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Meet Rachel Budke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Budke.

Hi Rachel, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I have always been inspired by what happens at the intersection of art and science. While studying bakery science in college, it became clear to me just how much having a creative outlet helped me to thrive. Art classes had been a part of my life ever since elementary school, and my college curriculum was very rigid with very little room for electives. My baking laboratories, which I thought would provide me with the opportunity to explore some creativity, were very structured and didn’t allow me to express myself.

My solution – which was one of the best decisions I have ever made – was to study for a semester in Florence, Italy. It took a lot of time, effort, and paperwork to shape my class schedule in a way that would align with my required courses. I’m so glad that I shifted my pathway a bit instead of just following the curriculum because I was “supposed to”. It taught me what it feels like to be totally and completely inspired, and I spent almost every moment with my camera within reach. For me, photography wasn’t something that took me out of the present moment, it was something that allowed me to capture my memories.

It was a way I could document my inspiration. When I got home, I decided to enter my school’s study abroad photography contest and I won first place and two honorable mentions. It’s so special to look back at a photograph and have it bring back memories and feelings. It’s amazing to be able to capture moments in a way that allows someone else to experience a glimpse of that feeling, even though they weren’t there to experience it.

A few years after college, I started working at Farm to Market Bread Company. They are a business that embodies that perfect combination of art and science, which is one of the reasons I truly care so much about what they do. I’m the Food Safety Manager there, and over time I’ve also taken on social media marketing and various content creation. Even though my responsibilities don’t have much overlap, I feel so lucky to be able to explore both of my interests at work.

‘Made by Rachel’ was an idea that I came up with around the beginning of the pandemic. I had been working from home for a little while, and even though I was happy to stay home to keep others safe, I felt really isolated especially because I lived alone. I decided to come up with a creative project to bring some inspiration into my daily routine. Candle-making stood out to me because it’s not only a combination of both art and science, but also self-care.

In the beginning, I honestly didn’t have many plans or goals other than to create something that I was proud of and that I enjoyed making. After lots of product testing and experimenting, I had more candles than I knew what to do with. I reached out to family and friends to see if anyone wanted to buy any. They completely sold out in just a few hours.

From that point on, it has evolved into something much bigger than I imagined (although I’m still very much what I consider to be an extra-small business). It has been amazing to discover what the “support small business” movement feels like from the perspective of a small business owner.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of the biggest benefits of ‘Made by Rachel’ being my side-hustle is that the inevitable bumps in the road pose a lot less risk. But that benefit comes with a unique set of challenges, simply because I have a lot less time and energy to devote to all aspects of the business. There are so many things that I want to work on, but I can’t do it all. It’s been a good opportunity for me to work on prioritizing in all aspects of my life.

Something else that I struggle with is being flexible and willing to make certain artistic changes, especially if it’s an idea that I’m emotionally attached to. It’s always a case-by-case scenario, but I’ve learned that sometimes the passion I have for “staying true to my concept” is ultimately just me being stubborn. It’s a lot easier said than done, but it helps to take a step back and look at things from an outsider’s perspective.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Sustainability is the driving force behind everything that I make. I use recycled glass and hand-cut bottles for my candle vessels. A lot of time and care goes into that process, and it gives each candle a special touch of craftsmanship that makes each one truly unique.

I use 100% domestically grown soy wax, essential oils, and phthalate-free fragrance oils to make candles that are not only earth-friendly but also human-friendly. It is so important to ensure that the candles you choose to burn are free from harmful chemicals.

Another aspect of ‘Made by Rachel’ that I’m very proud of is the overall branding. I had a lot of fun designing my logo and labels, and I feel proud every single time I place one of my labels onto a newly made candle. Something that a lot of people don’t realize is that the word “Rachel” in my logo is written in my handwriting, it’s the perfect little detail to emphasize the hand-crafted elements.

I love the challenge of creating feelings and emotions through both my products and my product photography. I want to inspire moments of self-care and relaxation.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
My advice for anyone who is looking to sell handmade items is don’t be afraid to price your products at their appropriate worth. Your time, effort, and creativity are valuable. It’s easy to price your products too low if you’re trying to compete with the pricing at big-box stores. Remember that your customers will see the value in a quality item that is made by hand and will happily pay extra for that.

Also, be realistic about what you can handle. It’s fun to come up with lots of new ideas, but be mindful of what you can accomplish given your budget, time constraints, and experience level. You’ll prevent yourself from becoming spread too thin, which ultimately benefits everything. You can always revisit ideas when you’re able to give them the attention they deserve.

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