Kristen Pumphrey is the founder and creative director of 27-person P.F. Candle Co., a homemade candle business based in LA.
However, the road to running her own business was full of bumps.
Pumphrey, who’s been making candles since stealing her sister’s candle-making kit as a child, told Business Insider that some advice she received early on in her career kept her going.
“The best advice I got was from a guy who owned a bunch of bike messenger services in New York,” she says. “Right before I left, he said, ‘Just be prepared to eat a lot of beans.’ I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know what that means.'”
However, Pumphrey quickly figured it out after she moved from Austin to Long Beach, California, where her husband was pursuing his degree.
“I definitely understood what he meant during the time period when we relocated from Austin to California and we were basically living off student loans,” she says. “I had some savings I was living off. And then whenever we’d get an Etsy sale or something like that I’d be piecing that money together and it would be like having an entire onion for dinner and a can of beans.”
In Austin, Pumphrey had had to work part-time jobs to pay the bills — waiting tables, hosting, and working as a receptionist at an art gallery. One side business (creating pillows in the shape of states) went bust early on. However, Pumphrey could not get a side job in California, and finances began looking dire. Her craft business only seemed to take off during the holiday season, so she decided to focus on the more scalable candle products.
“I honestly got to the point where I was going to give up and I just said I don’t know whether I can continue doing this, because I just feel like I’m chasing a dream that may never happen for me,” she says.
Then, just in the nick of time, it all turned around.
“I happened at that time to get an order from Terrain which is an Urban Outfitters subsidiary company,” she says. “It was about $US1,000. That allowed me to keep selling for a couple more months. This was down to the wire.”
More orders followed. Eventually, P.F. Candle Co. became a viable business and began expanding. Pumphrey is grateful her business caught a break at just the right moment: “I was really fortunate that my hard work and being at the right place at the right time paid off.”
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