Creative Energy Candles
Kara Sherritt, president
Kara Sherritt has no problems making creative decisions at a moment’s notice. The president of Creative Energy Candles displays the same enigmatic charm that her company’s name suggests.
Business decisions, however, were another ball of wax.
Sherritt had started a business based on her fascination with candles and had successfully created a customer base of about 150 gift shops by 2012 for her scented candles. There was a thought that she could be doing more with her business, but it wasn’t obvious as to how. Eventually, she heard about the South Carolina Small Business Development Centers and Columbia consultant Pete Oliver.
“Friends of mine who own a business told me how they got business advice from Pete Oliver,” she said. “I decided to see him. I’m fine with making creative decisions, but when it comes to business, I can use all the advice I can get.”
Oliver said she initially came to the SBDC for help with financing and marketing, but she has sought advice on a variety of topics over the years.
Sherritt said one of the first things Oliver had her do was get her business organized with a back-to-basics approach.
“When I went to Pete, I had to back up and get proper licensing. From there, they’ve helped me in so many ways —in helping me get an SBA loan and telling me how to manage the steps of my business.
“I really didn’t know what I was doing.”
Oliver and his staff helped Creative Energy obtain an SBA loan for $146,000 to go with $42,000 of owner equity. This helped the company take on bigger orders.
“I didn’t have working capital. That was a problem,” she said. “I had people who wanted to place a large order, and I didn’t have the money for the materials.”
Oliver also got her involved with the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business where she was involved with a class who made her the live subject of a market research project.
She estimates her sales were around $20,000 for 2012 before she sought out help from the SBDC. In 2015, she recorded over $400,000 in sales. Her candles are in over 500 gift stores and she has developed relationships with Whole Foods Market and Wegman’s.
Creative Energy has hired two full-time employees since Sherritt began taking Oliver’s advice.
She has become an advocate of the SBDC’s services and has appreciated the guidance she has received in such a short time.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that things take time. I’m one of those go-getters. I want to have things done now,” she said. “I’ve learned that everything is a work in progress and you have to wait on some things.
“I couldn’t have done this without Pete Oliver’s help.”
Creative Candle Company was recently featured in the Lexington Life Magazine and gave a shout-out to our Small Business Development Center office in Columbia. The small business owner provides some insights on entrepreneurship and how it can be possible to own and grow a business in SC. Read the full article starting on page 36 of the November issue of Lexington Life.