LOOKING around the tiny kitchen of her one bed apartment, a saucepan of wax bubbling on the hob, glitter everywhere and piles of boxes ready to be packed, Christie Stapleton felt exhausted but elated.
What started in May 2019 as a hobby making scented wax melts, had rapidly exploded into a thriving business.
Christie Stapleton set up her wax melts business from her kitchen tableCredit: Christie Stapleton.
Now in its third year the firm – which Christie named Glam Wax – has turned over £230,000, has 32,500 Instagram followers, and its own factory, with boss Christie’s office painted her favourite shade of hot pink.
Not content with all that, plus between 300- 500 online orders a month, Christie has her eye on the high street and is currently in talks with major retailers about stocking her products.
“I never planned to run my own business, although it was always my ambition to work in retail,” admits Christie, 30, exclusively told Fabulous. “I studied Retail Management at Loughborough University then got a buying qualification from the Fashion Retail Academy in London. After that, I spent nine years working as an e-commerce buyer and I loved my job.”
After a colleague mentioned one day that she’d ordered some scented wax melts online, Christie – who’s single and lives in Dawlish Warren, Devon – decided to have a bash at making some herself.
“I’d never even heard of them before but liked the idea of scenting my home with them. However, when I looked at what was available online, I was really uninspired and unimpressed.
“A lot of the scents were very classic and grown up – like ‘Rose’ and ‘Lavender’ – and the branding was dull. I was 28 and wanted fun, uplifting scents and bright packaging. So, I decided I’d make my own.”
In May 2019, Christie spent £200 on wax, moulds, fragranced oils and an electric hob and began experimenting in her kitchen after work.
“I researched how to make wax melts online and then after some trial and error, created my own first batch which were hot pink with gold glitter and the scent of one of my favourite cocktails – a pornstar martini. I was really pleased, they looked, and smelt, amazing.
“I was so proud I shared some images on Instagram and within days, I had 150 messages from followers wanting to buy them! I realised I’d found a gap in the market and decided to set up a small business and run it alongside my day job.”
Christie founded the company with only £200Credit: Christie Stapleton.
- Pornstar Martini Wax Melts, £5 from Feel Unique – buy now
Eight weeks into the business, Christie quit her job to focus on her side hustle – and she operated out of her parents’ kitchenCredit: Christie Stapleton.
Within eight weeks though, Christie decided to quit her job and make Glam Wax her full-time career.
“It had taken off so quickly with orders flooding in, both via Instagram and a website I’d set up myself.
“I was coming in from work, putting my apron on and working late into the night making wax melts in my kitchen, then carrying all the boxes to the post office the next morning before getting the bus back to work absolutely shattered.
“It wasn’t sustainable, something had to give, but I really believed in Glam Wax so I made the leap and became a full-time entrepreneur in July 2019.
I was 28 and wanted fun, uplifting scents and bright packaging. So, I decided I’d make my own.
“I think some family and friends thought I was crazy leaving my secure, well paid job, especially when I then sold my apartment and moved back in with my parents Mitzi, 58 and Chris, 56, to save money so I could reinvest it in the business.
“They were really supportive though, even when I turned their kitchen and dining room into my new HQ, covering it with glitter and packaging! Mum bought a second dining table just so we could still eat together as a family, bless her.”
In September 2019, Christie took over an empty shop in Dawlish Warren owned by her father, after Glam Wax outgrew her parent’s house.
“It just kept growing and when the pandemic struck last year, our sales trebled. People were doing a lot of online shopping and spending more time at home, so they wanted it to smell nice.”
Christie has now moved into her own HQ in Exeter in FebruaryCredit: Christie Stapleton.
Social media was such a powerful marketing tool with word of mouth in the homes and interiors community, plus some gifting to influencers, leading to more sales.
“Mum became my chief packer during the first lockdown, and would spend hours and hours in her dressing gown getting orders ready to be posted. I couldn’t have managed without her help especially as I was not only making melts, but also creating new scents like ‘Fresh Sheets’ and ‘Rhubarb and Rose.’
Christie’s most challenging moment in business so far was last Christmas when a shipment of 1,000 advent calendars – which she was planning to fill with mini gifts and sell – arrived from China missing the numbers on each window.
“My heart sank,” she says. “With Mum’s help, I printed out clear, numbered stickers and labelled each calendar by hand, stickering 25,000 little windows. It took forever but Christmas was saved!’
In February this year, Christie collected the keys to a 3,000 square foot industrial unit in Exeter, which she has leased.
“It was such an exciting moment, walking into the Glam Wax factory for the first time. From my kitchen to my own premises in under two years, it felt totally surreal and is definitely my greatest achievement to date.
Christie’s mum Mitzi was her chief packer in the early days of the businessCredit: Christie Stapleton.
“Now I have four employees, all women, who are a mix of full and part time staff. They help with everything from marketing to making, and we now produce other products like diffusers and bubble bath.
“The original Pornstar Martini scent is still one of the bestsellers and we charge £5 for a pack of six melts,’ says Christie.
“I call myself the Boss Babe but I’m still hands on with every part of the business.”
To date, Glam Wax’s turnover is £230,000 and net profit is around £50,000, with Christie only taking a small wage as she continues to build the brand.
How YOU can Boss It like Christie:
Post pandemic the wax melts market is busy! A lot of people turned to craft making in lockdown, so you need to stand out from the crowd with your design, scent and packaging.
You don’t need a budget for market research, use your family and friends for feedback on your products and engage with your customers to find out what they like.
Be across all social media channels – I’m about to branch out onto Tik Tok as another platform to promote my products.
Stay motivated. Running your own business will always have ups and downs, and can be really tiring. For me it’s watching customer’s unboxing videos on social media and reading their positive feedback that keeps driving me on. There’s nothing like seeing people love the products I created.
“I didn’t take a salary for the first year and even now I’m the lowest paid member of staff because I’m still investing in the business, helping it grow. I pay myself £150 a week, and still live with my parents.
“Apart from a government bounce back loan in 2020, I’ve had no external finance. I’ve bootstrapped it all the way and I’m proud of building this company up myself.”
Ambitious Christie wants to crack the high street next and with help from a retail distributor, who acts as a middle man between manufacturers like her and big-name retailers, she’s currently preparing to pitch to some household high street names.
“It’s a really exciting time for Glam Wax, I want to see our products on the shelves of the biggest stores in the country, that’s the next dream I want to fulfil and if I can secure deals like that it will have a huge knock-on effect on our turnover and profit.”
For more inspiring stories, we spoke to Molly Robson who set up my first business when she was 18 – now Mrs Hinch has turned her furniture company into a £5m empire.
And Pamela Gruhn gambled her life savings to set up my chalk paint business – now Frenchic is worth £16m.
Plus Stacey Solomon’s sister Jemma revealed she caught the labelling bug from her – she set up her business with £300 and now Lord Sugar has invested.
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