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Business Spotlight: Smells Like Family Business

Reborn Co. is in growth mode with soy wax candles and a niche in “man scents”

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With scents named Cuban Cigar, Drag Racer and Grandpa’s Pipe, Reborn Co. is proving candles are not just for women.

After buying Reborn in 2016 from founder Austin Plummer, the Johnson family has worked to expand the business, particularly when it comes to what they describe as “man scents.”

“We call ourselves a man candle company,” says Patty Johnson, who operates Reborn with her son Adam.

The venture transitioned when Adam Johnson, who also operates The Adam Johnson Team of real estate agents via Keller Williams, learned Plummer intended to sell the candle company. A fellow Realtor, Plummer ran it more or less as a hobby.

“Through a couple conversations with him, I basically made him an offer to buy it because my dad had just retired,” he says, noting his father Carlton Johnson had a 34-year career in the military. “It was good timing.”

Today, Patty Johnson runs the company with the help of three employees, including Broc MacFee, who was recently promoted to general manager. Carlton Johnson is preparing for back surgery related to injuries sustained while in the service, she says, and has stepped back from the business. He may not return to the company.

The Johnsons had considered opening a food truck when they both retired, leaning on her past culinary experience, including work at University Plaza.

With the pivot to candles, Patty Johnson is connecting the two industries’ customer service angle and has built what was once a hobby business into a serious fragrance player.

“It blew up,” she says. “Within the first three weeks, we had big wholesale accounts that we didn’t go after, and we’re still not sure how that happened.”

During its first full year under her leadership, Reborn in 2017 produced $100,000 in revenue. “Right now, we’re tracking to do way more than we did last year,” Johnson says, though she’s unsure what 2018 has in store.

She admits the company’s accountants “are on me all the time” when it comes to the numbers.

Some customers may know Johnson and Reborn through Farmers Market of the Ozarks, where the company sets up shop every Saturday. But she says wholesale makes up the majority of revenue.

Around 100 clients in five states now carry Reborn candles, Johnson says, noting about 27 are in the Springfield area. At wholesale, the candles are priced from $18 to $30.

Local sellers include Price Cutter, Big Cedar Lodge, Family Pharmacy, Homegrown Food, Grove Spa and barbershops such as Rogue Barber Co.

Brina Thomas, co-owner of Five Pound Apparel LLC, penned a deal to purchase branded candles designed to smell like the aromas inside her two Springfield stores. The shops downtown and in Farmers Park also sell Reborn’s seasonal selections.

Thomas says she sells more than 30 a month of the house-branded candles, aptly named 5 Pound Apparel.

“I’m always reordering,” she says. “It’s crazy how much we sell it.”

A partnership with Reborn, Thomas says, also made sense because of similar mission statements. As its name suggests, Five Pound Apparel donates five pounds of food – now to Ozarks Food Harvest – for each of its branded items sold.

Similarly, Reborn supports a handful of charities, including Disabled American Veterans, Life Choices Pregnancy Center, Shriners Hospitals for Children and Lost & Found Grief Center. With the latter nonprofit, for example, Johnson says Reborn donates $1 for every recycled candle jar.

“All of these have meaning to us,” she says, noting Reborn began supporting Lost & Found when her husband’s daughter from a previous marriage died of suicide.

Thomas says Five Pound Apparel customers take notice of a company’s philanthropy.

“That’s always something that we look for, whenever adding a brand to the store, is that give-back,” she says.

While Reborn also creates and sells feminine scents, Johnson emphasizes the candles only have two ingredients: soy wax and essential oils. Each candle may contain up to four oils.

“The mix is the most intricate part,” Johnson says from the company’s production center, 420 W. Walnut Lawn St., where myriad scents fill the air.

Unlike some companies in the candle industry, Johnson says Reborn’s products do not use paraffin wax, a common ingredient derived from petroleum, coal or oil shale.

Johnson says Reborn also was unable to find a safe way to incorporate different colors, so the family ditched them in favor of the all-natural white look.

“There’s literally nothing in our candles that puts out black soot or fumes or anything,” she says, adding the ingredients are sourced from the United States. “I have people all the time tell me they used to get migraines and now they don’t.”

With rapid customer response to candles that also include names like All the Jingle Ladies, The Dugout and Keep it Reel, expansion may be on the way.

Johnson says wholesale shipments – now in the thousands per month – are close to maxing out. Once that hits, Reborn will need more space, equipment and employees.

There’s also talk about expanding Reborn’s online sales – currently only through its website – onto Amazon and Etsy.

“We have to figure out what comes first, the cart or the horse, with all that,” Johnson says. “We have to be prepared.”

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