Startup business a perfect match for Warwick couple

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 8/6/20

When COVID shut down the state in March, Justin and Cierra lit a candle. They weren't laid off like thousands of people. In fact, Cierra, who worked as a lab technician at Kent Hospital, was busier than ever. And Justin stayed on with his

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Startup business a perfect match for Warwick couple

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When COVID shut down the state in March, Justin and Cierra lit a candle.

They weren’t laid off like thousands of people. In fact, Cierra, who worked as a lab technician at Kent Hospital, was busier than ever. And Justin stayed on with his job as a quality engineer at Aspen Aerogels in East Providence.

But the candle they lit was the start of a manufacturing business – The Perfect Match Shop – that has sold 10,000 soy-wax scented candles to customers in all 50 states and 10 countries.

Justin Skory is a Warwick native who graduated from Hendricken and went on to get a marketing and graphic design degree from Assumption College. He is now working on an operations management degree at Northeastern.

Cierra Fasulo, of Seekonk, graduated as a lab technician from New England Institute of Technology. The couple never anticipated their venture into manufacturing would take off, making it one of the top-selling items on the online marketplace Etsy.

At first, the orders trickled in from family and friends and the couple were making six to eight candles at a time – about an hour-long production cycle – from the basement of their home on Cowesett Road that they share with a St. Bernard and a Cane Corso. That didn’t last for long.

Justin and Cierra had not only hit upon a product that people wanted, but the messages they put on their candles – from the defiant and edgy messages to the heartfelt condolence of loss – resonated with the moods of the pandemic. That was part of it, bringing a laugh and making a connection. They also want to do what’s best for their customers. They respond as quickly as possible to customer inquiries, offer same-day shipping and have purposely selected soy wax rather than paraffin even though it is more expensive.

“It burns cleaner and longer,” explains Justin.

With orders increasing exponentially, the couple quickly upgraded from melting wax on a stovetop to a production heater capable of doing several pounds of wax at a time. That was soon too slow, and now they can melt enough wax to produce more than 100 candles in a cycle. Some days they are doing three and four production cycles on top of packing and shipping candles and taking in orders.

It’s made for some long nights and unexpected trips.

With orders soaring, their supplier of jars couldn’t keep up. Fearing delays in shipping that could result in negative feedback on social media, they drove to New Jersey and packed their van full of jars. The operation that once took up a corner of the basement now fills the space. Plants fill windowsills and bright light illuminates an orderly and systematic production line along with desks and computers.

“People are going through a lot of stress,” says Justin. Yet, he reasons, “we all care.” The messages they have developed address a variety of situations. They’ve done candles for companies that want to touch base with employees working from home and they haven’t seen in weeks; for couples who have had to postpone their wedding and want to send their friends a “thank you” for being there; and even for couples “celebrating” freshly signed divorce papers.

“We see it [the candle, of course] as a beacon of light to get through hard times,” Justin said.

Cierra, who has left her job of five years with Kent to work full time on The Perfect Match, is planning for Christmas. She’s looking at different scents – the company now offers a choice of 12 – as well as sayings and colored wax or jars. She’s undecided on colors but is jotting down messages such as “there’s snow one like you” and “all I want for Christmas is you.”

So far, profits have gone back into growing the company.

“We have enough capacity to meet the orders,” says Justin, who is keeping his job for the moment. He sees Cierra as the engine between ensuring materials to maintain production and most importantly responding to inquiries.

“She puts herself out there to interact with customers,” he said.

The future may hold a warehouse, perhaps an employee and maybe even borrowing to ramp up production. But that’s not on the drawing board at this time. Rather, they’re getting enjoyment out of transforming a time of adversity into an opportunity and sharing some laughs … and tears.

While not a top seller, they have found some of their most meaningful exchanges have come from the personalized candle bearing this message:

“Light this candle, see it glow, watch it dance when you feel low.

Think of me, see the light.

I’ll always be here, day or night.

A candle flicker out of sight, but in your heart I still burn bright. In loving memory…”

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