We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Shipman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind my business and my brand is the passion that goes into each creation and that most creations stem from a personal experience and/or memory. From the discovery of my business name, to my logo, to the first candle that started this business venture to the scents that came after, to the colors I use in my pour paintings, every aspect of my business has personal meaning behind it.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
“Scent is the strongest tie to memory.” -Maggie Stiefvater
This quote describes the beginning stages of my candling making career in a nut shell as many of my beginning scents were all created from memories I missed about my residential life in San Diego. When I started making candles, I had no intention of it turning into a business, but when I started having the thought to sell them, I actually contacted a printing and graphic design company and when I met the owner he flat out asked me, “Is this a new business? Have you sold any candles yet?” and when my response was “yes” to the first question and “no” to the last, he gave me some of the best advice. He told me to do as much on my own that I possibly could to not dump a bunch of money into something I didn’t know would be profitable, which then led me to the idea of hand painting all of my labels, besides my Beach Bum scent which is a picture of Isabella in Ocean Beach. Many think I use a paint pen, but every painted label is done with a paint brush, acrylic paint, and my hand, making each one authentically unique. I think that’s the part of my brand that I’m most proud of. So much time goes into the painting which makes them personable. I love the uniqueness of it because I have never seen that style of labeling on candles before. When I started doing pour paintings, it was just for fun and to be able to add some art onto my display tables at the Artisan Market. The colors used for the pour paintings are all colors that remind me of the Sunset Cliffs and even though the flow of the paint can be unpredictable, it’s meant to replicate the jagged cliffs proceeding out into the ocean. I hadn’t made any paintings larger than a 12″ x 18″, and to my surprise I was contacted by a candle customer from New Jersey who saw one of my small pour paintings and wanted a custom piece made in a 22″ x 44″ which led me to make a few larger ones for display. When a local Key West gal saw one of my display pieces, she wanted a custom piece in a 32″ x 90″ which I think was one of my most challenging but one of the most rewarding feelings of my creative career. Just like with my candles, my custom pour paintings happened by luck, coincidence, and good timing.
The part of my business that I am most excited about is the story behind its birth and the discovery behind the name. My business name is Bella Laine and I still remember the day I thought of the name. I was living in my Ocean Beach apartment, sitting in a chair by the window looking out on Point Loma Blvd, Isabella was in my lap, and I was making a macrame plant hanger. I had the thought, “If I ever owned an art boutique, what would the name be?” and Bella Laine came to my head and just stuck. Bella, stemming from my daughter Isabella, and Laine, stemming from my grandma Elaine, gives you Bella Laine. My daughter and I share the name, Elaine, as our middle names and in the summer of 2017 I had gotten a beautiful hummingbird tattoo by Briana, the owner of Buju Tattoo in San Diego, with “Isabella Elaine” scripted below the belly of the hummingbird, My grandma has always had a love for hummingbirds which gave my the idea for the tattoo. When it came time to thinking of a business logo, I looked down at my tattoo and began pondering of ways to create it along with studying the way Briana uniquely scripted the name and ultimately that’s how I discovered my logo!
How I got to where I am today was very accidental. I participated in my first Key West Artisan Market on December 31, 2018 and it was a bust. I barely sold anything and I was so down on myself. The local vendors around me persuaded me to just keep doing them and I will slowly create a following. Though I doubted their advice, I listened to them. One day when I barely sold any candles, I met the owner of Salt Gallery who was my very first retailer. When I participated in a local Key West Yoga Fest that I paid $200 to be in, paid the babysitter a $100, and I only sold (maybe) six candles, I met the owner of a local Key West boutique chain, The Green Pineapple, and they have since been my biggest wholesale client. Many similar situations followed which has led me to have several retailers in Key West. Eventually I had gotten too busy to continue making everything out of my kitchen, and because of the pandemic, Key West got wiped out of a lot of cheap tourist shops and opened the doors for landlords lowering their rents, providing affordable spaces, and allowed me to find my dream studio and very own retail space.
Was the process easy? No. When I first started making candles in my kitchen I was going through a bad state of depression. I felt so lost being back in Key West and I missed San Diego terribly. When I started my business, it’s almost like I felt I had a purpose which may sound weird because I’m a mother and I worked full time at a restaurant, but it helped me get out of this rut of feeling lost. When I started selling my product I had such a fear of what people are going to think about the hand painted look, price, and overall product. After I received so much positive feedback and the amount of repeated buyers I had developed, it boosted my confidence. The other worries that I had containing appearance and price, at the end of the day, not everyone is going to like the same style and everyone’s budgets vary, which made those worries disappear over time.
During these first three years of my business, I have learned to keep pushing ahead even when I feel defeated. I have learned to not let an unsuccessful day in sales project onto my future outlook on how my business is going to succeed. I have learned that success isn’t going to come by sitting around and waiting for it to fall in my lap, and if I continue to push myself, work hard, stay determined, and stay true to myself and my brand, good things will come over time. The saying, “Patience is a virtue.” is definitely on repeat in my head.
I want the world to know my whole story. How my business name came to light, where the logo stemmed from, how the hand painted labels came to fruition, how I grew my business when it’s originally something that was just a hobby and kept me busy during the day, how so many of my scents have a personal story. I want the world to know how much of my brand comes from my heart, soul, and personal memories. When people buy my candles, I love when I can tell them the story behind the discovery, the creation, and how my business venture started. I think it makes the purchase so much more intimate. There was one day when I was painting candles in my chair and these two little girls poked their heads in and said, “You have the coolest job in the world!” Of course inside my head I thought, “Oh girls, this isn’t my full time job.” but it made me smile and it made me realize that people of all ages, both younger and older, see me doing something I’m passionate about and know that it’s possible to succeed from your own personal passion projects.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh this question is a dream for me because whenever I visit San Diego, which is usually two times a year at least, my itinerary is packed. I miss it there so much. There would be a day where we would walk to Cafe Bella in Ocean Beach and get an Iced Pumpkin Spiced Latte with an extra shot, walk down to Abbott Street and take a left to head towards the OB Pier. If there weren’t any bums lining the OB wall we would sit and enjoy our coffees while watching the surfers ride the waves. We would then take a stroll onto the OB Pier to take in the coastal views. When leaving the Pier we would begin our walk to the Sunset Cliffs and eventually get to Luscomb’s Point where we would sit and take it all in. After we finish the stroll we would head to Mike’s Taco Shop to get some of their delicious fried fish tacos with chipotle hot sauce. After lunch we would change into our swim suits and bask in the sun by Tower 5, that was always my beach spot since I lived right around the corner. After a relaxing beach day we would go home to get ready and head to Little Italy for dinner and drinks at Kettner Exchange. The Spicy Gallagher cocktail is always a must and we would share tapas style. If we’re still up for another drink or two we would head to Craft and Commerce because any craft cocktail there is amazing.
The next day we would of course start the day with our Iced Coffees from Cafe Bella (I literally went there every morning) and then head to do a light hike at Torrey Pines with the walk back to the car being the beach stroll. We would hit up Rocky’s Crown Point on the way home because their burgers are to die. If we are feeling up for a huge margarita, we’d head to Baja Beach Cafe to sip a margarita as big as our heads and hopefully see Slow Mo pass us on the boardwalk. For dinner we have reservations at Cesarina where you can’t go wrong with any of the homemade pastas and their table side tiramisu is to die for. After we inhale that, it’s time for jammies and bed.
We have an early start to the day since hiking Potato Chip is an all day event, so we scoop up our Iced Coffees at Cafe Bella and head inland to hike a trail to be able to get a picture on a very thin cliff hanger just so we can post it on social media. After those eight overs are over and we feel completely exhausted, we head to 1502 for the #14 Pho, some peanut butter shots, and their Cinnamon Pumpkin Gose. After this day, an early bed time is in order.
Since we had three days of hiking in a row, we’ll just take it easy and head to breakfast at Morning Glory. Making sure we planned this on a Saturday so we can stroll the Little Italy Farmers Market since the wait won’t be less than an hour. We order the Wake Me Up Fizz, Souffle Pancakes (duh), Morning Glory Fried Rice, and a side of Crispy Scalloped Potato. We make sure to read all the menu descriptions because they’re hilarious. We feel up for a second breakfast cocktail so we order their espresso martinis but don’t feel bad about drinking those at 9:30am since they’re in a beautiful large crystal glass so you don’t feel as big of a booze hound. We dance with our shoulders while we’re eating because all the best hip-hop and rap jams come on while we’re there. Since we leave a little morning buzzed, we head back home for naps before the Padre game.
It’s an early start to the day to head inland to do the hike to Cedar Creek Falls, but first Cafe Bella coffees. We come prepared with our bathing suits since we have to swim over to the waterfall for a picture once we get to the bottom. It’s an easy hike down but the incline back to the top isn’t as gracious. Since it’s Sunday Funday we head to California Wild Ales for a few craft brews then grab a few sushi rolls at The Joint. We pop into Vignette’s to do a little vintage shopping and look at some chandeliers that we have no place to put, and then we make our way home to chill. Since naturally we’re hungry a few hours later, we just grab a few California Burritos at Roberto’s and we don’t forget the extra red sauce, then head to the Sunset Cliffs to watch the most beautiful sunset.
To change up the coffee spot a bit, we go to Communal Coffee in North Park to get a lavender latte and a gluten free lavender chocolate donut (I love lavender) and sit within their cozy walls to chat and enjoy. Before leaving we go over to their neighbors, North Park Nursery, so I can buy another house plant that I really don’t need. We head back to Ocean Beach and have a relaxing beach day by Tower 5, since it’s a sin to leave San Diego without somewhat of a tan, then we head to Little Italy for dinner at Filippi’s.
To have change of scenery from OB, we head to La Jolla for brunch at Brockton Villa to get their Carne Asada Benedict and to check out the Sea Lions on the cliffs. Afterwards we change into our swim suits and head to Windansea Beach where the Pacific Ocean seems so much more blue and you dream of owning a home that surrounds it. We head back home and around early evening, we walk down towards Tower 5 to claim a fire pit where we roast hot dogs, make smore’s and sip our local craft beers because how many other places can you have a fire and picnic right on the beach?
Before the departing afternoon flight we have our last lunch at Mitch’s Seafood and get the Crab Cake, Tuna Melt, and Steamed Mussels and watch the returning fisherman feed the sea lions.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My Grandmother, Elaine, definitely deserves all the credit for my love of the arts and my love for creating. I spent a lot of time as a child at my grandparents house and my grandma always has had an art room in her house. She is a painter and uses mostly acrylics and she would always paint these realistic countryside paintings and her drawers were filled with a wide variety of acrylic paints. She would always have a different art project for us to work on whether it be painting, plastering, building, sewing, etc. The projects were never limited to one medium.
I owe my friend Sarah Larson, the owner of Often Wander, the credit for this accidental business venture I am now in. I worked for Sarah in her Ocean Beach, San Diego location and she was such an inspirational light. I never paid attention to what kind of candles I was burning until Sarah taught me the difference between waxes and what chemicals were in them. Sarah’s Nag Champa candle was my absolute favorite that she made, and once I moved back to Key West I wanted my house to have that beautiful aroma all the time but I knew it wasn’t financially possible to buy a new candle from her every week which is when I had the idea to make my own. So I bought a ten pound bag of soy wax, jars, wicks, and Nag Champa oil and began creating. Watching her build her successful career solely based on making and creating is such an inspiration.
Lastly, I owe my hustle and drive to my daughter, Isabella. She is the reason I push myself so hard. I want her to grow up learning that she can do anything she sets her mind to and become successful doing it. Isabella always comes to my studio with me and sees me making candles, painting, socializing with customers, being personable with strangers, telling the story behind my brand, and I think especially in this day and age that is so important for her to see and I take a lot of the credit in knowing that (so far) she will pick up a crayon and a blank piece of paper over a tablet any day.