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Ramping Up for Growth

Slowdowns can be opportunities to prime CPG brands for growth and discover new markets.

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HERE WE GO!” says Bryan Jordan, CEO of CandleBudz LLC and founder of SK8 Candles, audibly exuberant during our interview. “We’ve geared up with a bunch of equipment, and we scaled up with a new facility.” But the biggest win comes from Jordan’s immense talent for collaboration. “In the time between June and December, we’ve signed more than 20 licenses,” he exclaims.

This growth isn’t merely the luck of falling into the right market conditions. Jordan used an anticipated lull in his skateboard-themed candle business to: 1. Strengthen the brand for the post-pandemic market; 2. Discover an adjacent market that would thrive in current market conditions; and 3. Develop a new concept that reflects changed customer behaviors.

Jordan, who has also recently set his sights on becoming a motivational speaker, shares advice on how brand leaders can transform challenging times into market opportunities.

Bud Candles

Look to the Future

Like a body builder, Jordan considers down cycles essential for healthy growth. He advises brand leaders to avoid the temptation of focusing on the immediate during business down-cycles and instead consider such times as rest-and-restore periods to strengthen business capabilities.

Jordan took his own advice when the U.S. lockdowned early in the COVID-19 pandemic. “Back then, skateboarding shops weren’t necessarily considered essential,” Jordan explains of the primary retail distribution points for his SK8 candles.

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“We decided to purposely use this lull as a time to gear up [for the skateboarding retail market’s return],” Jordan says. “What we’ve been doing on the SK8 brand is building a plan to ready that business to explode. We have specific plans from how we will be packaging it up, creating press releases and launching new products hard with massive distribution.”

Candles

Debut A New Offering For Right Now

Looking at market conditions during the pandemic, Jordan also saw an immediate opportunity—not for SK8 Candles, but for a new brand, CandleBudz. CandleBudz candles feature the precise aromas of the proprietary marijuana strains produced by existing cannabis brands that partner with Jordan. These aromas come from cannabis terpenes, which contain no federally controlled properties. This distinction was important at the product launch because the cannabis-scented candles were initially sold online at candlebudz.com. CandleBudz soon earned placements at busy smoke shops looking to expand their product offerings during the pandemic.

“Smoke shops are so hot right now,” Jordan says. “These stores are providing a needed escape, and unlike skateboarding shops, smoke shops are essential businesses.” Jordan attributes the brand’s success to the product fit and how the packaging helps reinforce and elevate the actual store’s branding..

Bud Candles

“My packaging approach came from hanging out with Peter Asher from Tech Deck,” Jordan says, with admiration. “Approximately twenty years from the day Peter and I walked through a mall together, and I’m still thinking about what he taught me about design and merchandising. Whenever we would come across a display of Rubik’s Cubes, Peter would say to me, ‘Bryan, see how those Rubik’s Cubes make the store look like a toy store. See how the Rubik’s Cubes make a toy store look cool. I love the Rubik’s Cube because it’s stackable. The store can put two next to a cash register and four on an end-cap; Rubik’s Cubes can be merchandised all over a store. They really light up a store because they look so playful.’ When I launched CandleBudz, I wanted the packaging to be exciting and pop off the shelf [like a Rubik’s Cube]. That’s also why all my candle packaging is stackable.”

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Jordan and team

Empower Customers to Become Competitors

“Let’s just be real with it,” Jordan says. “Imagine you are the first person who discovered how to grow tomatoes. Great, you’ve learned something that nobody else in the world has ever done before. Guess what’ s going to happen? Everyone else is going to see your success and start growing tomatoes. What’s a farmer to do? Start selling the products to grow tomatoes—right?

“I know that’s a metaphor,” he adds, “but look, what I’m saying is that it’s only a matter of time before someone reverse-engineers what we’ve done with CandleBudz. I can fight that, or I can leverage CandleBudz’ success as proof of concept and help end-customers make scented products and make something—even if it’s a few pennies—on every supply product the customer buys.

“This is why I believe the next opportunity for us to step into is creating a fragrance division,” Jordan continues . “I’ve worked with my partner to create 10 base fragrances, which can then be expanded to 40 fragrances that can be repackaged into little 2-oz. bottles. We’ ll sell these small bottles of fragrance to the public so they can be empowered to make candles, bath bombs and other products. Yes, I’m telling my customers to ‘make your own candles out of my fragrances’— basically, ‘Compete against me.’”

Another way to look at Jordan’s approach to this business extension is that he’s looking to partner with his end-customers to make them a more vital part of the product development process.

Jordan and Candlebudz crew

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Always Seek New Partners

“The most enjoyment I get out of this is new business development,” Jordan remarks, “and I consider everything from working with our design team to create packaging to landing new licensing agreements. This afternoon, I’ve got a call with Global Merchandise to talk about working with five bands and musicians on collaborative candle projects. That call, I plan to explain how I can create a little packaged product that creates some ‘play-ification’ for five specific bands: Slayer, Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Motorhead and Ozzy Osborne..

“You probably noticed that those five bands are in a division,” Jordan says. “Here’s another tip I’ll share for other brand leaders: When you are looking to break into a new market with a product, you should think the number five. For example, if we wanted to go after the country music market, we would land partnerships with five names in country music. Brand leaders should aim to create five SKUs for a new market offering because you want to offer a varied but collective group of products for a retailer. If I’m asking Hot Topic to pick up a heavy metal line, I know the retail buyer will want to see more than one candle.

“Right now, I’m in the process of signing deals with Slightly Stoopid, Collie Buddz, Fortunate Youth, Sensi Trails and Stick Figure,” Jordan adds. “Each of these names is a big deal on its own. Just the collaboration we’re doing with Collie Buddz is a big deal, but when I have the five licenses, I have a reggae division
that I can offer retailers.”

While some entrepreneurs focus on new partnerships primarily at the beginning of their careers, Jordan says that building new relationships is just as crucial as building on previous relationships even after you’ve established credibility and success. “I still 100% approach people cold,” he explains. “In fact, I love cold calls and can jump on those all day long.”

Linda Casey is the editor-in-chief of BXP.

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