You're all hip, I imagine, to those inexpensive candles often found in the Mexican foods section of supermarkets. Well, this is where they come from... I love those candles (though the colored glass ones of the same size, with no decorations, are vastly superior, IMO): $2 or so and you have FIRE for 6 or 7 days! Can't be beat.
Most people like a rags to riches story such as this, from taosadvertising.com:
Wax and an immigrant's burning ambition
November 11, 2006
By David Colker
When the saints go marching down the production line at Richard Alceda's factory in Pomona, they're filled with hot wax and a white wick.
The Bright Glow Candle Co. plant daily turns out 80,000 glass-encased prayer candles, the vast majority carrying labels showing Roman Catholic saints and other religious figures. Commonly referred to as novena candles, they are sometimes used when praying for special favors.
Indeed, they have been the answer to the prayers of Alceda, 57, who had several marginal enterprises before starting Bright Glow in his garage 24 years ago.
"It's a wonderful business," he said, watching as a machine filled 80 glasses with liquefied wax every 10 seconds.
In addition to the Pomona factory, he has a plant in Miami that turns out 25,000 of the candles a day to supply retailers on the East Coast.
Bright Glow's products, with saints' names in Spanish on the labels, are aimed at the growing Hispanic market. Last year the company had about $15 million in sales. It has 79 full-time employees.
Alceda, who came to the United States at age 19 from his native Peru, might need to light a lot more candles as next month he takes his company beyond its current niche. Bright Glow will be launching a product line in the most competitive sector of the industry: scented decorative candles.
"I like to fight against the big guys," Alceda said. "Why fight the little guy? There is no honor in that."
Alceda arrived in Los Angeles in 1968 after a short stint in the Peruvian air force. He had hoped to become a commercial pilot, but his timing was off; U.S. military pilots returning from Vietnam were seeking the same jobs.
He supported himself by importing canned seafood from South America and Asia. Later he expanded his import business to include dried chiles and alpaca rugs.
"I have always been by myself," Alceda said, "looking for businesses I could get into."
In 1981, sensing that he could make a killing in the frozen-shrimp market, he took most of his savings and bought up large lots of the crustaceans in northern Peru. Unfortunately, the El Nino atmospheric conditions that can cause major storms struck that year.
"The floods came in and all the freezers broke down," he said. "I lost all the money."
Back in Los Angeles from Peru, he met a man who had worked in a small novena candle factory until the owner shut it down and retired.
"He wanted work, and he told me I should get into the business," Alceda said. "He would teach me how to do it."
In Alceda's El Monte garage, they set up steel drums to hold the heated wax and used pressure hoses to fill the glasses, two at a time.
Most novena candles at the time had silk-screened illustrations on the glass. Alceda instead used glued-on paper labels that could offer full-color illustrations.
Borrowing from the playbook of Coca-Cola and other supermarket suppliers, he told market owners that if they would carry his products, he would stock the shelves himself and take care of the ordering as needed.
"I told them, 'I'm the expert in this; you don't have to worry about it anymore,'" he said. "It was how I got in. It came down to service."
His worker quit after a few months, but Alceda kept the business going in the garage until he could move into a 5,000-square-foot plant where he had five employees.
The big breakthrough came in 1991, when he was able to move beyond Hispanic markets into mass supermarket operations. "I knew the buyers from when I was handling seafood," he said. "I got them to look at what we were doing in the smaller markets, and they took us."
Bright Glow first got into Boys and Alpha Beta markets, two chains that are no longer on the scene. That led to its being carried by Ralphs and Vons.
"There were years when we had 100 percent growth," Alceda said.
By 1998, he was in a 40,000-square-foot plant in Vernon. Two years ago, the company moved into the current factory, twice that size, in Pomona.
The Miami plant opened in 1998, but it was rocky going at first, mostly because of the difficulties of overseeing a manufacturing operation across the continent.
"Everything was fine when I was there," Alceda said. "Then when I came back (to Los Angeles), cases would start walking out the door."
It took about four years for him to find managers he felt he could trust.
Control is the main reason Alceda hasn't tried to open factories in other countries where labor is less expensive.
Bright Glow will market its new decorative, scented products under the brand name Fleur de Lys. The venture will include jar candles, pillars and votives.
The competition from well-established brands will be formidable. Yankee Candle Co. of Massachusetts, for instance, had sales last year of $601.2 million.
"Scented candles currently account for about 85 percent of all candle sales, which is almost an entire flip just since the mid-1990s," said Barbara Miller, spokeswoman for the National Candle Association. Candle sales total about $2 billion annually in the United States.
"It used to be that, in general, candles were for the dining room, so you didn't want them to be scented and conflict with food. Then the idea of candles as a decorative accessory really took off."
The fragrances for much of Bright Glow's inaugural lineup are named for high-end apparel materials, such as leather, mink, suede, cashmere and silk. Of these, only leather has an identifiable, real-world smell.
"In most cases with our line, it's more of a fantasy fragrance," said Bella Guevara-Ludt, who heads up the Fleur de Lys division.
The lineup was accepted by the Sam's Club warehouse store, owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., but only for online sales. Costco Wholesale Corp. turned the line down but said it would be willing to reconsider at a later date.
In the meantime, Bright Glow is trying to persuade its regular supermarket- and drugstore-chain clients to put Fleur de Lys products on their shelves.
Alceda had four novena candles burning in his office during an interview, but not for religious purposes. They were part of a test of wax compounds to provide a longer-burning candle at a lower price.
He said he does occasionally light a novena candle with a depiction of Jesus on the label when he prays.
"I think it helps me bring extra strength to my faith," he said. "But I tell people, if you want to lose weight, you can't just light a candle and expect it to happen without dieting or exercise.
"It's like business. You can't just light a candle."
Source: The Ithaca Journal