Ryan Perlowin is a born entrepreneur. “I’ve always been entrepreneurial,” he told us when we visited his small Durham apartment to watch him make candles. “I’ve started smaller companies before, like in middle school selling candy, or you know whatever it was,” he finishes with a grin. After majoring in Entrepreneurship and English at UNC, he founded Confidante, a company with the mission of empowering women.
At first he sold skin care products made by a private label supplier, but there was nothing different or special about them. He also sourced products from two companies with a cause: ABAN , a non-profit that empowers street girls in Ghana by providing them with marketable skills, started by a UNC friend of Ryan’s, and Thistle Farms , a Tennessee farm that makes handmade, natural bath and body products and employs women from Magdalene, a residential program for women who have survived life on the streets.
Ultimately, though, Ryan wanted to make his own products. “This idea came probably about six months ago now, I just kind of stumbled into it, and started making the candles, and now it’s good,” he told us. “Once I found this candle thing, I wanted to focus more on that, and get into something that I was making everything, it felt like it was more genuine, and more me.” He began with canister candles, made with soy-based wax that burns more cleanly than paraffin, as well as all-natural coloring and essential oils as fragrance.
Ryan came to the Merchandising Department at Weaver Street Market at the start of February, 2012, and his canister candles were on sale by Valentine’s Day. He makes the candles by hand in his apartment, melting wax chips (from a soy farm in Kentucky) in a double-boiler on the stove, stirring in essential oil scent and drops of color, and then pouring the hot wax into canisters and votive molds. The candles have scents like Lilac Vanilla, Ocean Breeze, Mimosa & Mandarin, Black Raspberry Vanilla, and Peppermint & Eucalyptus. He plans to expand with a body care line, but right now his candle business is booming with the addition of votive candles.
Ryan’s new business and the addition of votive candles enabled Weaver Street Market to source more of our candles from a local producer. “I love that aspect of it,” Ryan said, “that my products are going to people in my community, which is great.”
“[I’m] definitely excited to be in WSM, excited for what you guys stand for, and your focus on the local and the natural, and all the things Confidante and my candles are about, so I feel like it’s a good fit.” Ryan’s company also has a philanthropic side, with one dollar from the sale of each canister candle, and a percentage of votive sales, going to the LIVESTRONG Foundation , empowering people fighting cancer. Read more about Confidante on their website (new site coming soon) or Facebook page. Watch Ryan make candles in a Youtube video of our visit to Confidante .