Today we’d like to introduce you to Christopher Rogalla.
Christopher, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
From as early as I could remember, I wanted to own my own business. Rogue Candle Company is my third attempt at entrepreneurship and actually started as an extension to the wine barrel furniture business I had started.
I used to be a restaurant server who would collect the empty wine bottles throughout my shift because I thought the label artwork was beautiful. At some point, my wife told me I either need to recycle my hoard or do something with the bottles. I taught myself how to cut and sand the glass and how to melt and pour the wax to make the candle component. I did a few small markets here and there, but it was more of a hobby and a side hustle than a full-time gig.
In 2014 after our daughter was born, my wife and I decided to move to Napa. Though I stayed at home with our baby, I still made candles whenever I could and started doing markets in the Bay Area a few times a month. It wasn’t until after I started bartending in 2015 and introduced liquor bottle candles, that I realized I could make a living off the business.
At the end of 2016, although I wasn’t financially ready, I quit bartending and took my business full time. I started 2017 with three wholesale clients and a desire for more. That year, I participated in 25 events and slowly learned how I needed to operate. In 2018, we grew to 25 clients, 30 shows, and expanded into Las Vegas with our first sales rep. Last year, as our clientele doubled to 60, squeezed in 20 events, and started making further expansion plans.
Much like the rest of the world, Rogue Candle Co. had huge plans for 2020. Beyond wholesale clients in LA, we had plans to expand into the markets with a sales team, and maybe create a small production hub to not only create jobs but cut down on shipping and waste. So far, we’ve been thrown a huge curveball, but still hope to achieve those dreams by the holidays or summer of 2021.
Has it been a smooth road?
Absolutely not, and I am grateful for each and every roadblock.
My daughter has been the biggest blessing and hardest obstacle to work through. We moved to Napa when she was ten months old, and I have been her caregiver since then. She added an extra layer when struggling at shows, changing diapers between customers, and trying to figure out how to process orders while trying to be the best dad I could be.
Like any small business, finances were always an issue, especially when I took the business full time. I racked up a lot of dumb, credit card debt living my bartender lifestyle without adjusting to my new career path. Learning how to price product to remain competitive in the marketplace, but make enough to cover my expenses.
Saying “no” and/or disagreeing with customers and clients. Coming from the restaurant industry, “The customer is always right” is a phrase that was drilled into my conscious. Standing up for myself and creating those uncomfortable moments took me a while to get over and is still something I struggle with today.
I didn’t go to school for business, marketing, or anything in that related field. Learning how to own and operate a business on a day-to-day basis was really hard to learn. Composing well-articulated emails isn’t my strength, either. Thankfully, my wife has her business degree and has worked in a corporate structure, so she has become my HR person.
There are so many that I could’ve listed, but that is a good start.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Rogue Candle Company story. Tell us more about the business.
Although I started making recycled bottles candles in 2011, Rogue Candle Company was officially started September 12, 2015. We make 100% soy wax candles from recycled beer, wine, and liquor bottles and cans. While there are 20 fragrances on the list for perspective clients, I often make custom blends for clients, and can even replicate your favorite fragrance using a specialty fragrance company I found.
My company is best know for creating for awesome candles. I’ve had the pleasure of working with other businesses, big and small, to make a unique product that their customers will love. Whether that means custom colors or making a scent that is reminiscent of the liquid that use to be in the bottle we are using for their candles.
I’m most proud of the relationships that have been created as a result of this business. From my amazing friends, I have met doing craft fair, aka my “Gypsy Family”, to my wine partners, and all of the friends I have “met” on social media, that has been my favorite part. The other part I am proud of is that, as we have grown, people have asked if I am hiring. My goal is to bring and help as many people along this amazing journey as I can.
The thing that sets me apart, especially from all of the other candle makers on social media, is that I show all parts of the business. My feeds aren’t just filled glamour shots for Instagram. I talk about the struggles of owning a business, life, and, of course, my candles.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think consumers will continue to shift towards smaller, local companies. The big brands will always be there, but as people continue to see the value in shopping local, producers like myself will see more business.
As a whole, I don’t see the candle industry going away. Candles have been used for thousands of years and will continued to be burned.
- Liquor Bottle Candles – $27
- Wine Bottle Candles – $22
- Beer Can/Bottle Candles – $12
- Phone: 707-301-5264
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @RogueCandleCo
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/roguecandleco/
- Twitter: @RogueCandleCo