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Daily Inspiration: Meet Michelle Stevenson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Stevenson.

Hi Michelle, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I guess it’s best to start by saying that I’m on my third career. I spent 13+ years in retail, growing up with Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma. I started working for them in my late teens, and my last position was District Manager covering Beverly Hills, the Valley and up to Santa Barbara, managing ten stores and over $65,000,000 million in sales with a staff of hundreds. Though I had enjoyed the people side of retail, my heart was drawn to the culture of the stores, the merchandise, the idea of home and quality products. Eventually, as my love grew tired of retail, I searched for my next career. I had at the time in 2006, a four years old labrador named Hannah. She was my soul mate. I craved more times with her and the hikes and the beach. Always I had been a cat and dog lover. It was almost an obsession. So with that, I started my own dog business in 2006.

Before dog walking became popular, I started with a small pack of loving misfits that grew into a large pack of clients. I began training dogs, boarding dogs and did a lot of therapy work with Hannah. We visited places like Shriner’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and retirement homes. As business increased and dogs became even more popular in the home environment, I found I was working more with people than dogs. Which is necessary when training a dog, but my end goal was not to work with more people… Up to this point, I had lived my life as an extrovert, but I am strong introvert and recharge my battery with quite, stillness, meditation and with my own animals (I now have two dogs and six cats). After 12 years in the dog business, started to slowly let some clients go and started to dabble in interior design and home remodel in 2015. And, I had a side gig of fostering. Lots of kittens and dogs. A revolving door of balls of fur. Mentally rehabbing some dogs and socializing kittens. And while the interior design and remodeling was fun and exciting, it too came with a host of challenges, problem-solving and people. And that was not what I had wanted as a long-term goal. Meanwhile……

I had taken up candle-making as a hobby in 2015. I have always been extremely drawn to scents. Whether it be perfume or candles, I can smell something and it can instantly change my mood. Transport me to a different place and time. A friend of mine knew how to make candles, so one afternoon in her kitchen, I made my first two candles. At the time, I did not foresee a career or company blooming. However, it was a creative and almost a meditative endeavor that I very much enjoyed. Soon an excitement and passion started to form. I was reading about scents and sourcing oils, reading about different waxes, sustainability, burn times, chemicals, etc. And quickly, I began making candles with intention and gifting to friends and family. And about two years later in 2018, I came to believe that I could make a business out of the candles after more requests came through, but I was afraid to loose my strong connection with the animal world.

When Intersect was officially born, there was again intention and purpose. I had intersected my previous life of retail with my love for animals. While I had been training dogs, I met an amazing trainer named Lia Marques. I had sought out her help with a challenging dog that I was fostering. Lia has a pedigree from the Cesar Milan camp. As I got to know Lia, I learned about the Pawsitive Change Program. A program where death row dogs are pulled from high kill shelters and are paired with inmates. For 11 weeks, hand chosen and approved inmates are gifted a dog to train – 24/7. Professional trainers like Lia go into the prison system one day a week for the 11 weeks and train the inmates to train their very own dogs. Dogs are then put through a rigorous test called Canine Good Citizen. Dogs are then adopted out, and the inmates have earned vocational credits. But it’s so much more than that. These inmates are stretched to emotional places they often have never been. You can’t lie or pretend with dogs. Dogs require us to bring our authentic self to the surface, that is if you want to get anywhere in your training. So the bond between trainer and K-9 becomes so intense, break-through healing begins for both mutt and man. Currently, graduates of the Pawsitive Change program who have been released from incarceration, to date the recidivism rate is zero. I believe dogs are magic.

So currently at Intersect, we have developed 14 scents. Some scents entirely unique (like No 13, Midnight, the Abbey and Cardomom + Absinthe, and other scents that are familiar to people like Blood Orange Blossom, but with our twist. The scents we use are of perfume grade and quality. Our wax is proprietary blend of Coconut, Soy and Apricot Oil. The testing we have conducted has been extensive, expensive and at times grueling. All hand poured by me in a home studio. However, the finished product is beautiful and clean burning. And, it’s our mission to share as many of our candles as possible and introduce people to the Pawsitive Change Program, where we currently donate 10% of our proceeds to them. When you buy our products, you will always see a paw on the packaging, which always prompts the questions, “why the paw print.”

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Ha! Honestly, the most difficult part is believe in oneself. There have been times when I’ve thought, what the hell am I doing. But the angst is quickly diminished when I remember all of the wonderful things that come with the business.

But certainly, I’ve been challenged with the learning curve in general. Bad waxes (money down the drain), terrible scents (money down the drain), obtaining the right vessels, boxes, packaging. Choosing the right printer or wholesalers to do business with. Even during Covid, there has been a shortage of wax and packaging materials. I think during the stay-at-home orders, many candle makers were born!

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Our candles are quality candles. The burn is slow and clean. We use the right size cotton wicks instead of lead-core wicks. We choose sustainable materials and we choose expensive body safe perfume oils to scent the wax. We don’t use products with Diethyl Phthalates or waxes with acetone, benzene and toluene (found in paraffin wax). We are known for our unique blends and candles that throw well! We are also known as the candle that donates to rescue dogs.

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
Ever since I left a sure thing gig in retail, everything has been a risk. No car allowance, no health insurance, no paid sick days vacation days, or stock options. I went from a 6 figure salary to a $35 dollar a day dog. But I was no longer responsible for someone’s future career or advancement based on a company culture that wasn’t designed by me. And when I gave up the dog business, which had grown to over 100 clients, all word of mouth with zero advertising, I also left a sure thing. But as I get older, quality of life for me looks different. It’s been about happiness and reward, both internally and externally. So to me, risk is always necessary with growing a business or growing oneself. I love that I now create a product that people enjoy and I get to donate to a place that fills my heart. Risk is important.

Contact Info:

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  • Instagram: intersectcandles
  • Facebook: intersectcandles

Image Credits:

Image credits to: Julie Weinzettl at: IG: thisfinedayphotography

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