After two years of telling her customers, “Have a smelly day!” on their way out of her store, Sarah Mullins is typing her signature sign-off to customers via email.
In December, Mullins closed the retail side of Hallow Candle Company, located near 33rd and O streets in Lincoln. The lease was up on her space and Mullins had a decision to make: keep her storefront or shift her company to a wholesale and online business.
“It was a no brainer,” said Mullins, who explained that since the switch 90 percent of her sales have come from wholesale purchases.
Now, Mullins has an office in Turbine Flats, where she is shifting her business model and taking a social entrepreneurial approach.
In February, Mullins announced Feya, a new line of scented soy candles with a cause. Each $15 Feya candle provides one healthy meal to a child in need.
“Business-wise I’ve always known I wanted to give back because that’s what I know and understand,” Mullins said.
Spending half her life in Kentucky, Mullins said her family’s expressions of love came in the form of biscuits and gravy and fettuccine alfredo with shrimp.
Time spent in the kitchen around steaming pots of food was precious, and it reminds Mullins of her grandmother and aunt, who passed away in the last few years. They taught Mullins to give freely, love well and share her gifts with others – so it’s with their memory in mind that Mullins moves forward with Feya candles.
“A lot of it is to keep their legacy alive and keep their love going,” she said, explaining that the name ‘Feya’ is a combination of her grandmother and aunt’s names, Alafa and Pamela. “It’s always been in the back of my mind, I’m just excited that it can be full-time now.”
Mullins hopes to take two trips each year to donate meals with the funds from Feya candles. She plans to partner with various local nonprofits to help them in their efforts to provide aid where it’s most needed, both locally and internationally.
In less than a month, Mullins will be on a plane heading to Montrouis, Haiti. From June 3 to 11, she’ll provide meals to an orphanage that’s connected with the Lincoln-based nonprofit Jacob’s Well.
Mark Thornton, the executive director of Jacob’s Well, started the community development nonprofit five years ago to support the neighboring kids near 18th and F streets in Lincoln. When an opportunity came up to work with an orphanage in Haiti, Thornton jumped at the chance to partner with the Haitian community.
“I realized the needs weren’t that different than what they were here,” said Thornton, listing necessities like food, clothing and education.
When Mullins approached him with her idea of partnering with Jacob’s Wells to help Lincoln and Haiti, Thornton saw it as an added bonus.
“Basically, any help we get from (Sarah) is money that I don’t have to personally raise,” said Thornton, who met Mullins 13 years ago at a youth group gathering. “The idea of another source of money coming in to help feed folks was very appealing to me.”
Mullins hopes to sell enough Feya candles to provide 300 meals, and she’s halfway to her goal.
Encouraging others to give
While the push to reorient her business around social entrepreneurship is personal, it’s also a shift she hopes will inspire others.
Mullins referenced TOMS shoes and its one-for-one shoe donation. The initiative raises awareness through the selling and wearing of shoes, and she hopes to do the same with her candles.
But the goal of her giving trips isn’t just about providing meals, she said.
“I’m excited about giving the food, but just helping people have a better experience and a better day,” she said. “We’re really there to help and spread love.”
The June trip will be Thornton’s seventh trip to Haiti in the past year and a half. He said the contrast between the beautiful beaches and devastating poverty is difficult to process, but having the support of a Lincoln business is encouraging.
“It’s contagious and it really helps with some of the tough stuff you have to see,” he said. “We’re thankful for that partnership in a lot of ways.”
A new direction
While remarketing and rebranding her business – not to mention relearning French for her trip – haven’t come easy to Mullins, she said it’s been a “positive attitude shift.”
She’s worked long hours to promote Feya candles with the hope of translating those sales to meals.
“The learning curve has been a lot more difficult than I thought,” she said. “But right now we’re seeing the benefit … People are very excited about Feya and they want to be a part of it.”
At the end of April Mullins announced that Hallow Candle Company was changing its name to Feya Candles on her Facebook page. She said she’ll slowly be transitioning the marketing materials, but she decided on the name change because of the number of people who have connected with her new mission.
“People realize it’s so good to give back, it’s always better to give than to receive,” she said. “(There’s) a rush of happiness, it’s a happy cycle.”