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Founder credits CEO Now with saving her business

Heidi Mueller, founder of Excelsior Candle Company

Founder credits CEO Now with saving her business

Heidi Mueller, the founder of Excelsior Candle Company, wasn’t sure she should keep her business going. Today, fresh from the CEO Now group training, she has a completely new perspective.

She started the business in 2014, on somewhat of a whim. She was an accountant by profession but crafty by nature, and as she says, had a bit of trouble focusing on just one thing. Her family finally said, “Hey, can you pick something? You've taken over the house,” recalls Mueller.

She said she wanted to make candles, not something she had done before, but wanted to pursue. She also offered an ultimatum.

“I said if this doesn't work out, I'll just pack up all crafty things and I'll do my day job,” said Mueller.

The candle company, which she eventually named Excelsior Candle Company did work, almost too well.

She had a popular bottomless candle program where users returned old candles for a discount, she had plenty of orders for her fun scents—like the popular Dapper Man. She had goals of getting into bigger box retailers and quit her job in 2017 to focus on growth. And in 2018 she got a huge amount of exposure at the Minneapolis-based Super Bowl.

She did not, however, have a lot of business process. She said she spent a lot of time being busy, but finished long days not knowing if she had actually gotten closer to her business goals.

Success leads to burnout

“I was very burnt out,” said Mueller. “I didn’t know if I should be doing sales or working on HR stuff—I didn’t know what I should be doing.”

The successful business was isolating. Mueller’s friends saw making candles as an easy-going career but didn’t see everything else that goes into running a growing business.

She said when she got accepted to CEO Now, that was one of the most exciting aspects of the group learning: coming together with other growing business owners to tackle challenges together.

“I can talk to other people and they're not going to understand, what's going on or why I'm so stressed out,” said Mueller.

The training program, designed by nationally renowned entrepreneurial training organization Interise, was also crucial. She said one module especially helped her break down all the tasks in her business and dedicate time to each of them through the week, month, and quarter.

“One of the modules was all about dedicating days or set times for each job,” said Mueller. “Like, today is just sales or just marketing, tomorrow is making candles all day, and then Wednesday is shipping.”

She was finally able to focus on moving the business forward instead of bouncing around her candle shop.

The central project in CEO Now is building a three-year strategic roadmap. That was something she said helped her secure a major deal with Walmart.

“When I went to Walmart, I didn't have to do anything new. My whole story was there, my sales pitch, my products were in there, my contact info, and my financials,” said Mueller. “It was super professional.”

With structure and process in place, she secured the Walmart deal, had an extremely busy holiday shopping season, outsourced much of the candle production, and still had capacity to acquire another candle business that she’s working on growing now.

Her advice for other business owners struggling to get ahead of the day-to-day business: sign up for CEO Now and “don’t squander it,” said Mueller, “it really saved my business.”

To join business leaders like Heidi Mueller in CEO Now, apply for the next cohort or learn more today.


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