Scents of Love

Warrenton teen runs her own candle company. 

Photography by Jennifer Chase

Madison Renuart launched Scents of Love Candle Company in her kitchen, using all-natural, clean-burning, locally produced soy wax and labeling her products with enticing names evocative of warmth, holidays, and happy memories, such as Cozy Morning, Grandma’s House, and Cuddle Time. A line for pet lovers includes Wet Noses, Paw Prints, and Bubba’s Biscuits. She packages them simply in jars decorated with a twine tie.

The candles are selling well online and are a popular item at local farmers’ markets and Remix Market in Warrenton, earning enough for Madison to donate $400 to the Haymarket Food Pantry and $500 to the Washington Area Animal Adoption Group. “I love animals,” Madison says, “But I really like what the food pantry is doing, too. I couldn’t decide which one, so I did both.”

Scents of Love Candles is a successful cottage industry—but Madison Renuart is not your typical cottage industry CEO. Now aged 13, her foray into business began in June 2019 when she was invited by a friend to take part in the Gainesville Business Fair for Children (previously known as the Young Entrepreneur Business Fair of Gainesville). A grassroots organization funded by local business owners to “foster innovation and entrepreneurship in local school-age youth,” the Gainesville Business Fair for Children offers workshops on determining business goals, time management, branding, operations, packaging, and pitching to sponsors and investors. (The group is currently on hiatus due to the pandemic.)

Madison knew right away her business would be candles. She suffers from anxiety and ADHD, and finds that burning scented candles soothes and helps her relax, so she wanted to make candles that other people could enjoy. Madison knew that they would have to be made from all natural ingredients that are safe for people and the environment. Searching online, Madison found a site that gives step-by-step instructions in candlemaking and sells the equipment as well.

“At the time, we didn’t realize how serious she was,” says Madison’s mother, Carrie. “We thought it might be temporary. We told her that we would help her, but if it got to be too much for her and it became stressful, it wouldn’t be worth it. But she’s dedicated and passionate about it.”

Madison and her father, Jonathan, with their dog Hollie.

So Carrie and Jonathan, Madison’s parents, fronted her the seed money. Carrie helped Madison with spreadsheets, website design, and social media posts. Jonathan drives Madison and her products to and from the venues 

“One of the best things about this experience is seeing how Maddy’s confidence has grown,” says Carrie. “She does all the talking to her adult customers at the farmers’ markets; we just sit quietly off to the side. Sometimes at first a customer will look at us, and we tell them, ‘No, no, this is Maddy’s business. She’s in charge.’”

Now a seasoned professional, Madison still makes her candles in the kitchen of her home. But it took a lot of trial and error to reach this point. “We learned a lot of ways not to make candles,” she says. And the process is messy, even under the best of circumstances. “Wax and oils are hard to clean up off of counters.” 

“It takes up the whole kitchen,” Carrie adds. “When Maddy’s making her batches, those are nights we order takeout!”

So, what’s it like being a teenage CEO of your own company? “I love it,” Madison says. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I want to keep this going forever.” She says that being able to give back is the best part of owning her own company. 

Asked if she has any advice for young people who are interested in starting a company, Madison says, “Do what you love. Don’t think you can’t do it. There are always going to be ups and downs, but you learn from them.”

But balancing her business with things that regular teenagers like—including her passion for community theater, Girl Scouts, guitar, and hanging out with her friends—can be challenging. “Sometimes it’s hard to find time,” she says.

Carrie says running a company is helping Madison learn to manage her money carefully. “She paid us back every penny of her start-up costs,” she says. “We stopped giving her an allowance. And we make her give 10 percent of her profits to the charity of her choice.”

Still, there are perks to being a CEO. Madison is saving for a car. And she treated herself to a top-of-the-line smartphone. She is, after all, 13 years old.

This article originally appeared in the April 2021 issue.

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