Alicia Reisinger started Wax Buffalo Soy Candles out of her home and grew her business to be both a hub of community in her brick and mortar flagship store as well as a thriving DTC online business. In her seven years as a business owner, Alicia has defined her company through her willingness to be vulnerable and to share her story each step of the way, and it has paid off emotionally and financially. Here, she shares her story with Jason, talks about her community building approach and gets deep into 21st century content strategy.
-Wax Buffalo’s founding ethos and story from spending 100 on candle supplies to millions in revenue
-The toxic history of candles
-Why founders should think about the life they want when making business decisions
-Building a strong business foundation by growing slowly
-What it took for Wax Buffalo to build their community
-Is vulnerability a good content strategy?
-Jason’s TikTok 101 for businesses who haven’t joined yet
-The 3H approach to content
-Wax Buffalo’s middle path approach to making big decisions and long-term plans
Jason invited Alicia Reisinger onto Ecommerce Building Blocks to showcase an entrepreneur who is both a working mom, and who didn’t use the typical steps that many ecommerce founders use to get their product out into the world. Alicia started extremely local, and still uses her local community as a foundation for her entire business. Having this home base allowed Wax Buffalo to grow at a slow and steady pace. This episode covers the intangible factors that go into how entrepreneurs scale their business, and Alicia’s journey as a storyteller, mom, and business founder. With a surprise detour to Google’s content strategy pyramid, Alicia and Jason conclude their conversation with Alicia sharing her most important lesson as a business owner.
Wax Buffalo: https://www.instagram.com/waxbuffalo/?hl=en
Alicia’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alicia-reisinger/
➡️ Building Blocks website: bbclass.co
🍍Jason’s twitter: https://twitter.com/EggrolI
Sign up for Jason's weekly newsletter: http://news.bbclass.co
So many of us founders or like content creators right now are a little bit like, what are we supposed to do? Cause I'm not a dancer. I don't wanna point at things. It doesn't feel real. Like what, you know? Today is not every day in this business and that can be good or bad. So there can be the day that we lock Whole Foods and that feels super fricking amazing. And I could make choices based on how high I feel that day, but they might not be the right choices for our business.
Jason Wong 00:34
Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Building Blocks Podcast show. Today, I am joined by Alicia Reisinger who is the founder creator, director of WaxBuffalo Pure Soy WaxCandle Company. Mm-hmm welcome to the show and congrats for having the longest company name.
. Right. We just shortened it.
We just like call it. We call ourselves the waxy bees over here, but yeah, we can just go with WaxBuffalo. Thanks for having me. I super honored, excited to chat with you today. Where did the name come from? Um, so we're, we're based in Lincoln, Nebraska, and, um, just kind of like the, the idea of like the plains and, um, how beautiful it is here.
And like, when I started Wax Buffalo, it was like seven years ago. There weren't a lot of like sexy things coming out of Lincoln, Nebraska, they were all on the coasts. And so, um, just trying to pick like a powerful name and I had just read this kinda, this thing about the Midwest Buffalo, is that a buffalo uh, when a storm comes up, a buffalo will drive into the storm instead of like running away from a storm, it just runs right through a storm. And I loved that idea of like, that's who I wanna be when things are hard. I wanna push through and I wanna get through the storm. And, and so. That's what I named my company after.
Jason Wong 01:45
I, I love hearing the meanings of like what people named their companies. Yeah. It's, it's different every time. And I find always fascinating. Um, the first city I, I lived in, when I moved to America was Buffalo, New York. So that's why it piqued my interest. I'm like, oh, maybe it's from Buffalo, but yes, it's okay.
They have really good cheese there. My grandpa grew up there.
Jason Wong 02:05
They do. They do. But your name makes a lot more sense. .You know, it's, it's been a really rough ride for everyone in business the past year.
Jason Wong 02:16
Um, but I wanna talk about the happy things. What have you been most excited about recently?
We are. Um, so I think the thing that makes me the most excited right now is that we are opening the second retail location.
So a second brick and mortar, which I think, you know, coming out of COVID out of 2020, it was like, will, will retail even be a thing? And we're seeing that growth with our actual brick and mortar. We, um, In May of 2021, we created what we call the candle lab. So it allows people in our community to come in and make their own candles the way we do.
And we teach 'em, you can pick from this wall of beautiful glass and you can pick your scent and it's, um, you know, drink a little glass of wine. It's super fun. And it's super therapeutic. And it's basically, I feel like giving our community a sense of like what we get to do here. We love the therapy of pouring candles, so it's blown up and we can't keep up with it.
And so we decided to open a second bigger location. So that we can support more candle lab makers. So, um, hopefully this is my very first, like actual build out of a, a retail space, like deciding where the plumbing goes and stuff like that, which is really a little bit scary.
Jason Wong 03:20
That sounds like such a great date spot.
But hopefully it'll be open by November. So.
Jason Wong 03:24
Congrats. I was just saying, like, it sounds like a great date spot.
Jason Wong 03:28
You know, why go for drinks? Let's go make some candles. Let's make memories.
And you know, the way that people just like talk when you're making something, when you're actually doing something with your hands, I feel like you tend to be even more vulnerable with each other.
Yeah. Right. You know? And so it is, it's a perfect date spot. You're totally right.
Jason Wong 03:43
You, you should definitely make a lot of content saying this is a new date spot. Don't go bowling. Don't go, you know, get drinks, go get candles.
Jason Wong 03:51
I, I will see that and immediately go. Um, I love that when everyone's going to the route of eCommerce, you realize that for your business, especially for your community and your product.
Jason Wong 04:02
Retail is very important. Sensory is a huge selling point. And the thing about selling online as great as you can ship to everywhere else, you're just missing that thing that draws you in. Yeah. You know?
Yeah. That experience that like connectness right. Yeah.
Jason Wong 04:17
I love that you're like doubling down on and it's doing great for you.
Jason Wong 04:21
Um, every brand has a story. I, I think story is really what makes brands deserve to exist. Yeah. Um, when there's so many companies rising up and left and right, everyone can make a candle company. But what really makes it compelling is the story behind the brand.
Jason Wong 04:39
I agree. I can start at the beginning. I, um, my actual background is in production. I'm a storyteller by nature. So I was a story producer, which means I traveled all over the world, telling other people's stories and doing kind of like what you're doing right now interviewing people, getting them to tell me their stories.
And so when, um, my first daughter was born, she was born with a cleft lip and palate. And it just kind of stopped everything. I used to always think I could just take her on set with me and you can't take a baby on set they don't. They don't, they won't silence when it's time to be silent on set. And then because she had, um, such an extreme birth defect that had to, it was all very timing based. With a cleft palate you have to do a lot of surgeries based on like the timing of when her jaw would grow and how her nose would form. It just stopped my whole world. So my whole world became about insurance agencies and working with doctors and, um, I just missed storytelling. And so I think it was one night. I was like, I'm just gonna spend a hundred dollars on candle supplies and I'm gonna start doing this.
And I had also been doing a ton of research about, um, just the clean things in our home. Like to be super vulnerable. I think as a mama, if when you have a child that has a birth defect, it, it, you internalize, it must have been something I was doing wrong. I must have done something wrong as a mama. So you start researching.
You're like, I'll fix everything from here forward, which. Later, we just found out it's in our family, it's in our DNA. So it was probably something inevitably that would happen to her. But that said, I did start to research candles and realized that so many of the candles that I was buying were super toxics. Just parafin based candles are, uh, petroleum based and they can give you headaches.
They're a derivative of crude oil. They're they're, you know, there's bleach in them. There's all these things that are not good. So I just decided to start making like really clean, beautiful candles for our home. I started making too many of them. So I started giving them away to friends and like, this was just my therapy at night.
I would like pour a whiskey and I would drink and I would pour candles until I would drink too much whiskey and was messing the candles up and then I'd go to bed and then I would do it the next night. So I started to give 'em away. And a friend of mine like kind of started to encourage me to sell them, which scared me.
Cause I thought that felt very vulnerable. Like, what if I, like, I could give you a candle and you could throw it away, but to like try and sell you a candle, you'd be like, I don't. No, thank you.
Jason Wong 06:50
. Yeah. Right.
But I did, I started and this cute little store ordered like 12 of 'em. They sold out in three days. I took that money and put it back in, made 24 candles and then literally just slow, slow grew the company till now.
And so we just hit a million dollars last year, which feels pretty rad : a hundred dollars to a million dollars in seven years doesn't suck. It was slow, but it doesn't. Yeah.
Jason Wong 07:13
You know, it's, it's not about the pace that you're going. It's about you're at a pace that you're comfortable with, you're a mother, you know, that's a fulltime job.
It is, it is. And I have four of em.
Jason Wong 07:23
Right. So like full time job and your company, it's a great feat. Like don't ever compare yourself. I'm sure you're not. But I, I would say like for founders, we will, we looked at other people's success and we're like, oh man, I feel like we should hit that. But man, just work on your own pace.
As long as you're happy. You're building something that you love. Right.
You know, I did hit this like moment. Because, you know, like you set yourself goals or you like, you, you do that like imposter syndrome where you're like, oh my gosh, that person's so much further ahead than me. But I hit this moment where I was like, wait a minute.
What's the life I want. And the life I want is to be able to travel and be home. And we even had an opportunity at one point, like a really a big box store reached out and asked if we would do candles for them but the margins were really low. And I had to really like wrestle with like, this would feel so sexy and it would probably amp up our numbers.
Jason Wong 08:10
But instead of being able to like travel to Europe for the entire month of June, because my company's like kind of chill, I would be here like making candles for less money than I'm making right now. Right. And so it was, it was like me having to figure out like, actually I think slow and dreamy is actually my dream, I think.
Jason Wong 08:26
Right. A lot of people don't realize that like everyone has their own set goals. Right? Yeah. Like your, your goal at that point was to travel.
Jason Wong 08:33
And it wasn't to hit 10 million or 50 million dollars because you're giving up a lot to hit that. And for some people that's their dream. And so they chase for, for your dream it wasn't a numbers thing.
Yeah. It was a lifestyle thing.
Jason Wong 08:44
It was a life freedom. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And I mean, a lot of us got into this business, not because of money it's because we truly want to be able to draw our own path.
Yeah. I totally agree.
Jason Wong 08:54
Um, it's, you know, we don't work nine to five, but we work 10 to 10, you know?
Jason Wong 08:59
We're, we're very happy doing it because it feels like we're building something that we own.
Yeah, I totally agree. Yeah. And there's a. There's a different passion and then there's a different, like the way that you say yes is different and the way that you say no is different. Right. But you get to own it completely.
And it's your choice. And I think there's like real beauty in that.
Jason Wong 09:17
And the things that you say no to is just as I important as the things you say yes to.
I totally agree.
Jason Wong 09:21
Sometimes, you know, we get distracted, we say yes to things and. And they end up hurting us a lot. And we don't realize it.
It looks good on the surface. And that's what sets like, you know, experienced mm-hmm , uh, operators apart. Mm-hmm in, in the beginning, we're chasing the shiny things, but now seven years later, yeah. You're looking back and said, I'm glad I made the decisions I made. Yeah. Even though in high, like, you know, at the beginning.
Yeah. It seemed like I missed an opportunity. You're happy. Yeah. I'm assuming.
Yeah, I am.
Jason Wong 09:48
You look happy.
Yes and our team's happy. And then we even just came out of like these two days of like intensive meetings and like talking through like, well, what is our True North still? How are we still going forward?
And we all came out of it saying like, we, we want this lifestyle more than we want bigger paychecks. Like what we've built here feels really different and feels really special. And that matters to all of us, even as a team, more than the latter, which is rad.
Jason Wong 10:13
. I love that. I wanna touch base a little bit on community.
Because the fact that you're able to have this engaged audience who come in with their family and their kids to build candles is amazing. Um, I wanna hear your take on what it takes to build that community. What are some of the steps that you have taken to make sure that you have this people the circle that you can call yours.
I love this question. I actually, back in like my production days, we did an entire, um, like documentary on community and we traveled all around the country and we found all these pockets of people that had created these like, kind of like weird niche communities. Like one of 'em was like a, a Hula Hooper community.
And one of 'em was like these old octogenarians that got together and played banjos in Pittsburgh. And it, it was just kind of the dreamiest thing I had ever seen. And what I realized in like researching all of that and hearing all of those stories is that community is based on just finding each other and finding something that you love together.
Right. And then just like true vulnerability. So I think as I started to build Wax Buffalo, there were two ways that we built our community. One was, um, really authentically just through social media. I, I was trying to figure out how to be a founder. I didn't even understand what, like, uh, bootstrapping meant, you know, yeah.
I was like, oh yeah, I'm just doing this. And so it was a lot of me asking questions, being vulnerable, you know, jacking up my LLC at some point and needing someone to help, or like just telling the story of like, So I thought that my company needed a bunch of bougie boxes and I spent so much money off 'em and they're just sitting on a shelf now.
And so being able to really be vulnerable, I think through our social media channel started to create this community around us online that was like really resonated with the fact that like, They like they bought our candles because I think they fell in love with our story. So even online, you can, you can buy all the things to make your candles at home.
And that's been a huge business for us as well, because it's speaking to them about the therapy of creating candles. But then here in our community, we've really tucked into just supporting local. So our biggest thing is honestly, I think shouting out other local businesses, whether that be retail or food or beverage. And really being such a cheerleader for local businesses that they in turn have been cheerleading for us. And then people show up because I think it's. I mean, just, you know, supporting your community is such an important thing. And I think that has been a really big story of ours as well. We even created, um, I have a, a group that gets together once a month and it's like 80 business women, founders, freelancers, and we get together, um, and just support each other.
And it's become like this really great community of women supporting and, and building each other up. And I feel like our city's thriving because of it.
I love that
Jason Wong 12:59
I've never been to Lincoln.
It's darling. You'd like it.
Jason Wong 13:02
And I mean, I've lived in small towns before I lived in, um, even smaller town than Lincoln. I lived in Oklahoma.
Jason Wong 13:09
Yeah. And lived in Florida. Yeah. Like, you know, I live in these places and you know, now that I'm in a city, I'm in Los Angeles, looking back, there's this sense of community that you just cannot replicate in those smaller towns. They're. Top 10 best cities to live in by any list. But the community that you have in those small towns, you just cannot replicate in larger cities.
There's so much disconnect now. There's so much noise.
Jason Wong 13:33
And I love that you're able to find that pocket of people that resonates with what you're building and you guys are supporting each other. Yeah. You know, ultimately that's really what builds strong businesses. Strong foundations.
Yeah. I agree.
Jason Wong 13:44
You know, it's not about spending a bajillion dollars on Facebook ads and scaling your business there. Yeah. For some people that's what they want. But for many of us we're good with just having a solid foundations, good cashflow, happy employees. And there's that.
Yeah. That's, there's something really beautiful about that, for sure.
For sure. I grew up in Kansas city and then I lived in Chicago for 10 years and then ended up settling here in Lincoln and falling in love with it. But I agree. There's something about small town where the support is so authentic and, and so lovely. It's pretty neat.
Jason Wong 14:15
I wanna talk a little bit more about the storytelling because you're a storyteller , uh, I want the next few minutes just on content.
What are some of the ways that you feel like you're able to make content and storytelling, making sure that the story's consistent and cohesive across everything that you do? Yeah, what's that framework?
I love that question, honestly. I think. and to be super vulnerable, I feel like so many of us founders or like content creators right now are a little bit like, what are we supposed to do?
Cause I'm not a dancer. I don't wanna point at things. It doesn't feel real. Like what, you know, what can we still tuck back into like, What that storytelling looked like in the beginning, where for me, like, you know, when Instagram's algorithm was so kind of clean and classic me telling a story, you know, was so easy and, and the eyeballs were on it.
Interestingly, um, last month I went to Italy and visited, um, the hometown that my grandma grew up in, uh, and got to see like where she grew up before, uh, her family moved here to the states. And I ended up like eating at this little restaurant and running into a man that I realized later, we figured out through like broken English and like little like Google Chrome, you know, like Google translator, um, that we're family he's totally in the same line as me.
And it was like this amazing moment of like, oh my goodness, we are cross the sea and you and I are family. And so I came back and created a candle based on it. Whereas I was, you know, we were in Italy, we were drinking a lot of lemon cello after like. Pastas and like it tucked into like my heritage. And, um, I told the story on WaxBuffalo and really our Instagram has been pretty dismal as far as like.
Likes and, and , um, any type of like, I don't know, just the building blocks are not there anymore, but the story blew up and I was like, oh, so storytelling still matters. And I didn't dance. And I didn't point, I just told my story authentically, like I used to, and I think it was a good reminder that like story will always be very powerful if done well and done vulnerably.
And I, for me, like I needed to realize that, like, I probably should get back to doing that better.
Jason Wong 16:22
Oh, yeah. I mean, storytelling lives on in every single medium it's just the medium changes. Yeah. In how people tell stories, you know, back in the day, there's a lot more attention on to our storytelling documentary and, you know, in some sense still do, but.
Now people's attention span got a little bit shorter because there's just so much more content. And so now you gotta be able to tell a story in 30 seconds, in 60 seconds. But storytelling at, at its core is still very much present across the board. Yeah. I have a friend who started a jade roller company.
Jason Wong 16:55
Ancient Chinese tools to sculpt your face and like help with blood circulation. And she did the story on TikTok talking about how her grandma was the one who taught her about it and how her family inspired her to create this brand. And it blew up, I think 5, 6 million views and it propel her from zero to, I don't know, 7, 8 million dollars.
Oh my goodness. With that's incredible.
Jason Wong 17:17
She just continued telling that story. And then she started doing stories on every aspects of the business. Yeah. Here, walk with me through how I create this design. Oh, we almost didn't get into this retailer. Here's what happened.
Yeah. Or like just being super authentic, vulnerable.
Jason Wong 17:32
Exactly. Being vulnerable. And also like at, at this moment, so many people see brands, the polished pretty storefront. Yeah. They wanna go behind a scenes. They wanna go in the back door and see how the cookies made. Right.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Jason Wong 17:45
Um, and so. Being able to show them the behind the scene content being to show them, Hey, we make this candle and this is how we poured it.
I'm sure you guys do content like that. Yeah. This is how we came up with the name. Here's how the scents are formulated we've done 13 different variations of scents and it didn't work. Like people want to see failure because when they see the success, they're so much more emotionally invested that they become customers.
Yes. That's a perfect way to say it. I think you're totally right. Yeah.
All through storytelling
Jason Wong 18:13
and storytelling is not dead it's just a medium has changed and we need to adapt.
Yes. Yes. And I do. I probably need to adapt. I need to get my buns on. I think we have like nine followers on TikTok, so maybe it's time to invest a little time storytelling there.
Jason Wong 18:26
So the beauty about TikTok, and I'm not sure if you know this yet. It's very, very different than Instagram. In the sense where on Instagram, if you have five followers, five people see your content.
So it is a little bit more like, uh, how Instagram used to be, where it's like...
Jason Wong 18:42
uh, well, TikTok now is it doesn't matter how many follows you have.
Okay. It shows your content to people that they believe would like to consume that content, even if they don't follow you.
I see. I see. I see.
Jason Wong 18:53
And so our account, we, when we first started, we were getting 10,000 views with 200 followers.
Oh, that's because we are seeing that. Like, I literally, I think I, I'm not joking. I think we have 19 9 or 19, but we had like a little TikTok video that did like 12,000 views. That's...
Jason Wong 19:10
Exactly. That would never happen on Facebook. Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram. It just never happens like that. Okay. Because on those platforms, they control so much of who sees your content. Okay. And now Instagram's trying to play catch up and they're showing your stuff.
Yeah. If you go on Instagram, you're gonna to like, you're gonna see reels or like, um, content you might like, and they're recommending it. Yeah. But TikTok is always whatever you believe that you like to see, TikTok is going to try recommend that to you.
Jason Wong 19:37
And that's why like the growth potential for TikTok is significantly higher.
Jason Wong 19:41
Because you're not limited by how many follows you have, you can have 19 follows and get 12,000 view on TikTok.
Yeah. That's what happens, which interestingly, we like did we, we have a cocktail collection, so we have candles that are based on cocktails. And so every month we make that cocktail for you and then we teach you how to do it.
And you. Get the ingredients. And then you, once your candle's done that glassware is used for the cocktail it's it's cocktail glassware. So it's sustainable
Jason Wong 20:02
Those are the ones that are getting all the TikTok views . But I wonder for like so many cute boozers that are like, do you like alcohol? You'll like Wax Buffalos alcohol candles.
Jason Wong 20:13
well, like, you know, you find your groove, you find like what people are loving from your content. Um, There was this whole framework by Google years ago to help YouTubers make content. It's called the 3H strategy. It's like a pyramid there's Hygiene, Hub, and Hero.
Jason Wong 20:29
And Hygienes are essentially like quick bite videos. They're like the first date videos. These are videos that you wanna show to first time people to get them to understand what you make.
Okay. Okay. Alright.
Jason Wong 20:40
Like really quick viral worthy videos. The second one it's Hub these are like videos that really cements you as a leader in your space.
Okay. So a candle maker or a storyteller or your brand. So these are like how-to tutorials, uh, care instructions. Um, did you know about this on candle? Like these are things that really becomes a series and then there's a Hero component of the, of the content pyramid. And these are things that makes you stand out that no one else can get besides on your account.
These are like "Day in the life fo the founder of Buffalo Wax.". Okay. Okay. You know? Okay. Um, or you. These are things that are only unique to you, but it's built on the foundation of your good Hygiene content, your good Hub content and the Hero content are like, okay, that's for sure their brand, no one else is doing like that.
Oh, I love that.
Jason Wong 21:28
And that's a content pyramid that we follow to consistently make content every single day. Okay. We're, we're launching one video a day and it's become 30, 40% of our revenue. It's-
Jusg your content is become part of your rev revenue?
Jason Wong 21:42
Yeah, just our organic TikTok content has became a huge part of our, um, of our revenue just because we are consistently putting out content and we're making content that are memorable and shareable.
Think of all the viral videos that your friend shared to you. Yeah. Someone might feature a product. We're trying to make videos like that. So we're getting as much free impressions as possible. So we don't have to spend money on it.
I love that. It's all those salad making videos that I watch on The Daily. They get me.
Jason Wong 22:10
There you go.
Mm-hmm , they're so pretty with all their like fruit dumps.
Jason Wong 22:15
It's mesmerizing. So one last question to you is seven years in this business, what would you say is the biggest lesson that you learn? It could be as simple or as complicated, but one lesson.
Yeah, I think my, my. and it took me seven years.
I think to finally tuck into this is. Today is not every day in this business. Right. And that can be good or bad. So there can be the day that we lock Whole Foods. And that feels super fricking amazing. And it's a high high day and I could make choices based on how high I feel that day, but they might not be the right choices for our business.
And then in, you know, on the flip of that, like right now, like we're going through a recession, we're feeling it, sales wise, a lot of us, you know, like, but making the decision. On a low sales day for the rest of our future, you know, to stop dreaming and to like start worrying about numbers. It's also not the best way to lead.
So that that's, I think that's it, that today is not your every day in your business. And to really like watch the numbers. And I think we, as founders can still lead with our guts, but I also think like watching the overall scope of our business and making decisions based on that. And the trajectory and projections based on who we are as a whole, as opposed , to like what's happening that day, which took me a bit.
Jason Wong 23:30
I love that. Yeah. I, I love the, this tip. I've never heard of this tip before. It's, you know, there's gotta be highs and lows in your day. Don't let the highs, let you be overly confident, cocky about what you could do to spend all the money because we're doing well. But also when you're down, you, you wanna be hopeful.
Yeah. Because better days are ahead. Yeah. And, and that's how we get through it. Yeah. So
A hundred percent.
Jason Wong 23:54
Thank you for that piece of advice. Thank you for coming onto a show. It was so, so nice to finally meet you and hear your story.
It was lovely to meet you too. And I'm so honored. Thanks for having me on.
I really appreciate it.
Jason Wong 24:04
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