $22.99.
Grace worked with Proskin on creating a logo for the company, which he and Stevenson print and label the jars. Emma Proskin, at age 3, sticks the warning labels on the back of the jars. The family also created a website and Facebook to market the product.
They started selling at the Downtown Pittsfield Farmer's Market, selling 50 to 60 a weekend, and soon after Bella Sky Gifts, in Adams, reached out to them asking to carry the product in its store.
"In the first couple weeks, they sold all of the Apple Cider Donut, all gone. So we had to keep bringing it to them," Grace said.
Dan then set his daughters up with a meeting with Bartlett's and the Berkshire Museum. But, he's not doing the selling. The girls are asked to go into the stores and make the pitch.
"Other than the financial piece, I try to stay out of it. I let them go in and do the same spiel they do at the farmer's market, show the scents," Proskin said.
They are now selling in four different shops and have loaded up a slate of fairs and events to sell at. The big one coming up is the Lenox Apple Squeeze.
"I 100 percent believe we are going to sell all of our Apple Cider Donut at the Lenox Apple Squeeze and we aren't going to have any more. So we need to make extras and way more than we normally have. We need to make a bunch of candles," Grace said.
When a new cafe opens inside the Berkshire Organics building, the family is leasing space on the shelves to sell candles there — giving them their own mini candle shop. In the future, Izzy envisions an entire store with their products.
"I want to see them at a full out candle shop, one that sells candles and nothing else," Izzy said.
At age 10 and 11, there is still plenty of time to make that happen. But Proskin says the girls are already learning what it takes to grow a successful business.
"I think it is cool at such a young age to be able to teach them about profit margins and what the difference of a retail sale direct to the customer is versus a wholesale sale to a retailer, show them what the difference we make on a candle between the two," he said. "
They are also learning about marketing. They are learning about sales. They are learning about things that I didn't learn in school. It is kind of cool to see them going through this process at such a young age and get some life skills."
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