A RATHCORMAC woman who makes luxury candles has spoken about quitting her “good, pensionable job” to follow her dream of setting up a business.
“You can have a dream, but it will always stay a dream unless you act on it,” Caroline McAteer told The Echo.
In August of this year, she quit her teaching job to set up her business, Cassie & Coco Candles, making hand-poured luxury candles from biodegradable soy wax.
A commerce degree from UCC had led her to a 21-year career as a maths and business teacher, but, as it did for a lot of people, the Covid-19 pandemic offered Caroline a chance to catch her breath and to re-evaluate her goals.
“I trained as a yoga teacher, and started classes, and that second summer in lockdown gave me more time to think, and really the idea for the candles just came overnight, and I acted on that idea very quickly,” she said.
“Last August I got the idea, ‘I love candles, I can do candles’, and within a few days there was a candle-making kit at the door. Then I started looking at design, packaging, and six months later I launched.
“It took six months to turn that idea into a product that was put on shelves.”
She had previously had what she referred to as “side hustles”, working as a cake-decorator and a frame-maker, but owning her own business had long been a dream.
“I always thought to get a product onto a shelf would be the next level, and I am a businessperson, I like to work, and I certainly like to work for myself.”
Soon, she realised she was at a crossroads.
“I either keep teaching, and the dream never takes off, or I take the plunge and I really try and make a go of this.” She handed in her notice and she said she hasn’t looked back.
“Now that I have taken that plunge, it’s just so time-consuming. Someone said to me recently ‘It must be just lovely making candles’, and I replied that I make candles once in a blue moon, the work is in being on the laptop the whole time. It’s marketing, it’s trying to get your brand out there, it’s trying to get known, and trying to navigate being a small business.
“Was giving up the career and the pension a wise move in the current economic climate?
“I don’t know, but is there ever a good time? I think you can keep on making excuses, and for me it was a case of now or never.”
Caroline said that, from the moment she had the idea, her Local Enterprise Office was extremely helpful.
“From the moment I had the idea, they gave me a lovely mentoring session, someone to chat through my idea, talk with me, and since then they have been with me every step of the way, in terms of the specialist supports they have given me, mentoring, they have given me specialists in finance, in marketing, in advertising. They have given me the confidence to go on,” she said.
She is an animal lover, and she named her business Cassie & Coco after her dogs, both of whom have gone to their reward.
“People ask me if I’m Cassie or Coco, but no, they were my little doggies.”
Cassie was a rescue dog, as is her current best friend Daisy, and she said that perhaps a future range of products might be named after Daisy.
Seven months on from launching the business, things are going well.
“I’m in a few shops and I’m online, and I just think the local support has been phenomenal. There’s definitely an element of ‘Buy Irish, Buy Local’, but the support online, the support from other businesspeople, has just been so heartening,” the Rathcormac native said.
“Now, don’t get me wrong, it has been a bit of a stressful journey as well, but you hide that, you put the smile on Instagram, but I’m loving the process, I’m loving the journey. I’m loving the excitement of not knowing where this is going to bring me.”
She said she hopes that her journey might help others to realise their own ambitions.
“You can have a dream, but it will always stay a dream unless you act on it. It has taken a little bit of courage, I didn’t quit my day job overnight, it took a lot of thought, but it kept on coming back to wanting to make a go of this. The last thing you want in life is regrets, and you’ll never know what might have been unless you take that plunge.”
Cassie & Coco candles are available in Batavia in Fermoy, in Silver Bow Gifts in Glanmire, in Homefront in Wilton, and also online at https://cassieandcoco.com/