How A Side Hustle Turned Into Singapore’s First Candle Design Academy
by Wei Ying December 16, 2021
“Passion or practicality?”
As if I had just asked a question with an obvious answer, Esther’s cynicism was apparent as she let out a chuckle in disbelief. In a rather derisive tone, she assertively proclaims that she is a non-believer of how passion supersedes practicality, and that practicality should always be at its core.
Thus, with practicality leading the way, Esther’s “Happy Together” arts and crafts business, with a niche in candle making, was born. When asked how she came up with that name, Esther cheekily replied that she wanted to come up with a light-hearted name that would connote positivity. I was not surprised at this fact for my first impression of her was feisty with a heaping touch of brazen. What you see is really what you get. With Esther, you should just cut the chase and bullsh*t.
You see, Esther is not like your usual side hustler, who knew what her side hustle was going to be all along because she had this innate fiery passion within her.
For her, costs and manpower played a huge role in her decision. She wanted to pursue a side hustle that she could run on her own, one that did not require many dependencies on manpower and one that involved little prep work.
A close-up of the candle making process
“With candles, they can be easily melted down.”
She was downright practical. Therefore, while juggling a 9–6 job as a skincare trainer at Unilever, she would burn the midnight oil by working on her candles from 9 pm to 2 am, before practising an hour of photography till 3 am. How else would a side hustle work out if one cannot execute quality marketing?
Esther demonstrating the candle making process.
This was in fact the very reason why Esther left her full-time job and poured her heart and soul into “Happy Together”. During her time at Unilever, she felt stuck and wanted to try her hand at digital marketing and photography, all of which would be essential to get her candle making business up and running. Unfortunately, due to the nature of her job, taking up courses to learn them was not an option. Hence, Esther took a leap of faith and left her stable career at a reputable multinational corporation (MNC) for candle making.
“I was so scared of failure.”
Indeed, to some, they might regard Esther’s move as foolish and dumb. Yes, her future then was ridden with uncertainty. Furthermore, her fear of failure was validated when her then-partner of “Happy Together” bailed. On top of a flopped partnership, Esther was also now unemployed. If anyone knew what rock bottom was, at that point in time, I bet it would be Esther.
Instead of throwing her hands up in defeat, practicalism and innovativeness came knocking fast, and real hard. Esther noted a gap in the current market where she felt that many people did not understand the worth of arts and crafts.
“Candle making vs digital marketing workshop?”
Honestly speaking, I would pay more for the digital marketing workshop. The sad truth is that this is the side where most of our opinions lie. In general, the art industry does not get enough recognition. Thus, with this realisation, Esther proceeded to obtain an Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment (ACTA) so that she would be able to impart her knowledge to those who are eager to learn.
Right at this moment when Esther was very graciously sharing her journey, it dawned on me that practical Esther has passion too. An element that I thought was lacking all this while.
“Is passion your middle name?”
Why be a trainer when she could just sell the candles that she had made? She could have saved herself all the hassle of going through months and months of training sessions to earn that trainer certification if she were to just be a retailer of candles instead. The answer is simple, passion.
Esther taking a whiff from one of her perfume concoctions.
Esther has found her calling from her side hustle, she yearns to educate the masses with the lesser-known value of arts and crafts. Coupled with her liking for scents and crafts, it truly is a side hustle that was matched made in heaven for her.
“Satisfaction is when the final products come together.”
Just like every strategic businesswoman should, Esther is constantly on the lookout for the latest trends within the candle making industry. Not only does she regularly bolster her knowledge and skills bank by attending workshops, but Esther also took things a step further. “Happy Together” has expanded to also running educational classes on perfume concoctions and scent branding now.
With a sizeable following of over three thousand followers on Instagram to running candle making workshops over Zoom for companies based in as far out as Hungary, “Happy Together” is definitely on track to something huge. It is also making waves locally, for Esther had just conducted a candle making workshop hosted by the Ministry of Education (MOE).
For those who thought that Esther had made a bad move, do you still think so?
Perhaps passion is not the hero ingredient when building up a side hustle. Often, many of us get caught up with the idea of running a side hustle driven by passion. However, sometimes, passion just is not going to cut it. We might be doing ourselves good if we were to take a step back and consider all aspects before jumping headfirst into the hustle of our dreams. What are our priorities? Is it keeping costs low, the need for minimum manpower, etc?
No doubt, “Happy Together” is set for greatness. Esther’s future plans for it involve being a material distributor and being the leading arts and crafts academy in Singapore. They are located at Roxy Square 1, Unit 01–34, 50 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428769.
So if you are toying with the idea of starting a side hustle, sometimes, a leap of faith mixed with a little passion and practicalism would do just it!