Meet the Maker: D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Co. – R. Riveter

Posted on by R. Riveter

D'Shawn Russell is a soy candlemaker in Raeford, NC - a quaint little town near Ft. Bragg. Her candles celebrate everything there is to love about the South: the scents, the flavors and the deeply-rooted traditions. We adore Southern Elegance Candle Co. because of D'Shawn's unique ability to tell a story about a particular Southern location through fragrance, and hope you love Southern Elegance Candle Co. as much as we do!

Shop Here: Southern Elegance Soy Candles

Tell us about your business and how you became a candlemaker.
Southern Elegance Candle Company is an extension of my desire to celebrate all the things that Southerners (and people in general) have in common. It is about focusing on a shared history; each candle tells the story of a southern destination through fragrance.
I actually became a candle maker by accident, believe it or not! I was a teacher for over 20 years and started making candles as a hobby and selling at the local farmers market. Eventually, I had to make a decision because my “side hustle” was quickly taking over. So, I took a leap of faith, quit my teaching job, and started Southern Elegance Candle Company.

Shop Here: Southern Elegance Soy Candles

What are the advantages of customers buying your handmade candles over those that are mass produced?
There are a couple of advantages to buying our candles: (1) We source almost all of our materials from other small southern businesses. Each of these businesses also has a diverse work force and pays a living wage. In addition, we start new employees well over the minimum wage with the plan to start all new employees at $10 in 2018. (This is a living wage in Hoke County where we are based) So, purchasing a candle from us directly supports local jobs and puts money back to the local community. (2) Our candles are made from Soy Wax. Soy wax is cleaner burning and longer lasting candle than some others on the market. Research shows that it produces less soot and has a better burn, and is generally better for your home environment.


Who was the biggest influencer in your career?
My biggest influencer was/is my great grandmother, Ella Mae Walker. She was a Pentecostal Holiness Minister who started churches in the South in the mid 1900’s. My Great Grandmother was a preacher when women were not allowed in the pulpit. She would start her ministry under trees and slowly work her way up to building a physical church. She was a force to be reckoned with, and I was blessed to have her in my life. Whenever I get tired, I think back to travel with her, and her tireless dedication to her calling and it gives me the motivation to keep going. 

Shop Here: Southern Elegance Soy Candles

We love that you incorporate a military base into each candle you make. What is your inspiration behind the creation of each location’s unique scent?
Each candle location starts with either a location or a fragrance. We try to ensure that is some connection between the fragrance and the bases’ military location. The candle fragrance is designed to evoke the spirit of that base and tell the story of the base through aroma. So, for the Ft. Lewis candle we wanted something that captured the feeling of the being outdoors and the greenery of the training areas near Ft. Lewis. The Fort Bragg candle is manly with a softer sweetness to it. The Tobacco represents the soldier’s masculinity whereas the vanilla has a sweetness that grounds it representing all the spouses that provide the behind the scenes support.
What advice would you give to other artisans hoping to start their own business?
This will be the most difficult thing you ever attempt, so be flexible and ask a lot of questions. Get help early and often. Focus on growing your business and limit comparing your business to others. Surround yourself with others that see your vision (and believe in you) and limit time around nay-sayers.