Maker of the Month: The Onyx Exchange

Editor’s note: This story was supposed to run in our Maker Issue. Unfortunately, due to human error, it was omitted. Our deepest apologies to Shan and Jarod! We love what you guys are doing, and hope you’ll forgive us!

When you have motivation, a great business partner, and a passion for recyclable products, success may not be  so far off.  Just look at Jarod Wilson and Shan Parker, owners of the handmade candle making business The Onyx Exchange.  With more than thirty scents, each candle is handcrafted with care in the heart of Indianapolis.  This includes an eco friendly candle, which uses recycled glass casing made from the bottom of wine bottles. Using a recyclable product was important to the duo, but most importantly, they use a non-profit organization that employs refugees, the homeless, and people coming out of incarceration to cut their glass.  ,.  “We want these candles to serve a variety of different purposes. “ says Wilson.

Since starting The Onyx Exchange in 2010, their candles are now sold in several local businesses throughout Indianapolis and across the U.S. This success is what Wilson and Parker wanted , but it is more than just selling their product. It is the idea that they are part of a movement.

“One of the hardest things about being a business owner and maker is that you have to be everybody. You are the owner, the accountant, the customer service rep, the sales guy.  It’s a lot to take on,” says Parker. Both partners work full-time jobs during the week and then spend most of their evenings and weekends working on Onyx.

Working hard is not unfamiliar territory for these two. Keeping up with the demand of their candles is a challenge, but they certainly don’t see that as a bad thing. “I am really satisfied with the position our company is in, but there is so much more I want to do with it.” says Wilson, who is more involved with the creative side of the company. “I love experimenting with new scents and trying out new products.”

How do they test new scents?  “We host focus groups with our friends. We ask them to vote on which scents they like, which they don’t. It has definitely worked for us.  Making our customer happy is the most crucial part.  It is so much more important than making money,” says Parker.

What’s next?  “We are hoping to have a storefront one day; an opportunity to sell a complete line of candles, lotions, soaps, shampoos, and oils.  We would also offer a candle making bar and host parties.  Think of it as a full-service stop for relaxation’”. With this goal in mind, the partners just hit a major milestone; West Elm is now carrying their product.  The interiors giant has recently launched a nationwide program to carry goods made locally in each city called West Elm Local.

As the company’s success continues to grow, its founders have every intention of staying put in Indianapolis for a while.  They hope to empower other makers and small business owners with their experience.  “Never underestimate yourself or your product.  If you believe it is good, and you put your heart and soul into it, then own it,” says  Parker.

“There should be a high level of professionalism if you want your product or work to be comparable to Chicago, NY, LA. Educating yourself on what sells, how it sells and how to cater to the demographic you are working with is key, “  says Wilson

As The Onyx Exchange fifth anniversary quickly approaches, both Wilson and Parker hope to see more creative start-ups emerging, and the maker movement become widely recognized as essential to the health of the local economy.

The Onyx Exchange
image by Esther Boston
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