Carissa Springvloed has a keen eye for design and a love of the creative process. Her small business, The Classic Candle, started as a hobby, sparked by a gift from her sister.

“My sister gave me a candle mold for my birthday. To test it out, I melted dollar store candles down and poured them into the mold just to see if I could do it.” Springvloed gave her early creations as gifts to family and friends, who loved what they saw and encouraged her to expand her craft. Although starting a candle company intrigued her, she says her many commitments left little time to explore the possibility.

A junior, Springvloed is double-majoring in finance and accounting with a minor in entrepreneurship. She balances 18 credit hours per semester with extracurricular commitments and a part-time job at The Chop House—a fine dining establishment in downtown Grand Rapids.

With only pockets of available time, Springvloed continued to experiment with her candle designs and formula. She experienced early success selling her one-of-a-kind creations at pop-up events on Calvin’s campus, such as the one set up outside Startup Garage’s PitchUp event. However, her hobby-turned-budding-business often took a back seat to other priorities. “What happens is you have all these other commitments and the plans for your business are not anyone else’s priority except yours,” says Springvloed, who understood the dedication required to launch a successful business.

Joining Startup Garage gave Springvloed the impetus to press on as she made connections with like-minded students who were also passionate about nurturing new ideas into flourishing startups. This, above all, inspired her to keep dreaming when life got too full.

“The important thing for me was talking to my peers at Startup. You want to make sure the idea in your head isn’t only good in your head. You want to see if it’s feasible in the real world. And if both things are true, you should try it.” Springvloed says she knows even the best ideas can be unsuccessful, but she was willing to take the risk. “I think you can learn a lot even if it doesn’t work out.”

According to organization director and mentor, Jon VerLee ’07, “Launching a startup is hard. It has to be about more than money because there are easier and faster ways to make money. Instead, successful entrepreneurs are passionate about the change they are making in the world, and they love the thrill of the startup itself. This mix of passion and God-given wiring create a resiliency that helps them push through the inevitable obstacles and friction that accompany any new endeavor.” 

One obstacle Springvloed faced was an already saturated market for hand-poured candles sold in gift shops and home goods stores. As part of her business plan, she sought out niche markets and worked on developing customizable packaging, something most stores cannot offer. “Working at the Chop House I saw a connection between the restaurant and my candles,” says Springvloed, who imagined selling her molded soy candles as part of a unique dining experience on special holidays.

She experimented in her parents’ basement with different prototypes, finally settling on a vanilla-scented, flower-shaped candle in attractive packaging designed especially for the restaurant. She then established The Classic Candle as an LLC with the help of Calvin School of Business adjunct instructor April VanPutten. With her official status and perfected prototype in hand, Springvloed pitched her idea to The Chop House managers—a Mother’s Day special that included dessert and a candle to take home. Her managers loved the idea, and Springvloed’s candles made their official debut at the restaurant.

With an optimistic, can-do attitude, Springvloed continues to see challenges as an opportunity to apply creative solutions. Now she’s researching other markets for her bespoke creations, including real estate agencies, wedding venues, and bookstores.

As she trials innovative designs and packaging, Springvloed visualizes each product’s journey from a niche point-of-sale into someone’s home. “When I’m designing, I imagine every detail. It’s a lot of trial and error, but I want the end-product to be perfect.”