Where Are They Now? D’Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company

Melissa Wert

D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company

Are you wondering what happens to my LBU or BHB alumni post-graduation? What they do with the momentum + new-found knowledge? Curious about where they take their businesses in the year following all that hard work? This week we’re especially excited to kick off a new series that provides an opportunity for us to catch up with graduates who are truly “leveling up” their creative businesses. I hope you’ll join me in cheering on these makers + product designers!

This week we’re talking to D’Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company, whose brand has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past year. Welcome, D’Shawn!

D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company

LBC: Describe where you were in your business 12 months ago.

D’Shawn: I was selling a variety of items (soaps, sugar scrubs, candles, body butters, etc.) at my local farmers market. It wasn’t a business, but more of a hobby that I really believed could work as a viable business.

D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company
A “before” shot of D’Shawn’s Raleigh Mason jar candle, pre-Brick House Branding

LBC: You’ve made some big strides since then! Tell me about how your business has recently evolved.

D’Shawn: So many things have changed in the last 12 months. But I think the top three that really took my business to the next level are 1) I changed the name in order to be able to get a trademark, 2) I narrowed down my product selection to one product: Candles, and 3) I focused intently on my niche, branding and ideal customer.

D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company
An “after” shot of D’Shawn’s Raleigh Mason jar candle, post-Brick House Branding

LBC: What’s different about how you see your business today? How do you feel about the potential of your business in the long term, given your journey over the last 12 months?

D’Shawn: When I was selling at the farmer’s market, my business was really a hobby that generated revenue. In order to take my business to the next level, I really had to take a hard look at every aspect of my business and make some serious changes to make it a viable business that retail stores would be interested in. We now make decisions that are in the best financial interest of the business. We keep metrics of what is selling; scents get dropped if they do not sell well. It is now a business that sustains itself with both revenue and profit. The sky really is the limit for Southern Elegance LLC. We are continuously looking at adding new collections/scents and working with local artisans for exclusive collaborations.

LBC: What was your biggest struggle during the recent evolutions? 

D’Shawn: Without a doubt, pricing. Even if everything else is on point, if your pricing is off, you cannot sustain the business, period.

D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company
A “before” shot of D’Shawn’s Raleigh tumbler candle

LBC: What one development or accomplishment are you most proud of?

D’Shawn: My boxes, both from design and structural points, have been the biggest hurdle. The aesthetic of the brand is really important, and finding a graphic designer to capture the look was very difficult. Then, my first large wholesale order arrived a shattered mess because although the design was pretty, the actual boxes were not sturdy enough to stand up to shipping. This disaster (which cost me a large wholesale account) prompted me to find a local company to help solve my shipping problems.

D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company
A current “after” shot of D’Shawn’s Raleigh tumbler candle

LBC: What role has Lucky Break played in the evolution of your business?

D’Shawn: I owe EVERYTHING to the services provided by Lucky Break Consulting. None of this would have been possible without the guidance I received from you! I started with Brick House Branding, then LBU Live. I am member of the LBU Alumni Coaching Community, and I never make a financial decision without running it though Price-O-Matic. LBC gives me the roadmap right to a successful destination.

LBC: What’s the next big thing in store for your brand?

D’Shawn: Any time we can partner with another local company is a win. We are super excited about our collaborations. We collaborated with a local purse company (R. Riveter) to create a custom line of candles, and they recently expanded to a second location. We are also partnering with a local potter to create an exclusive David Roswell holiday line of ceramic vessels.

D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company

LBC: Imagine we had a time machine. Where do you see your company one year from today?

D’Shawn: I would like to be in 200+ stores.

LBC: Where do you find the confidence to “put yourself out there” as an entrepreneur?

D’Shawn: I spent 20 years in a job that was sucking the life out of me, and I was approaching 45. I felt like I had at least 30 good years to dedicate to something that brings me joy and gives back to my community. So every time it gets hard, I think of the alternative, and I find the strength to push through whatever obstacle I am dealing with.

D'Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company

LBC: What one piece of advice do you have for other independent brands looking to grow their business?

D’Shawn: Make no excuses. This is a slow and steady grind. Success comes from the daily habits of building your business. Sometimes people will not believe in your dream; people will discourage you and then hate on your success.  Focus on the ones that can see it, that believe with you and that encourage you to chase it. Developing a tough skin is a necessity; when approaching stores, you will hear “we are not interested” a lot.

But keep at it until you find the ones that will take a chance on a new brand. I’ve worked in 90+ degree heat at festivals to ensure that I make enough money to meet payroll. I’ve worked almost every weekend for the last 3 years building a strong foundation. Make. No. Excuses.

Many thanks to D’Shawn for spending a few minutes with us. The entire Lucky Break team is cheering you on!

Are you an LBU or BHB Alumni with some big news to share? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “LBU/BHB ALUMNI” as the subject line. We love to celebrate alongside you and shout out your success…

About the Author

Melissa Wert

A native New Englander, Melissa delights in brilliantly colored leaves, tabbed spreadsheets, and vintage Wu-Tang Clan. Having earned an MBA from Bay Path University, she splits her time between the public relations department at Bay Path and breaking down Lela’s big ideas into manageable action steps. A successful business owner herself, Melissa launched a stationery company designed to support women in their most vulnerable moments. She lives in Connecticut with a rambunctious-but-brilliant toddler and their sweet pup, Sawyer.

5 responses on “Where Are They Now? D’Shawn Russell of Southern Elegance Candle Company

  1. Nicole Sullivan

    Wow – just loved this interview – what an amazing change, and I’m thrilled that it’s paying off! As a BHB graduate myself, I can totally agree that Lela Barker’s curriculum, guidance, along with her incredible team, is a complete gamechanger! Well done, you are so deserving of success 🙂

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