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Thursday, September 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Couple find niche in candle business

Debbie Barowsky and her husband started Spokandle five years ago. They run the  business out of their home.
 (Photos by Ingrid Barrentine/ / The Spokesman-Review)
Debbie Barowsky and her husband started Spokandle five years ago. They run the business out of their home. (Photos by Ingrid Barrentine/ / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jill Barville Correspondent

The scent is heavenly in the Greenacres home of Vance and Debbie Barowsky.

The aroma emanates from a few cozy candles placed throughout the house, and it wafts in fragrant waves from the wax creations in the garage turned candle factory.

When they bought the home a year ago, the Barowskys knew they needed one bay of the three-car garage for their candle business, Spokandle, but within a month were using all three bays. Now they park outside.

One bay, the hub of the business, is walled off with power, water and heat for year-round candle making. A stove and two wax melters form a candle making corner and wooden bins filled with fragrant candles block the garage door. In between, containers cover long countertops during candle-making sessions.

The remaining bays are used for storage and candle-related building projects, like wooden crates and bins. But like the scents don’t stop at the garage door. The business spills into the house, with office tasks handled in the formal living room and orders sorted and packaged in the formal dining room. Work and home intermingle, and it all smells great.

Birth of the business

In 2001, Vince started making candles for personal enjoyment, using a turkey roaster in the kitchen.

“Vance is a bit of a candle freak,” Debbie says with a chuckle. “It was just for us and we loved it, but one batch makes a lot of candles, so we gave them away.”

His candles are natural: only wax, wick, and fragrant oils. Debbie says once people burn their candles, they never go back to other brands.

As the Barowskys gave more candles away, people starting bringing back empty containers with refill requests. After a year, the couple decided to turn their benevolent hobby into a business.

Vince kept his job as a heating and air conditioning salesman, creating candle concoctions in the evening. Debbie, a former bank manager and stay-at-home mom, took on the business side, overseeing the finances, packaging, sales, and customer service.

The business has grown 40 percent each year, she says. They now have one employee who works part-time at their home and 20 distributors in five states who sell the product primarily through home demonstration parties.

While they sell candles of all sizes, container refills are still a large part of the business. They pour candles into everything from mason jars and margarita glasses to ceramic art projects made by kids.

The candles are then shipped, hand delivered, or sold directly. If business continues to grow, the couple hopes to eventually get factory and retail space near the freeway.

Home/work balance

While the candle scents permeate the air, the business permeates their lives, making the work/home balance a challenge.

“It is easier said than done,” Debbie admits. “When you are on the phone (the kids) don’t understand. Mommy is home. They don’t understand she is working. But it gets easier as they get older.”

During the school year she tries to confine most of her work to school hours. It doesn’t always work but the benefits, she says, outweigh the challenges.

She enjoys that she can take the dog for a walk during lunch, or toss in a load of laundry between phone calls and packing orders. And, since she is home already, she doesn’t have to take a day off to stay home when a child is sick. Working at home requires a lot of self-discipline and good time management, says Debbie, adding that it is important to hire someone who has skills that complement your own. Her employee has creative and organizational skills, enabling Debbie to focus on her own strengths, people skills and a head for business and finance.

“It is nice to be home,” she says with conviction. “I can adjust my schedule. I have the comforts of home. I can sit around in my jammies if I’m sick and still get work done.”

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