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The Wax Buds: How One Friendship Ignited New Paltz's Favorite Candle Business

Sara Rose VandenOever and Emily Cerrone

Sara Rose VandenOever is a multimedia artist. She is primarily a musician and Visual Arts Education major, but more recently, she has started to make beeswax candles. VandenOever has always loved crafting, and recalls making pillows and designing scarves shaped like animals as a young girl, but creating scented candles and selling them to interested customers in New Paltz has been her hustle of the moment.

As we drink tea and talk over a block of wax (soon to be crafted into a scented product,) she tells me that she learned how to create candles from YouTube, where she discovered how to mix the proper ratios of beeswax to coconut oil, and a method of creating salves with tea tree oil.

At the kitchen table where VandenOever works, aromatic essential oils and candle wicks are scattered about. The process of candle-making seems fairly straightforward, but definitely labor intensive; each product takes up to thirty minutes to make. The process involves cleaving through tough beeswax or shaving off enough to fill a jar, then mixing that wax in with a generous portion of coconut oil. Each candle must be mixed with the right blend of essential oils in a glass jar, and safely lowered into a pot of boiling water.

While VandenOever has learned a lot about the candle-making process from the internet, learning to create pleasing and relaxing scents has been learned from trial and error; she mixes different essential oils to her liking until the smell seems balanced, and notes the properties that each essential oil has, and what calming effects they may have on people. “If someone believes that something's gonna help them, then it will,” she says. “So, if their thing of choice is essential oils, or certain herbs, or types of movement, or forms of expression, then it’s probably going to be good for them.”

VandenOever started her candle business “The Wax Buds” (@thewaxbuds) on Instagram with her friend and frequent collaborator, Emily Cerrone, with whom she shares an “Idea Wall” in their house. The wall consists of a photo frame plastered with overlapping, scribbled post-it notes that pay no attention to the rectangular boundaries: “it's so we remember to think outside the box,” says VandenOever.

While VandenOever started making candles just for fun, Cerrone suggested that they start marketing the candles to people in New Paltz; they then began to sell at lemonade-stand style sales, or through their Instagram page. Through these candle stands, they have met many local customers, including a woman named Gerry, who now provides them with most of the empty jars that they use.

When I ask VandenOever for any tricks for starting a business, she says “you just have to do the things that you find fun, and then your housemate might come downstairs and ask if you’re selling!”

You can check out The Wax Buds on Instagram if you are interested in purchasing homemade tea lights, salves, and candles.

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