Art Beat: Candles From Kalamazoo | WMUK

Art Beat: Candles From Kalamazoo

Jan 28, 2021

Credit Kalamazoo Candle Company

We’ve all had those moments wondering how to make some extra cash. Musician Adam McFarlin explored the Internet for ideas.

There were plenty. But one captured his interest as a process he might master. McFarlin, who’s originally from Texas, tells the story of how he began the highly successful Kalamazoo Candle Company and made the City of Kalamazoo his own.

“I like to refer to Kalamazoo Candle Company as a happy accident,” McFarlin says. “I didn’t really intend to start a candle company, but it’s something I’ve really grown passionate about over these years, and it’s been a really fun ride.”

Making candles
Credit Kalamazoo Candle Company

McFarlin experimented making candles in his garage. He was fascinated with the process and enjoyed spending hours just reading about it as he perfected his technique.

“I think it was partly due to my own background,” he says. “My degrees are actually in music. I have a bachelor’s in music education and a master’s in music performance from Western Michigan University. As anyone who is in music or sports or many other things knows, what the public sees of your work is really only about one percent or so of your actual time as a musician. The other 99 percent is your time practicing, getting better at your craft. That’s a process that’s ingrained me: the love of getting better at something.”

And so McFarlin worked toward perfecting his candle-making. He gave away his first candles to friends who enjoyed giving them to their friends. He began to make sales as his craft improved, and it wasn’t long before McFarlin realized he was on to something big. He now sells candles nationwide, including a recent placement with Whole Foods, and employs a team of 16. And it's no longer a garage operation. He moved to Park Trades Center, outgrew that, then moved his factory to a new location at 5111 East ML Avenue in Kalamazoo.

No matter how big his business grows, or how many candles are produced, McFarlin emphasizes that a hands-on process makes his soy candles unique. That includes creating the candles, adding custom fragrance blends, and putting labels on the tins that hold the candles. He employs sustainable materials and practices, offers candle-making workshops and kits, and runs fundraisers for various local causes.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.