Asian Hustle Network was founded on the principle that community always comes first. With that in mind, we wanted to create a marketplace that highlights Asian-owned businesses because we know that there’s a gap between consumers (like yourself!) wanting to support Asian-owned businesses, but not knowing where or how to find them. Not only is the discovery of these businesses hard, we know how important it is to truly highlight the faces and stories behind the products.
Meet Russell Santos, Founder of Santos Candles
So we present to you one of our first marketplace partners, Russell Santos, Founder of Santos Candles! What started due to a mix of passion and a job furlough due to the pandemic has now blossomed into a candle business.
Russell, tell us about Santos Candles.
Santos Candles makes handcrafted, clean-burning, and natural candles fit for any style, any room, and any occasion. Every time you light one of our candles, our hope is that it adds warmth, peace, and comfort to every moment.
It was back in February 2020 where I found myself somewhat happy with my corporate career, slowly climbing up the corporate ladder. But I almost felt restricted in the way that I couldn’t do things my way exactly or have my own creative input. I wanted an outlet to try something new and build something for myself that was authentic to me and my interests. Then the pandemic happened and I was furloughed from my job mid-March. I knew this was the perfect opportunity to try something completely new and venture into the unknown. This is when I started experimenting with candles in my kitchen, and I actually enjoyed the process. I am most proud that my business was built off of genuine love for candles and pure curiosity.
Then the pandemic happened and I was furloughed from my job mid-March. I knew this was the perfect opportunity to try something completely new and venture into the unknown.
So in a way, Santos Candles is a pandemic baby! Can you walk us through how you got started?
I started experimenting with the candles during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. There was a lot of trial and errors that I had to troubleshoot. I’ve never once made a candle nor did I have any idea how the process worked. In addition to being furloughed and experimenting with candles, I also started studying 40+ hours a week for my real estate license. It was a tricky balance for me. In the morning I had to read long textbooks and by night I would be creating candles in my kitchen. It was pretty challenging to be very honest. One thing I did realize was that I really enjoyed the process of making the candles because it made me forget about the recent shortcomings I had and the scary things that were happening in the world. In a way, it was very therapeutic. My hope is that the good vibes I have in creating these candles resonate with the buyers who light them. I want them to feel good and be present in the moment.
Currently, I just celebrated three months of being in business and was able to achieve goals at a surprising pace. My business is still in its early stages and I am always looking for new ways to be innovative and continue spreading good vibes all around. I am excited to learn more along the way and to grow as a business owner.
Congratulations on all your success. What are some obstacles you’ve had to overcome along the way?
I would say trying to stay positive during this pandemic was an obstacle because I didn’t know if I was going to be brought back to work or if people were going to buy my candles. I was very scared about being jobless. I was always taught that you go to college to have a career and x,y,z will be the result. I overcame this by just going with the tides and learning to accept the current state of my life and the world outside. I kept my head up and stayed motivated to make awesome candles with the hopes it would be loved by many.
I was very scared about being jobless… I overcame this by just going with the tides and learning to accept the current state of my life and the world outside. I kept my head up and stayed motivated to make awesome candles with the hopes it would be loved by many.
What would you say to other people who are looking to start a business during the pandemic?
My advice to anyone looking to start a business during the pandemic is to make sure you are mindful of the every-changing landscape of the pandemic. I spent a good couple of months trying out different formulas and prototypes to measure the performance of the candle. I was fixated on creating the perfect formula to have the best burn performance. If I can do it again, I would have definitely launched a little sooner than my initial July launch. You will always have opportunities post-launch to gather real customer feedback and alter as needed. Timing is everything during this pandemic when it comes to starting a business, so make sure you take advantage of the demand for e-commerce and whatever market/industry you plan on entering. Your definition of perfect is always going to be different from others, so make sure you have an awesome product and launch it headstrong while the e-commerce market is still doing good. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
What quality or characteristic of yours do you feel is most important to you as an entrepreneur? Why?
I would say I am pretty detailed-oriented. I pride myself in really looking into the small details. Sometimes I can really find myself looking at the same product photo for longer than I should. I am constantly thinking of new ways to improve certain systems or ways to have a great product.
How has being a part of Asian Hustle Network positively impacted your journey?
Honestly, AHN has been an amazing platform for me to share my ideas and creations. People are so accepting and willing to give input and support small businesses like mine. I was able to connect with other creatives and hear about their stories and journeys. A lot of times I find myself feeling alone because being a one man show is tough. I love hearing about other Asian-owned businesses and what stage of life/business they are in. I get a lot of inspiration and motivation to keep hustling.
To keep up and follow along with Russell and Santos Candle: