On the season finale of our podcast Brick & Order, we heard from Adam Fetsch, candlemaker and owner of the Rewined and Candlefish brands.
When Adam started his business in 2009, he was working in the Charleston restaurant industry and witnessed the vast number of empty wine bottles that were discarded each day. After a crash course in candle making on YouTube, Adam began creating candles scented with wine-inspired fragrances, using recycled wine bottles as his brand’s signature vessel.
Today, Rewined candles can be found in 2,500 retail shops worldwide and their second brand, Candlefish, can be purchased at brick and mortar spaces in downtown Charleston and Atlanta.
We chatted with Adam about his businesses and how the wholesale landscape has changed in light of cancelled and postponed trade shows.
Our team is most motivated when things are a little hard. It’s the slow, easy times when we lose track of who we are.When things are hard and we’re busy, there’s a lot of change, we’re moving forward, and I think that builds motivation in itself.
Here, we’re sharing an abridged version of our chat with Adam. To listen to the whole interview, head to over to the eighth episode of our podcast Brick & Order. You can also watch the Rewined team in action at their warehouse and shop in Charleston, South Carolina.
Faire: What inspired you to begin making candles in 2009?
Adam Fetsch: Rewined is our wholesale brand that I started in 2009. All the work I’ve done prior to the candle business has been in the restaurant business, so I spent time learning a little bit about wine. I like to drink wine and I always wanted to start my own business, so the idea just popped in my head.
All these bottles that are going out the back of the restaurant… I can turn them into something! I started blending fragrances to match the tasting notes of wines, and I made my first batch [of candles] and headed down to King Street in Charleston. I was just blown away when I saw that people really responded to the product and loved it. From there, it’s been a 10 year whirlwind.
What were some of your best business decisions you made early on when building the foundation of Rewined?
Knowing my personal limits and looking for people to come in and help me be stronger or help the company be stronger. We have a fantastic team. We wouldn’t have gotten out of my shack if it was just me!
Tell us about production operations today.
Right now we have about 25 employees, and we’ve actually brought all of our employees in our warehouse back to work [since the onset of COVID-19].
Really, our operation is pretty similar to what it was eight years ago — just more people and maybe some more efficient methods. But our product, for the most part, is handmade, so not a lot has changed.
Sometimes it’s kind of funny when I walk back and see people doing things and making the candles in exactly the same way that I did 10 years ago. It’s kind of mind blowing that my brief YouTube research on candle making has stood the test of time.
How do you make sure your team members are growing with the brand and living the values that you’ve set forth for your business?
I am pretty good at being myself and being authentic, transparent and honest. I think the employees who value [those qualities] stick around and also mirror those qualities. That’s our brand; we are authentic and real.
What are some creative ways that you’ve found to keep your team motivated and aligned with your mission when things get a little hard?
Our team is most motivated when things are a little hard. It’s the slow, easy times when we lose track of who we are.
When things are hard and we’re busy, there’s a lot of change, we’re moving forward, and I think that builds motivation in itself. So when we’re looking for new projects and new products to make our customers happy, that’s what we’re all collectively excited about. In the end, everybody just wants to be proud of the work they’re doing and know that that work is making people happy.
What makes you most proud of where the business is today?
My most proud moments are when I get to see people’s reactions to our products. Just these past few weeks during what were really, really hard times for a lot of people, we got the chance to see the gift notes that people send to each other (we hand write those notes for them in the package.)
Seeing the amount of joy that is being spread out in the world utilizing our product gives us a tremendous amount of pride.
Tell us a bit more about Candlefish.
We opened a retail store here in Charleston called Candlefish in 2014. In the store, we have a candle making workshop where we offer classes and we have a fragrance library of a hundred fragrances that our guests can explore. It’s a great experiential store and we’ve made a lot of connections with people.
We’ve produced some really beautiful products with those fragrances and we’re looking to share that experience with retailers, so we’ll be offering Candlefish for wholesale in the next few months.
What role have trade shows played in Rewind’s wholesale success?
Trade shows have been very important for us. We make products that people like to touch and see and smell, [and trade shows] give our customers the opportunity to do that.
Currently in our trade show showrooms, we have wine bars built out. Our customers come in, they’ll hang out for an hour or two, and have some wine. It’s our time to kind of reconnect and it’s our time to get feedback.
How do you plan to market your two brands to new retailers in the absence of trade shows this year?
The trade show season in the summer is a time where we bring out all of our new holiday products, so it’s been tough to figure out what that path forward is.
Internally, we’re thinking we need to build a showroom here in the office and try to video chat with some of our retailers, but it has seemed overwhelming.
What piece of advice would you share with other retailers to help them stay motivated in light of these challenging times?
I feel like I’m stealing this from another one of your podcasts because I heard it and it rang very true for me: take this time as an opportunity to grow and an opportunity to become inspired again.
I had that [moment] happen after we laid most of our staff off and I walked into our empty warehouse. I saw that I now had to fill up the wax melter and I had to pour the candles and I had to keep things going. Those were things I hadn’t really done for several years. When I started going through those motions, the excitement started growing inside of me to get back into it. It built that motivation back for me to take this brand to the next step and to fight through the challenges that we’re working through.
From your point of view, what does the future of local retail look like?
I am hopeful that things will go back to normal. I don’t believe that retail will be changed forever because of this. I think people still want to interact with other people and they want to pick up and touch and feel and smell products before they buy them. I think [the pandemic] will speed up the changes that were already occurring in the marketplace; if you’re not providing a great experience or great customer service and you don’t have a well curated selection of products, it’s going to be even harder for you to move forward.
How can retailers, consumers, and community members ensure we are uplifting and supporting small businesses during this time?
We’ve been blown away by the amount of support and sales we’ve had on our website during this time. I think if everyone can take steps forward to have a positive and optimistic viewpoint, and at the same time understand that some people are afraid, that’s the best that you can do.
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