How Dianna Allen turned her passion into a profitable e-commerce company
Hand-poured candles inspired by nature and the seasons.
Hand-poured candles inspired by nature and the seasons.
There’s a lot of motives behind why TERRA exists, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet!
My personal background is in graphic design, however in 2014-2017, I had a hobby of creating bath and spa products. Things like bath soaks, bath bombs, and sugar scrubs. It was fun and I’ve always been eager to learn how to make more handcrafted items. Candles being one of them.
I opened a shop in 2017 for a very short period, but had to shut it down because I decided to travel indefinitely. I didn’t return home until November 2019, and the entire time I was abroad, I was itching to be crafty.
This is actually the reason why my background is graphic design to begin with. I specialize in product packaging, as it was the closest I could get to being part of the creative process for making a product.
Anyways, when I returned home in November, it only took 2 weeks before I decided that I wanted to fill that void in my heart for creating something handmade. I never learned candlemaking before I left to travel, so this is where I wanted to begin again.
It also just felt right. After traveling and seeing the world, I wanted to put something out there to represent Earth and all of it’s beauty. Fun fact: TERRA is Latin for Earth!
Initially, I was going to start as minimally as possible. And I was so close to choosing the route of Carrd + Shopify Lite, and simply embedding products to purchase on a landing page.
I mention this because I’m just a huge fangirl for Carrd, and also starting endeavors with as little money as possible.
However, I will say I chose the regular Shopify route, building a website through their platform and I don’t regret it one bit. I knew that I’d eventually choose this path, so it only felt right to set it up properly once and not have to worry about switching in the future.
Shopify provided me with a website, a blog, shipping logistics, inventory control, revenue reports, email marketing, and so many more features. I honestly just feel confident and in control of my shop on their platform.
I actually documented this in a blog post if you want a detailed breakdown, but to reiterate, I spent a total of $80.52. This was to set-up my shop and make my first candles!
It started with me riding shotgun in my best friend’s car and saying, “I think I want to make candles.” About 2 weeks later, I sat down and brainstormed the brand I’d like to have someday.
I scribbled down some ideas for aesthetics, some values and ethics, and candle scent ideas. Eventually, the candle scent ideas transitioned into an idea of scent collections, and then seasonal collections, and next thing I knew was I had a brand that revolved around the idea of living seasonally -- a lifestyle that I truly love.
The name TERRA just stuck immediately, and basically I announced my thoughts on Twitter… then all of sudden someone wanted to pre-order a candle. That basically pushed me into setting up a website and just jumping all-in to the idea and bringing it to life.
In the beginning, my customers were from Twitter because that was the only place I was talking about TERRA. Eventually, I decided to spend more time on Instagram, as I wanted to begin connecting with my local community.
My city, St. Louis, has a strong small business scene, so I knew I could capture customers easily because we’re always looking to support locally!
I probably spend an average of 2 hours a day on Instagram. Posting to TERRA’s story (people love to know what you’re up to as a small business owner) and just finding potential customers in my area.
I don’t pitch to them, I just put my brand in front of them instead. Liking their posts, following them, replying to their stories, etc.
I think the biggest challenge has been tackling shipping costs and figuring out how to produce candles on a larger scale. One day I received an order for 36 candles and I thought that was huge, then the next day I had an order for 800!
I will say Shopify helped tremendously with getting shipping costs down, since I can purchase the labels through them at a discounted rate.
It’s really hard to say how much TERRA is making per month, as it’s not recurring revenue. But in March I had a revenue of around $660. April was around $1,000. And now 1 week into May, I’m sitting at $300 in sales. (These numbers don’t include wholesale orders, like the massive 800 candles). This is strictly what’s been purchased through my shop’s available inventory.
Budget Meal Planner went through a few tools. Initially it was built using Carrd as the landing page, and then sending out the weekly newsletter with Mailchimp.
Eventually, I exceeded the free email sends on Mailchimp and transitioned over to MailerLite. I really enjoyed using MailerLite for mass-sending. And then, I wanted to create a paid newsletter segment, so for that I used Substack.
I guess it’s just one of those things when you need to know when to call it quits. I started TERRA and wanted to put all my time and effort into that alone. And, I have a day job still as a graphic designer, so between those two things, finding time for Budget Meal Planner simply didn’t exist.
I’m a person who has always followed what I truly want to do, and if the passion leaves for one project, then I accept that and move on.
It sounds cliche, but seriously, just do it. Honestly. I’ve always dived head first into anything and everything I’ve ever wanted to do and sure I’ve probably failed a lot, but you learn so much along the way.
The future for TERRA will be a long one, and I hope to be able to expand my offerings to more than just candles. There’s a reason why I didn’t name my business ‘X Candle Co.’ or ‘X Candles’ because I knew from day 1 that I’d like to reconnect with soapmaking.
In the long-run, I’d like to have a warehouse split with a retail shop -- that’s the goal that keeps me going every single day.
I believe people will actually act on their ideas. People are creative and people have wants, but sometimes the line people refuse to cross is actually getting themselves to do something. Maybe because it’s too time-consuming or too difficult to learn, but no code tools are eliminating a lot of those frustrations. Which makes creating your own business, startup, whatever easier than ever.
All I have to say is, if you have an idea, simply act on it. Put it into motion. You never know what could happen.