The pandemic motivated local candle maker Kayla Brown to take her business, Fire Doll Studio, to the next level, and it’s going to be lit.

What started off as a soothing hobby inside her tiny studio apartment during her college years has now evolved into opening a brick and mortar store in Downtown Champaign.

A woman with long reddish hair is leaning on a light wooden counter. There is a cash register and vase with flowers on the counter. Photo by Veronica Mullen.Fire Doll Studio owner Kayla Brown. Photo By Veronica Mullen.

One could call it a slow burn.

“There's a lot of waiting in candle making, so I could study and make candles at the same time,” shared Brown. “I just fell in love with candle making and its rich history. It's incredibly meditative and yet still very expressive and fun for me.”

A studio space with people gathered around a table, as well as sitting at the counter. Photo by Veronica Mullen.Photo by Veronica Mullen.

The spanking new location at 110 S Neil Street will offer an expansive inventory of candles, wax melts, wax brittles, and MORE. Not only will the storefront have beautiful handcrafted, paraffin-free natural wax products, but they will be hosting immersive studio experiences including workshops for all ages to enjoy as well as candle happy hours..

With craft markets limited or flatout canceled due to the pandemic, the maker had to make a major transition from the business format she was long used to.

“The pandemic forced my life in a different direction,” said Brown. “I lost pretty much everything else I did (music/nursing/teaching), so I just decided to do the best I could with what I had left, which was Fire Doll. I just decided to go all in!” The candle lover had to master e-commerce, since the markets were no longer a viable option. Having a strong online presence allowed Brown to dream even bigger. 

“[It was] definitely a bit of culture shock, but I was really motivated to learn,” elaborated Brown. “That all did pretty well and when the opportunity presented itself to move the studio into a space where I could have a storefront also, I was very excited to take that next step with Fire Doll.”

After a decade of crafting candles inside her home, she moved her candle making supplies into a studio last year. Thanks to the larger space, the creator was able to expand her repertoire and elevate the production levels, and it offered an opportunity for Brown during an unpredictable time. 

Expanding a business amidst a pandemic is no easy feat, but Brown is up for the challenge.

“As I prepare to open the doors here, I am presented with the added pressure of making sure I can do this in a way that is safe for my community as the pandemic ebbs and flows,” said Brown. “I'm just doing my best to pay attention to what has worked for other business owners here in town and reflect that same level of awareness and caution.”

A square cardboard box is open, with large and small decorative candles, a flower, and tissue paper in it. A mug of tea sits next to the box, as well as a pair of glasses. Photo by Veronica Mullen.Photo by Veronica Mullen.

She doesn’t let the pressure daunt her or dampen her creativity. One of the new ventures that Fire Doll Studios was able to explore is offering Candle Club: a monthly subscription box that delivers a different scented 16 ounce handmade pillar candle and votive candle right to your door.

Brown was born and raised in Urbana and she is passionate about her hometown and supporting the local businesses that make up the community. She plans to house not only her own hand poured products at the store, but Fire Doll Studio will showcase other fellow local woman entrepreneurs’ works as well. 

“It's too often that women struggle to find their own space in the business world, even on a small scale, and be able to support themselves on their talents,” expressed Brown. “If I can help another woman do that very thing I'm working so hard for myself, that's a win for me, them, and the community. That's the environment I want and I want to contribute to that.”

Not only will you be supporting local creatives, but the products are of the highest quality. Many commercial candles are made with paraffin wax, which is a petroleum byproduct. When you burn one of those, the byproducts pollute the air in your home, and release irritants and known carcinogens.

A rectangular box with black and white designs and Fire Doll Studios on the label. It is surrounded by different sizes and colors of candles, and a bar of soap. Photo by Veronica Mullen.Photo by Veronica Mullen.

The soy candles crafted at Fire Doll Studio are made from a natural wax, which is a renewable resource, and they burn cleanly and actually last much longer than petroleum based candles. “You don't just get a great product from a great local business, you're investing directly into your community and that's something you can feel really awesome about,” said Brown. “I think when you can find something you love and support on a local level, you're putting money right into your local economy and investing in the community that surrounds our small businesses. That only makes our community better.”

Brown shared that her personal favorite scent is the unique Red Ginger Saffron, and the best selling scent is Egyptian Amber, a warm and mellow scent.

Fire Doll Studio will officially open its doors and celebrate its official grand opening this Thursday, on August 19th.

Follow Fire Doll Studios on all social platforms at @firedollstudio and visit their site to learn more and place an order.

Reserve your seat for the next candle making workshop here.

Top photo by Veronica Mullen.