Editor’s note: KC BizCare is a financial supporter of Startland News. This story was produced through a paid partnership.
Birdie Hansen started making candles as a hobby during the pandemic, and the business quickly grew to a level beyond what she and her husband David’s home in Midtown could accommodate.
Scaling operations for Effing Candle Co., however, required the help of an amendment to “antiquated” zoning laws in Kansas City, Missouri. Ordinance No. 220398 reclassifies where artisanal manufacturing businesses can open, authorizing them to set up shop in zones previously reserved for retail.
The relaxed zoning laws should attract more small businesses to Kansas City and remove undue burden on artisanal manufacturers, said Nia Richardson, managing director at KC BizCare.
“The reason why this is so important or exciting is because it creates more opportunities for businesses to locate in other places, which also creates opportunities for businesses to be in community and support economic development,” Richardson said.
Effing Candle Co. has already benefited, said Hansen, founder and CEO of the business at 3703 Main St. It allowed the business to expand at a comfortable pace, rather than being forced to open a warehouse or operate in a space beyond the couple’s means.
“It was really helpful for us, because it allowed us to take an intermediate step into a space that was right-sized for our business instead of having to go from home to a 5000-square-foot warehouse,” Hansen said.
From viral hit to holiday prep
Effing Candle Co. sells candles with tongue-in-cheek names — the brand took off when a fragrance product called “Josh Hawley Sucks” went viral on social media, Hansen said.
“It got us a lot of attention,” Hansen said. “So, we were like, ‘Maybe we have something here with really sharing our values with our customers.’ I think that’s something that consumers are always looking for, is a brand that resonates with their values.”
Effing Candle Co. has continued to wear its values on its labels, releasing a fragrance earlier this year called “Abortion is Healthcare,” with 15 percent of proceeds donated to Planned Parenthood Great Plains.
That partnership also received plenty of attention on social media — including a retweet from Monica Lewinsky, Hansen said — leading to even more growth for the company.
“What we wanted to do was create a place where we were able to build a company, where we were giving back, and also take a stand, because so few brands are willing to do that, because it’s still scary,” Hansen said.
“You’re going to alienate some of your customers,” she continued. “Some people are gonna hate on you on social media and email. But we wanted to carve out a space that was really meaningful for ourselves.”
Effing Candle Co. has sold more than 5,000 candles already in 2022 ahead of the holiday season, during which Hansen said she expects 40 percent of the company’s annual sales to occur.
The company ships its line of 21 eco-friendly fragrances made with sustainably sourced materials anywhere in the contiguous United States, and also offers retail hours and in-store pickup at its Midtown location.
Effing Candle Co. products can also be found in Made in KC stores and several other Kansas City-area boutiques, Hansen said.
Business plan back in the groove
Without the new ordinance, which passed this spring, GrooveWasher would have been forced to back out of its deal to purchase its current office space at 8100 Paseo, said co-founder Steve Chase.
GrooveWasher — which produces and sells cleaning products for vinyl records — closed on the building contract in February but was left in limbo until the zoning laws were revised, Chase said.
“We were kind of on hold for closing on this building until May when we got a green light from the city,” Chase said.
The company previously operated out of a shared warehouse space in North Kansas City, Chase said, but wanted to move to be closer to where its employees live.
“We’re still remodeling and trying to settle in, but at least we have elbow room,” Chase said. “It’s convenient for my staff who live nearby. … If it hadn’t been for that language change, we could not have closed on the purchase of the building or moved to Kansas City from North Kansas City. That’s the bottom line.”
Chase and co-founder Ron Daniel founded the business in 2015 after being encouraged to launch a Kickstarter campaign.
Chase’s passion for high fidelity sound and vinyl records dates back 50 years, he said. During the 1970s, his friend invented the discwasher, which Chase said became the most popular record cleaner of the decade.
More than 40 years later, as Chase was listening to some old records, he realized he needed a new cleaning solution.
“I dug up my records and my record player and started cleaning them up and I realized that my old discwasher from the old days was pretty well worn out after 40 years,” he said. “And so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll kind of make up my own cleaning solution and try to find some new cleaning fabrics, etc. to hopefully do the same as or better job.’”
Today, GrooveWasher record cleaning products are distributed as far as Canada and Australia, with designs to add partners in the UK, too. Chase believes GrooveWasher may be the only company making vinyl cleaning solutions in the United States.
The products are available for purchase online and in several record stores throughout Kansas City. GrooveWasher does not currently have retail hours but may add them in the future, Chase said.
Invested in the neighborhood
Helping businesses like GrooveWasher and Effing Candle Co. is exactly why the ordinance was passed, said Samuel Morris, small business advocate at KC BizCare.
“Where we really see the value is in the lives and the wealth of the folks at GrooveWasher and Effing Candle Co., who now have the opportunity to be in the city in which they reside, to be in the city where they want to operate, and not be held back by some antiquated code,” Morris said.
From a community-building perspective, Morris noted how the GrooveWasher space at 8100 Paseo had been mostly vacant for more than a decade, but said now the block has renewed vitality.
“The only thing that changed is there was an available sign, and then a different color available for lease sign because it changed owners,” Morris said. “Now there’s cars parked outside. Now I can go there and buy gifts. That’s really the heart and soul of development.”
Hansen echoed those sentiments, saying that Effing Candle Co.’s physical location has allowed her and her husband to further establish their roots in Kansas City.
“For us it was about creating a space where we could still actively participate in our community,” Hansen said. “It’s just really nice being able to say, ‘Yeah, we live and work in the same community.’ We’re very invested in the community, and this allowed us to plug in a lot deeper into Kansas City.”
This story is possible thanks to support from KC BizCare, a free business resource, advocacy and information center for new and existing businesses operating with the City of Kansas City. It provides its customers with information and assistance in understanding and complying with city, state and federal requirements for operating a business.