Fast-growing candle company a tribute to mothers’ love and spirit
“Our candles serve as a beacon of hope and a way to help others through tough times. Each time you light one, it’s a reminder to shine bright and live your best life.”
BY REID CREAGER
Arielle Ricci was beyond exasperated. If only her mother was there to console her.
“I started making candles in my kitchen in 2014,” she told Inventors Digest. “My first batch was a total flop. The candles wouldn’t even light. I was devastated.”
But a spiritual light always burns steadily within Ricci, who was 11 when her mother died. She and her husband, Chris Ricci, were both young when they lost their mothers. Both died from cancer. Both loved candles.
Seven years later, their inspiration of love, grace and kindness remains the primary force behind Nashville-based Nellamoon, one of America’s fastest-growing candle companies. Arielle opened a retail store in the historic small town of Nolensville five years after the ecommerce company started taking off.
“I remember giving Chris’s mom a candle before we started the business and seeing the pure joy she had when she lit it!” Arielle said. “Our candles serve as a beacon of hope and a way to help others through tough times. Each time you light one, it’s a reminder to shine bright and live your best life.”
The road to Nellamoon
It’s also a reminder to aim higher. Despite her early frustrations, Arielle didn’t succumb to the temptation of cutting corners in making her candles—just as she has never settled for anything less than a goal of living that best life.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Arielle spent most of her childhood in Mississippi. “I remember my mom telling me that as a little girl I would change out my earrings and clothes a few times a day and dance around in my outfits,” she wrote on the company website. “Things haven’t changed much.”
She received her degree in apparel, textiles and merchandising and a minor in business from Mississippi State University. Arielle also spent a year studying the fashion design program at the University of Rhode Island, where she lived among 40 international students from around the world and was exposed to new styles.
After two summers interning with Ralph Lauren’s creative fashion styling team in New York City—and jobs that ranged from administrative assistant to yoga instructor—she moved to Nashville in 2011 and began pursuing a career in the fashion and entrepreneurial industry.
That’s when, as she wrote, “My love for all things creative, fashion, health and wellness plus artisan candle making” led to the start of Nellamoon (Nell was her childhood nickname; moon is a symbol to honor her mother).
High standards, hopes
Of course, Arielle ultimately recovered from that first candle batch—a literal hot mess—and after “about 2 months of consistent trial and error, I had perfected the recipe and created my first custom scent: Nashville.
“There’s a very particular science behind candle making, and all-natural soy wax—which is what we use—is even more challenging than most waxes. We don’t use any binding agents or chemicals, which makes the science even more important, but it sets us apart from the competition. We want our customers to experience a clean and safe candle which won’t fill their home with toxic and dangerous fumes.”
She has become an expert on all things candle since those frustrating early days. The business’s growth reflects as much.
“I made candles for three years in my kitchen and moved into the garage while the business was just getting started. I personally don’t make the candles anymore, but our amazing production team hand-pours every candle right here in Nashville.
“As CEO, I oversee every facet of the company, so I’m still very involved. I do still create each scent and absolutely love that process.
“Our team consists of 15-plus amazing members and growing. We believe the people make the place, and I couldn’t do this without each and every one of them! Our culture is all about love, and that energy gets transferred into each candle poured.”
With more than 100,000 candles made and sold to date, Nellamoon has been sold at the trendy Face, Maxi B and JW Marriott. The product is also popular with celebrities; reality TV star and fashion designer Kristin Cavallari sold them at her Nashville store, Uncommon James.
“Next year we’ll be applying for the Inc. 500 list,” Arielle said. “But we’re more interested in using business as a force for good rather than our valuation, which we believe makes us even more valuable and allows us to grow at an accelerated rate.”
Sweet sensory assault
The elegant appearance of Nellamoon candles and their vast variety of exotic scents—which include tobacco vanilla, cacao, desert cowboy, to name some—reflect a premium product. (Nellamoon.com also features a line of clothing.)
Arielle says her favorite candle “really depends on my mood and the season. That’s why we created the best-seller set, which is a curated bundle of all our best-selling and favorite scents.
“We also have a lot of seasonal scents, which people love. They typically sell out within days of launch, so we’re starting to build extra inventory well in advance now.”
The current star of the line may be The Boyfriend Collection, “which consists of our matte black 13.5-ounce jars with five amazing scents. I love this collection because it’s sleek and sexy. The collection has an upscale look, and at a great price point! It’s one of our fastest-growing lines as well.”
In addition to the intellectual property associated with the company name and products, “we’re currently working on a patent for a unique type of candle that we can’t wait to tell you about. It’ll certainly change the candle game forever!”
Grace amid challenges
There is an unmistakable bigger-picture component to Nellamoon.
The company donates some it profits to at least a half-dozen charities. They include the Nikki Mitchell Foundation, a local, music-based organization that helps raise awareness about pancreatic cancer.
Arielle’s peaceful demeanor is palpable, even in discussing frustrations and obstacles with the business: “There have been plenty of challenges, but I’d say what has helped me the most is having a growth mind-set.
“Personal development has been key to getting me to where I am today. We see challenges moreso as opportunities to be creative, which really allows us to handle them with grace and less stress.
“Perception is reality, so we try to focus on turning what most people would see as negatives into positives. That’s part of the culture at Nellamoon.”
She further waxes philosophical about her spirituality.
“It definitely helps me through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. I trust in God and know that everything will always work out. I love sharing things that have helped me and hope to inspire others who may need support through their trials and tribulations.”
But whether an inventor/entrepreneur is spiritual or all bottom line, she advises them to “Focus on you, what you’re building, and be original. Just as racehorses wear blinders so they don’t get distracted and trip, we stay laser focused on our own growth so there are no distractions to get us off track.
“We’ve been told many times that we wouldn’t be able to succeed in such a saturated market, but we continue to prove those people wrong. Persistence, patience and grit is key to building a sustainable business.”
Who invented candles?
There is no definitive answer as to who invented candles, or when.
The National Candle Association says the earliest use of candles is often attributed to the ancient Egyptians. They made rushlights or torches by soaking the pithy core of reeds in melted animal fat.
However, these instruments had no wick, like a true candle. The Egyptians were using wicked candles in 3,000 B.C., the NCA says.
Historyoflighting.net says the earliest candles were made from whale fat in China during the Qin Dynasty, around 200 B.C.
Her career makes scents
One of the things Arielle Ricci always liked about candles is how their scents can take her imagination to faraway places.
There is a clear connection between scents and their effect on the human brain.
“Scents can have positive effects on mood, stress reduction, sleep enhancement, self-confidence, and physical and cognitive performance,” Theresa Molnar, executive director of the Sense of Smell Institute, says on candles.org.
In fact, the website has a chart that lists suggested candle fragrances for emotional afflictions ranging from anxiety to impatience to fatigue.