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Mad Soyentist Candle Company

Give Your Brand a Hand: Mad Soyentist Candle Company November 2017

When families share common interests, it usually leads to heartwarming memories that last a lifetime. For the group at Mad Soyentist Candle Company, a shared interest they have is candle making. The small business based out of Marengo, Illinois, formed in January 2013 when high school science teacher, Derek Amendt, and his daughter, Erin, decided to make candles for an afternoon craft. After doing more research into the candle-making process, one thing led to another and Mad Soyentist Candle Company was born.

Mad Soyentist Candle Company fits the bill for our Give Your Brand a Hand giveaway due to their grassroots beginnings and dedication to creating products with high standards. Usually, there is only one Give Your Brand a Hand winner per month. But in honor of Small Business Saturday, we selected two for November, and Mad Soyentist Candle Company was one of them in addition to Charlotte’s Cakes!

Give Your Brand a Hand is a monthly giveaway created with small businesses such as Mad Soyentist Candle Company in mind.  Applicants who make less than $1 million in annual revenue and have fewer than 50 employees can enter for their chance at securing $500 worth of free promotional products. Our team hand-picks the recipients based on their organization’s mission and their answer to the question: “What would you do with $500 in promo items?

Mad Soyentist Candle Company


There’s no time to rest for Mad Soyentist Candle Company. During the day, Derek teaches high school chemistry and biology, Julie Skaggs is an elementary school principal, and Erin is a freshman in high school.

As a result, most of their candles are created at night! The process isn’t easy, either. It’s a time-consuming and labor-intensive activity, so the whole family helps out in production. Derek creates the scented wax which is then poured into canning jars. This whole process can take six to eight hours and produces around 200 candles. Julie and Erin make the labels for the candles when all is said and done. The candle labels are even printed from their home computer. Julie and Erin use a hole-punch that mirrors the size of the lid of the jar and punch the labels out by hand to complete the candle and its packaging.

“Derek and I are both still working full time. So, this is our little hobby-business that takes care of some of the extras in life.” – Julie Skaggs of Mad Soyentist Candle Company

Typically, candles are made from paraffin wax, but Mad Soyentist Candle Company creates candles out of soy wax.

There are multiple reasons why Julie and her family choose soy to make their candles. The soy comes from soy bean oil whereas paraffin wax is made from petroleum-based products. When a paraffin wax candle burns, it’s equivalent to putting the same chemicals into the air as the exhaust from your car. When a soy candle burns, it burns cleaner, longer, and it burns at a lower temperature. Making their candles from soy also means they give back to their local community by purchasing soy products from local farmers!


The busiest time of year for the Mad Soyentist Candle Company trio is October through December as people gear up to give gifts during the holidays. They do nearly 90% of their business during this time.

“Right now, we’re on hiatus until the beginning of March. We have a few retail stores that we work with, but March will be the first time that we go out and we do another big show.” – Julie

Most of the company’s business is done through trade shows or craft fairs throughout Northern Illinois, specifically the Rockford and Sycamore areas. In 2017 alone, Mad Soyentist  Candle Company went to 12 shows.

While most of their business is conducted at events, the trio has made custom labels for candles for specific special occasions and events, including baby showers, wedding showers, and even for a local realtor’s gifts to clients after they’ve purchased a home.

Mad Soyentist Candle Company has approximately 75 different candle scents to choose from on a regular basis, but some scent availabilities simply depend on the season.

The company also offers a product called a “mandle,” which is a man-scented candle. But what’s the difference between a candle and a mandle?

“It’s just the scent,” Julie laughed. “They’re more of the novelty scents that guys would find funny. So, fresh dirt, fresh cut grass, monkey farts—which really sounds awful but it’s like chocolate and bananas, kind of like a Tootsie Roll—motor oil, garlic, just those off-the-wall scents that guys would be amused by.”

Overall, their best-selling candle year-round is their Oak Moss & Amber candle, but Julie’s personal favorite is Eucalyptus & Peppermint. She burns it nearly every night because it’s so relaxing!

Mad Soyentist Candle Company


Julie loves talking to different people at craft shows. It’s a great way for her and the company to network with people. But there are other moments that happen at craft shows that are impactful as well.

“I think there are lots of little moments and it’s simply the happiness and the joy we see on people’s faces when we’re out at a craft show and they’re opening up all the different jars and they’re sharing with their friend, saying, ‘Oh, look at this one! Oh, you’ve got to try this! Ew, monkey farts! I don’t want to try that because they all smell so accurate!’” Julie said. “Bringing happiness to other people means a lot.”

The future holds more trade shows and craft shows for Mad Soyentist Candle Company. The hope for Julie is they’ll expand to having their products in 5-10 local shops instead of just the three they currently work with. She also hopes more production space will be in the plans so they don’t have to work out of their kitchen!

“We’ve been going to the same shows for two and three years in a row now. So we’re starting to build a following. Having that visual reminder, that, ‘Oh yeah, this is where we saw Mad Soyentist,’ would help steer people back.” – Julie

Currently, Mad Soyentist Candle Company’s only marketing methods are Facebook and word of mouth. Julie thinks our non-woven value totes will help them grow their brand and get more return customers. Her plan for the branded tote bags is to use them for customers when they purchase candles at future craft shows. When their customers walk around the event, the Mad Soyentist Candle Company brand will be proudly on display for all to see.

Because of Give Your Brand a Hand and our non-woven value totes, Julie, Derek, and Erin can now achieve their marketing goals of expanding Mad Soyentist Candle Company’s brand!

“I personally have just always liked promo ideas,” Julie said. “I’ve never been in a position where I could have them. The tote bags are something I’ve toyed with in the back of my mind for a year now, but they’re not something we can afford at this point. So, this is a really good starting point so I can help show Derek like, ‘Hey, this is helping us get word out! Look, we have people bringing them back to us now!’”


While Mad Soyentist Candle Company was one of November’s two Give Your Brand a Hand winners, your small business or nonprofit could be next! Enter for your chance to get a helping hand by telling us your unique story at!

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten loves the great outdoors (as long as there's no snow on the ground), and spends a good amount of her free time traveling. When she isn't traveling, she's spending time with her family, reading a new book, or working on her next home improvement project. If she could live anywhere in the world, you'd find her moving into Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World.

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