Candle maker creates products that smell good while doing good.
The power of a scent is undeniable. It can single-handedly evoke memories and emotions. Heidi Mueller understands that and aims to create scents with her hand-poured soy candles that are both irresistible and unforgettable.
Mueller is the founder of Excelsior Candle Co., a business that started as a hobby in her basement in Excelsior in 2014 and has since turned into a full-time venture. Her candles start at $14 for a 4 oz. tin and can be purchased via her website as well as at Northern Drift on Water Street in Excelsior.
Each candle is sold in a reusable container, and a portion of the proceeds benefit Emerge Mothers Academy. (See sidebar for details.)
Before Mueller ventured into candle making, the then-single mom of three children worked in accounting and appeased her creative impulses by making jewelry and tackling upholstery projects in her free time. “I was taking over the house,” Mueller says. Eventually, her kids grew frustrated and asked if she could pick just one hobby. She says, “I said, ‘OK, I’ll pick candle making.’”
Though candle making wasn’t among Mueller’s list of hobbies at the time, it was something she had always been interested in trying. She loves the warmth of candles and the way certain scents can trigger specific memories. Mueller says she taught herself to how to make candles. As she began selling her product, Mueller called her business The Vintage Pyro (before changing its name to Excelsior Candle in 2016) distinguishing herself in the vast candle market by using unique vessels, including tea cups, Mason jars and assorted bar ware. She also gave her candles cheeky names like Grandma’s Knickers, which Mueller explains features a clean cotton scent.
“After about six months, it took off,” she says. Mueller got her candles in stores and landed a booth at Junk Bonanza, a three-day vintage shopping event at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. “Then I hit a wall and decided to rebrand,” she says. In 2016, Mueller transitioned from The Vintage Pyro to Excelsior Candle Co., paying homage to her early basement beginnings. Her new logo was clean and unfussy. She chose simple tin containers that could be recycled or refilled and started the Bottomless Candle Exchange Program, giving customers the opportunity to bring back their empty candle containers for a 50 percent discount off a new candle. Mueller also began offering private-label products, making candles for other companies.
By 2017, Mueller quit her day job and moved to candle making full time. “This is all I do now,” she says. These days, Mueller rents a studio in the Northrup King Building in Minneapolis. There, she uses natural essential oils and fragrance blends to pour out bestsellers like Lemon Fizz, Amaretto Rhubarb Bar, Chocolate Drizzle, Santal 74 and Dapper Man.
Mueller aims to add a couple new scents each season. She currently has three collections—Gem, Signature and Holiday—and is readying to launch a new collection called Pour Decisions, inspired by classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned and the Sidecar. Mueller says the newest collection is a result of being surrounded by breweries and distilleries.
But while the artistic energy of northeast Minneapolis can be inspiring, it can also be draining. “I smudge constantly,” Mueller says. With Blackfoot ancestry on her mother’s side, Mueller uses traditional methods of burning sacred herbs to clear negative energy after a long day at the studio. “I’m always clearing, cleansing,” she says. Mueller says the practice makes for better candles and a happier candle maker. “I literally pour myself into these,” she says.
Proceeds with Purpose
Mueller donates a portion of her candle proceeds to Emerge Mothers Academy, a multi-service nonprofit located in Minneapolis that offers intervention and resources to help single mothers thrive. Among the services that Emerge provides are work-preparation, social support, financial literacy education, parenting classes, mentoring and a micro-loan grant initiative. Mueller says the cause is near and dear to her heart after having twins at 19. “I know how hard it is to raise kids, go to school and work,” she says. To learn more, visit emergetwincities.org.