One of the privileges of being part of the ETSY.COM community has been the opportunity to meet other handmade artisans. Not only have I made friendships throughout the United States over the past several years, I have had the sincere pleasure of getting to know many Etsy-preneurs living in my own back yard. Many of them have started out working at their kitchen tables, spare bedrooms or from their garages. Like me, they had hobbies that turned into dreams, and their dreams turned into creative businesses. Some have been content to create and sell on an occasional basis. Others have had an inner drive and determination to quit their full-time jobs and launch their products into retail stores and other venues. For me, it’s been a particular joy to watch these rising entrepreneurial stars. They are my heroes and the ones I truly love to encourage and support.
This brings me around to introducing Michelle Golden. I met her about 3-4 years ago. She became a member of the NORTH GEORGIA ETSY TEAM during the time that I was its team captain. I saw something special about her from the very beginning. She was eager to learn and took any advice that was offered and ran with it. When you find someone like this, you know they are going to go far because this is a sign of their motivation and drive.
I resigned my position as team captain in 2015, shortly after being diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. I lost track of all but a few of my former team members but managed to stay connected to Michelle through social media. As she shared posts about her progress over the past two years, I watched as her soap and candle business — SOUTHERN ESCENTUALS — began to transform. Her business grew from a part-time venture to a full-time success in what seemed to be a matter of only a short period of time. For me, it was like being a Momma Hen watching one of her baby chicks leave the nest. I was so proud of her and for her!
I caught up with Michelle recently. We decided to meet at BETTY’S COUNTRY STORE in Helen, Georgia. She was there to re-arrange her candle display at the store, and I agreed to meet her for what we both thought would be a quick chat. We ended up talking for almost three hours! Instead of being the mentor, I found myself eager to learn. With her candles and soaps now selling at several local retail stores as well as on-line orders coming in by the dozens each day, Michelle had ventured into entrepreneurial territory that I had yet to experience. She was recently able to quit her full-time job because Southern Escentuals had grown large enough to become her primary source of income. This is a dream-come-true for many creative entrepreneurs, including me. I wanted to know how she did it!
Michelle explained that she grew up in California and moved to Georgia many years ago. She feels as though north Georgia is definitely now her home. Her family, and especially her mother, have many creative talents; however, Michelle did not feel that she could excel at any of them. It was not until she was introduced to soap making more than 15 years ago that she found her creative inspiration. That was also when the seed for owning her own handmade business was planted. Though it took more than a decade of hard work and many obstacles along the way, Michelle never gave up on her dream. Sitting before me was a woman who had tasted a hard-fought victory, and she was savoring it for all it was worth. Deservedly so.
Ingredients for Success
As for the secrets to Michelle’s success? We never got into the details because it was immediately clear to me as to *why* her business grew as it did. Michelle has a big heart, and her nature is to give and bless others. She does not “sell” her products in the traditional sense. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t try to sell at all. Her welcoming demeanor and easy going personality immediately opes doors for her. The quality of her products does the rest. If I learned anything from Michelle, it was how to be humble, gracious and kind — and to serve others as you grow. I truly believe these are the primary ingredients to her success.
During our meet-up, Michelle blessed me with several of her candles, wax melts and soaps. She told me that I was welcome to give them away to my community of followers. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. Michelle was so good about blessing me that it makes me want to turn around and bless someone else. Use the GIVEAWAY ENTRY FORM to indicate that you would like to have your name entered for a chance to receive one of Michelle’s soaps, wax melts or candles.
The biggest thrill of our time together — besides getting to know Michelle so much better — is that she has agreed to develop a signature fragrance for The Laughing Cabin. She helped me to decide on certain scents such as honey suckle, patchouli, pine, etc. I wanted to capture the “smell” of the mountains, trees and forests surrounding our cabin. Michelle will custom blend these scents — just like a chemist in a laboratory — and create a fragrance just for me. Once the fragrance is chosen, Michelle will be using it to create signature candles for The Laughing Cabin. I believe we have already agreed on the name. I’ll save that as part of the surprise. Look for the candles to become available soon. I will be sure to make a BIG announcement.
This leads me to say that Michelle custom blends all of her own fragrances in all of her soaps and candles. She does not use fragrances straight out of a bottle. She measures and tests and experiments until the finished result meets her approval. Then, she matches each fragrance with a name that it best represents. Here are some of the names: Kettle Corn, Aged Bourbon, Leather and Smoke, Kiss My Grits and Cotton Blossom. Trust me that these smell exactly the way they sound: yummy and delicious. She does not scrimp when it comes to the amount of fragrance in her products, either. This is part of the reason that people keep coming back, in my humble opinion. People enjoy candles and soaps that fill the air with fragrance, and these do.
About the Candles
Southern Escentuals’ candles are made of 100% soy in 8-, 12- and 16-ounce sizes. They are available with traditional wicks or wood wicks. My favorite are the ones with the wood wicks because they make a soft crackling sound when they burn. You also have the option of having a white candle or having coloring added according to your preference.
Michelle has also just come out with what is no doubt going to be my new favorite: wax brittle. Wax brittle is heated in a wax warmer just like wax melts. The brittle is made to look like pieces of candy. The fragrance? Well, it’s out of this world! I came home and immediately put a piece of “Vintage” wax brittle into my wax warmer. Oh, my! Within minutes, our cabin smelled absolutely wonderful!
About the Soaps
All of Southern Escentuals’ soaps are made with 100% high quality vegetable oils using no animal fats. All fragrance oils and/or essential oils used in the soaps are safe for human skin. They are handcrafted using the cold process method in small batches. It takes about 4- 6 weeks to cure. Each soap is hand poured and will vary slightly in color and size and weighs approximately 4 to 5 ounces. Michelle chose to make the soaps in a half-moon shape. This makes it easier to hold in your hand while bathing. The label includes a listing of all ingredients.
Michelle is also known for her colorful pine cone zinnia wreaths. Pictures of her wreaths have been widely circulated on Pinterest and Instagram. They were recently featured on the Smart School House page on Facebook. This page has more than 2 million followers and thousands of people went wild for the wreaths. Within two days after that post appeared, Michelle received an avalanche of wreath orders. Because of this, the wreaths are back ordered for at least 6 weeks. If you would like to purchase one of her wreaths, please be patient while she catches up with orders. These wreaths are well worth the wait.
Retail Locations & Social Media Links
If you live in the north Georgia region, you can find Southern Escentuals’ products in the following retail stores: BETTY’S COUNTRY STORE in Helen, Georgia; and JAEMOR FARMS in Alto, Georgia . You can also keep track of the local festivals at which Michelle will be attending throughout 2018 by following her on ETSY LOCAL. The easiest way to place an order is to visit the Southern Escentuals’ SHOP on Etsy or visit her website here: SOUTHERN ESCENTUALS.
Use this form to enter for a chance to win one of three (3) giveaway prizes featuring handmade products from Southern Escentuals. Three separate winners will be chosen by random drawing. Each winner will randomly receive one (1) of the following three (3) prizes. The value of each prize is less than $20.00 and includes free shipping within the U.S. The entry deadline is midnight Wednesday, April 25, 2018 (EST). Winners names will be drawn on April 26, 2018 and prize notifications sent out to the winners on that same day according to the e-mail addresses submitted in the entry form. Each winner has until May 15, 2018, to claim his/her prize or the prize is forfeited. By entering this contest, you are signifying that you are 18 years of old or older and a resident of the U.S. Contest is void where prohibited by law. Contest is not affiliated with or endorsed by Facebook or Instagram. Prizes are handmade by Southern Escentuals and shown in the photographs and described as follows: (1) One 5-oz. package of Lavender wax brittle; (2) One 8-oz. Coffee House soy candle; (3) One 4-oz. bar of Dixie Grits soap and one 3-oz. package of Sandalwood wax melts. Click to access the GIVEAWAY ENTRY FORM AND RULES.