A candle-making operation that got its start in the kitchen of a Charleswood home is now supplying soy candles to more than 300 stores across the country and looking to move into a bigger factory in 2015.
Sheila Sorochan and her partner, Bruce Reynoldson, say the tiny business she launched nine years ago -- Soy Harvest Candles -- not only outgrew her home, it's now outgrowing the 2,500-square-foot building it's been operating out of for the last 2 1/2 years.
So now they're planning another move, this time into what they hope will be an 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot factory somewhere in the city. They haven't found the right property yet, but Reynoldson said they hope to make the move sometime in 2015.
"We are just growing so rapidly," he explained in an interview as he and Sorochan prepared to host an open-house event for about 140 retail representatives at the Fort Garry Hotel.
"We can't make them fast enough. It's crazy. We used to (hand-) pour about 1,500 candles every 90 days about two years ago. Today, we do about 6,000 pieces per week."
But to meet their current demand for product, Reynoldson said they'd have to boost production to about 25,000 items per week.
"So it's critical that we expand to a bigger facility."
He said to boost production to that level, they also would have to more than double the size of their workforce to 25 to 30 people from the current 11, which includes the two of them and nine contract employees.
Sorochan noted the company not only makes its own line of soy-based candles, it also manufactures private-label soy candles for about 500 retail outlets in Canada and the United States.
"That (making private-label candles) is a big, big business for us," Reynoldson added.
Most of Soy Harvest's customers are independent gift shops, spas and specialty retailers. But Reynoldson said he's in talks with a number of national retail chains -- he wouldn't say which ones -- which are also interested in carrying its products.
"I think we're on the cusp of (taking the business) to that next level," he said.
Shelmerdine Winnipeg Garden Centre is one of about 80 stores in Manitoba that carry Soy Harvest's candles. Company president Nicole Bent said Shelmerdine has carried about 20 different brands of candles over the years, including some celebrity-endorsed products.
"But we haven't seen any successes like we've seen with Soy Harvest. Our sales just continue to grow. They have become our staple brand of candles."
Asked why she thinks the candles are so popular with Shelmerdine customers, Bent said they're an all-natural, environmentally friendly product, the quality is consistent, they come in a variety of pleasing fragrances, and they're Manitoba-made.
"Winnipeggers are becoming very supportive of locally made goods," she added.
So much so, that Shelmerdine has set aside an area in its boutique that's devoted exclusively to Manitoba-made products -- everything from Soy Harvest candles to handmade slippers.
Sorochan said she launched the business in 2005 with the help of her now-deceased father, George. He was a manufacturer's agent with a lot of retail connections and found her two or three retail customers that first year.
But Sorochan had another full-time job she wasn't prepared to give up, so her venture grew pretty slowly until Reynoldson came on board about three years ago as a partner and full-time sales and marketing manager.
"That changed everything," Sorochan said.
Although she continues to work full time for another company -- she wouldn't say which one -- Sorochan realizes that at some point she might have to quit that job and devote more time and energy to managing Soy Harvest Candles.
"If I didn't work for such a good company, it already would have happened. But the company I work for has been amazingly good to me."