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Gainesville resident starts small business after losing job during pandemic

The Gainesville Sun logo The Gainesville Sun 11/26/2021 Tara Carroll

A job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020 led Gainesville resident Reggie Nelson to his true passion — hand-making his own vegan soy candles.

Nelson, 38, is the owner and founder of the Daily Burn Candle Studio, a Black-owned small business that specializes in handmade vegan soy candles.

An avid candle lover, Nelson was always happy to receive candles on a special occasion from his wife, Elena.

“Every year, I would buy him literally like a case of candles from Bath & Body Works because he loves candles so much, and it was always a nice gift for him at Christmas,” Elena Nelson said.  

Reggie Nelson had been a claim adjustor for the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. for a decade before he left in 2019 to work for an attorney for six months.

He returned to the company in 2020 until the pandemic began, and his office was closed down.

“This changed the dynamic of everything… working from home gave me a lot of flexibility and freedom to start thinking about stuff,” Nelson said. 

After encouragement from wife to try making his own candles, the couple set out to properly research the market.

“We did a ton of research. It’s so crazy how many different kinds of waxes there are that you can use on a candle. We were looking for something that was cost-effective but also safe to the environment. The vegan soy is safe for children and pets, and we have both,” Elena Nelson said.

Reggie Nelson, owner of Daily Burn Candle Studio, shows off some of the warmer wax in his booth at the Newberry Farmers Market. © Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun Reggie Nelson, owner of Daily Burn Candle Studio, shows off some of the warmer wax in his booth at the Newberry Farmers Market.

In an effort to be a more health-conscious small business, the couple began experimenting with different manufacturers who handled vegan soy.

“I realized Gainesville doesn’t have too many natural, organic candle companies… there are people who made some, but no one was really advertising vegan soy,” Reggie Nelson said.

Elena Nelson typically works behind the scenes with the business, as the couple have two young sons, 12-year-old Hayden and 15-month-old Barrett.

“Reggie is the face of the business whereas I handle more of the business side of it, like dealing with the bookkeeping, booking events for him and helping with the design of the labels,” she said.

A 100% vegan soy wax candle with a wooden wick from the Daily Burn Candle Studio. © Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun A 100% vegan soy wax candle with a wooden wick from the Daily Burn Candle Studio.

The couple began the process of creating the candle company in January, and Reggie Nelson entered a testing phase in February and March, where he focused on figuring out how he wanted to release the products.

Reggie Nelson, owner of the Daily Burn Candle Studio, poses with his candles and other creations in his both at the Newberry Farmers Market on Nov. 13 in Newberry. Nelson creates his candles from 100% vegan soy wax with a wooden wick. The Daily Burn also sells warmer wax, candle dishes and Jesmonite candles. © Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun Reggie Nelson, owner of the Daily Burn Candle Studio, poses with his candles and other creations in his both at the Newberry Farmers Market on Nov. 13 in Newberry. Nelson creates his candles from 100% vegan soy wax with a wooden wick. The Daily Burn also sells warmer wax, candle dishes and Jesmonite candles.

Besides the vegan soy, the inventory of the Daily Burn Candle Studio all feature a distinct name, such as a song title or reference.

Examples include a floral-scented candle called Dear Mama, a lavender-scented candle called Purple Rain & Lavender Keeps Me Sane, and a tobacco-scented candle called Domo Arigato, Mr. Tobacco.

“After I received my degree in music, I initially wanted to be a performer, but went completely into left field and entered corporate America… I wanted to incorporate my love of music in a unique way,” Reggie Nelson said.

The Daily Burn Candle Studio launched online April 1, and Reggie Nelson slowly began setting up at local farmers markets to sell the candles.

Florida Vintage Market

Ray Gazzelli, 36, is the main organizer of the Florida Vintage Market, a community pop-up market that sets up shop in various locations around Gainesville. Small business owners are encouraged to apply to be selected as vendors for the events. 

Nelson applied and was selected, and he has been a regular vendor at the Florida Vintage Market since August.

“He’s a pretty optimistic guy… he loves doing our events, and he is always on time… He’s a really stand-up vendor at our markets,” Gazzelli said.

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Besides Gainesville, Nelson regularly makes the commute to a market in Orlando.

Newberry Farmers Market

Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, Nelson sets up a booth at the farmers market in Newberry.

The various candles and wax melts caught the attention of Michelle Pagel, a dental hygienist, who attends the farmers market nearly every weekend.

Pagel, 51, began purchasing candles and testing out various scents.

“I really do love the scents of all the candles, and they burn very nicely… I like his newest one of the fall collection. It’s the Red Hot Smashing Pumpkins one,” Pagel said.

Pagel now regularly makes a stop at Nelson’s booth each weekend. 

“He is a very personable person to be around, and he engages with his customers when they come up. I really liked his personality and hearing his story about he got started,” Pagel said.

Reggie Nelson’s ultimate goal is to open a storefront for the Daily Burn Candle Studio and offer a date night where couples can come in and make a candle together.

Nelson was inspired by the idea in thinking about his wife, who he met out bowling over a decade ago. He credits a lot of the company’s success to her efforts behind the scenes. 

“She has definitely been the backbone. She does a lot for the branding, and she has a great eye for this stuff. It was because of her pushing me and encouraging me that I am where I am at now… I want to make sure she always gets recognition,” he said.

Nelson said he looks forward to November and December as he anticipates candles will be in high demand as gifts.

“This time of the year we are about to enter is when you really make the bulk of your sales, and reviews are crucial,” he said.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Gainesville resident starts small business after losing job during pandemic

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