A Covid Setback, A Slowly Growing Business, and Blueberry Muffin Candles

my empty Culinary classroom

At a virtual faculty meeting on Tuesday the principal shared some disturbing news. 20% of our faculty were out with Covid or were in quarantine. Like many schools within my district, we haven’t had enough substitutes to cover all of these absences. Since the start of the school year last August, teachers have been asked to cover for our absent colleagues. This has made for a much longer day since the loss of our prep periods means that grading and lesson planning now had to be done before or after school.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the Clark County School District made the decision to shut our schools down for five days starting Friday, January 14. Seven thousand of our students have fallen sick from Covid. Three thousand teachers have also been infected.

Since the students had Monday off for Martin Luther King Day, the district decided to physically shut our schools down from this Friday through next Tuesday. Instead of pivoting to virtual instruction, the students will have a five day break. On Friday, the faculty will have to work virtually from home. We will have Monday and Tuesday off. The superintendent has expressed the hope that if teachers virtually work from home and our physical schools are shut down for five consecutive days, perhaps some of those teachers who have been sidelined from Covid quarantines will be able to return to work.

Since I find that making candles helps with reducing my stress levels, I recently turned my hand to producing some blueberry muffin candles.

Blueberries are native to North America. Indigenous people are thought to have eaten this fruit for the past 13,000 years. Not only were blueberries delicious but they were also used for medicine. Blueberry tea was taken as a muscle relaxant especially by women who were about to undergo childbirth. Blueberry juice boiled down into a thick syrup was used to treat coughs.

Native cooks ground blueberries into a paste to add to soups, stews, and meat as a flavoring. When mixed with dried meat and fat, they produced a nutrient dense food known as pemmican which could be easily stored and used as provisions during long trips.

pemmican

Prior to the early 20th century, anyone who wanted blueberries needed to pick them. Wild blueberries could be harvested from late May through early August. Since it was commonly believed that this fruit could not be domesticated, the only blueberries sold at Farmers’ Markets and grocery stores were those that had been harvested from wild bushes.

In 1908, Frederick Coville, a USDA botanist determined that blueberries thrive in acidic soil. He published his findings in a paper which was avidly read by Ms. White who was the daughter of a New Jersey cranberry farmer. In 1911 the two began a collaboration to crossbreed blueberry plants to create domesticated bushes. In 1916, they sold their first crop of highbush blueberries. By 1962 some 200,000 seedlings had been planted in thirteen states.

blueberry bushes on a commercial farm

Wild harvested blueberries are still a thriving industry that is worth $27.7 million. They are predominately harvested in Maine. This harvest is always labor intensive because wild blueberries tend to grow on rocky terrain and must be gathered by hand.

In contrast, commercial blueberries which are grown in orderly rows on level land may be harvested by machines. Last year this domesticated crop was worth $720.2 million.

real blueberry muffins

Although muffins originated in Europe, blueberry muffins originated in North America and were likely first produced by European colonists in one of the New England states.

My blueberry muffin candles smell like freshly baked blueberry muffins. To create the coarse looking crumbly exterior, I dabbed cooling wax over each candle. After the surface had hardened, I painted it with different shades of melted yellow-brown wax.

my blueberry muffin candles

The juicy blueberries were simulated by using medium density candle gel.

In terms of my Tasty-Candles business, I just reached my $300 benchmark in total sales. I will have to sell another $5700 just to break even.

Since the IRS requires me to show a profit for every three out of five years (otherwise I will be reclassified as a hobbyist), I need to sell more candles. I am currently underperforming in sales. The average hobbyist turned candle seller earns an average of $600 per month. It took me two months just to sell half of that amount.

Although Made in Nevada doesn’t charge a commission, it also doesn’t get much traffic. To reach more customers, I need to open another store. I plan on keeping my store with Made in Nevada but will open a 2nd virtual with Etsy. Since I will have four days off, I will spend part of this time creating and launching an Etsy store.

A link to this store will be included once Tasty-Candles is up and running on Etsy. To help with stocking inventory for the Etsy store, I need to draw down some of my existing inventory for Made in Nevada. I did this on Thursday evening and the revised inventory is already up and running. To compensate for drawing down my inventory, I also added several new products to the Made in Nevada shop.

The bulk of all newly created candles will be reserved for the Etsy store.

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