A Q&A with Kentucky Entrepreneur Courtney Ikerd of Somerset Candle Co.

When Courtney Ikerd couldn’t sleep in the early months of the pandemic, a luxury non-toxic candle company called Somerset Candle Co. was born. At the time, Ikerd was balancing several businesses along with her husband in the Somerset area. Frustrated by the lack of luxury scented candles in nontoxic space, Ikerd created Somerset Candle Co. with no prior knowledge of how to launch an e-commerce business, let alone how to make a candle! She spent months researching every component of a candle, from the wick to the wax to the blend of fragrances that make her exclusive line of scents. After only a few months of hard work, Ikerd launched the business in October of 2020. Since then, she has hit over a quarter of a million in sales across the US and Canada. Somerset Candle Co. utilizes vegan, cruelty-free, and phthalate-free products. Their candles are made with a 100% virgin coconut soy wax blend, an eco-friendly and sustainably sourced wood wick, as well as subtle but luxurious scents that pay homage to Ikerd’s hometown of Somerset, KY.

In your own words, tell us about your inspiring business startup story.

My story begins from a point of frustration and pure inspiration. I found a distinct lack of options in the luxury candle realm and decided to cure what ails that industry by founding my own line of luxury candles. Coming from a business background as well as being a former business teacher, I knew there was no better solution than creation. I decided to light the way with a sustainable, eco-friendly candle that creates an environment of peace within homes and living spaces. From this desire, Somerset Candle Co. was born. Like most stories, the journey hasn’t always been paved with gold bricks or lined with beautiful flowers. Sometimes it has been challenging and has really required me to hone in on the reason I do what I do – to create a beautiful product that will bring joy to many. I’m here today because that is still the goal and motivates me daily to light up Somerset and beyond.

What made you decide to go into business for yourself?

I started SCC because I wanted to bring a sense of beauty into living spaces through luxurious scents and quality craftsmanship. 

If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?

Never forget your why. There will be many distractions along any journey, but in order to find success, you have to really keep your why front and center. Losing sight of that will only lead to setbacks. I also feel it’s important to question if your why is still relevant. Sometimes it changes and you might need to adapt based upon your reasons for creating a business. Your why is the heartbeat of your company.

Absolutely! Helping my community is a mainstay within Somerset Candle Co. I have sponsored and participated in various charity giveaways throughout the Kentucky region in which I live. I want my company to be a forerunner for giving back and lighting the way to a better tomorrow.

Every entrepreneur has a goal and problem they’re trying to solve. What was the inspiration that started your journey?

For me, the candle market needed bespoke candles that really stood out from the rest in terms of unique scents and clean design aesthetics. I wanted to create a candle brand that would fit seamlessly into any home, office, business, or hotel. My inspiration was developing candles that solved that problem while producing light and joy in living spaces.

How do you prioritize self-care and well-being while managing the demands of your business?

I prioritize self-care by scheduling time to attend to my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs through daily exercise, meditation, listening to inspiring podcasts, and self-reflection. It’s important to have non-negotiable time set aside for my well-being, otherwise, I would burn the proverbial candle at both ends! Ignoring self-care never results in a positive outcome for anyone. 

We all face challenges. Looking back, what have been some of the biggest challenges and obstacles you’ve had to navigate?

One large challenge facing any new business owner is navigating the ins and outs of technology. Understanding how to create a retail e-commerce company stretched my business acumen. However, developing those skills has already helped me and will propel me forward as I create new initiatives in the future. Another challenge has been one of anticipation. Learning how to scale my business and products to meet demand and anticipate marketing trends has kept me on my toes. 

What advice would you give to a new business owner? Or to your younger self?

Take the leap. Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to work hard. Develop grit. To have success when starting a business from scratch, you need a good blend of inspiration, faith, grit, and grace. When you get that right, you discover you can handle pretty much anything.

How do you set your business apart from others in your industry?

Quality and attention to detail really elevate my business and brand above others in the industry. Since I created this brand from the ground up, I’ve had multiple opportunities to hone my craft and focus on the details to set SCC apart from the pack. 

What are the three most important habits to be a successful high performer or leader?

The three most important habits of a successful leader are:

#1: Don’t be afraid to work in the trenches. A leader leads by example and I am willing to do whatever it takes to make my business succeed. Nothing should be beneath a leader to do – whether it’s mopping the floor or working a vendor’s market, everyone should know that my brand is my passion.

#2: Develop a plan and work that plan. By having a focus and goals, you can create your own success. Operate from a proactive standpoint, not a reactive one. Then, get to work making it happen.

#3: Be willing to pivot. Changes happen. Plans fail. Learning to pivot and forge a new direction for success is pivotal to creating that bright future everyone desires.

Somerset Candle Co. was created from a dream. It was one that had a lasting effect on me, and I just couldn’t shake it. So I took that leap and believed I could create beautiful non-toxic candles with luxurious scents. Knowing SCC brings joy and light to people is the reason behind every candle I hand-pour in Somerset, KY. Knowing my brand gets to share in birthdays, holidays, special events, and the everyday moments of life gives me so much joy in return. For me, Somerset Candle Co. just isn’t wax in a glass vessel. SCC is an experience, a memory remembered, and a home elevated. Discover your own unique experience at Somerset Candle Co.

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Melissa Stewart is the founder of SheOwnsIt.com. She is a Purveyor of Possibility, Entrepreneur Advocate and Coffee Addict. She believes that behind every successful woman is her story. What’s your story?