When most students start classes as a freshman, they worry about finding friends, figuring out what clubs to join and where the dining hall is located on campus.
In addition to those common collegiate concerns, Brandon Bechtel is managing 10 part-time employees, opening a third location for his business and transitioning into a CEO-style roll while he is on campus pursuing a finance degree at the Fox School.
Bechtel’s brainchild, Brandon’s Candles, was born when he was 13 and looking to find a hobby. He started making candles in his basement, testing different scent combinations.
“I came across an article online about making candles,” says Brandon. “I thought it would be cool to create candles and design a brand—figuring out which type of wick burns best, creating a label that people would like. I was always interested in the business side of things.”
Today, the company has made nearly $1 million in sales and has two locations in Skippack, one warehouse and the Candle Studio. At the Studio, customers can create candles with the scent combination (they have over 100 scents to choose from) and design of their choosing. In October, Brandon’s Candles opened a third location, a second Candle Studio, in Old City.
Juggling all of this and jumping into a business school curriculum has been a humbling experience, Bechtel explains. “I realize I need to keep on top of my classes and keep pace because everyone around me is also motivated to do well.”
Owning a business has offered a unique perspective on his course load, offering a tangible approach to the concepts he learns in class. In addition to evaluating case studies and theoretical business plans like the rest of the class, Bechtel can turn around and use what he learns for the benefit of Brandon’s Candles.
He is also using his classes in topics like Human Resource Management to hone his leadership skills as he steps into more of a managerial role while he lives on campus at Temple. “I can’t do as much of the boots-on-the-ground work living in the city. I have started to develop a team I can rely on, that can help me by making more of the critical thinking decisions.”
It is that business savvy that Bechtel points to when asked about the level of success he has achieved at 17. “I have stuck with this for a long time. From the beginning, I have been dedicated to building a business. I distinguish myself from competitors by focusing on customer service, offering a quality product and a great experience to go along with it.”
Bechtel hopes that the new Philly location will increase profits and wants to introduce even more products to the range of experience his company offers. DIY lotion and hand soap packages are next on his list.