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Omaha Magazine

Sisters Find Their Happy Place: Happy Place Candle Co.

Sep 30, 2020 12:12PM ● By Tamsen Butler
Happy Place Candle co-owner Danae McKenzie

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nicole Nielsen and Danae McKenzie are the Venus and Serena Williams of candle making. Each talented in her own right, together the sisters make candles that are simply in another class.

The pair founded Happy Place Candle Co. in 2017 in Weeping Water, Nebraska, after growing tired of buying expensive candles that didn’t have the scents they craved. “We both love candles and thought, ‘There’s gotta be a cheaper way,’” McKenzie said. People came calling.

“We made candles for about seven years, to give them out as gifts. Tons on people asked if they could buy them,” Nielsen said. “Originally, we made scents to take us back to a memory, like in the summer, when our grandma would make black fig and rhubarb jam.” Nielsen said their candles smell so delicious, a common question among customers is, “What are your flavors?”

McKenzie said she and her sister like to cook, and culinary favorites are a big inspiration for the scents. Their frequent girls’ trips together help them create new memories that also translate into candle scents. “We go into boutiques and smell lotions and stuff,” she said.  

Most people picture a small business run by two sisters and probably imagine a lot of bickering—not so with Nielsen and McKenzie. The two talk every day, McKenzie said, adding, “It’s so much fun. We enjoy spending time together.”

Nielsen, an interior designer, now lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, but continues to be highly involved in the business. “I do all the social media. I try to assist [McKenzie] with online orders and things. The candle business is a side gig for both of us...If we get too busy we’ll stop.”

Though they live in different states, they both use evenings to make candles in their respective kitchens. “If an online order is placed, it will likely come from here in Texas,” Nielsen said. McKenzie works, and attends school, full time. “She has a lot on her plate this year,” Nielsen said. 

The sisters source all their candle-making materials from suppliers in the U.S. , and they’re picky about their supplies. They use soy wax since it provides a cleaner burn. The wicks are made of hemp because it burns longer, gives off less smoke, and “has a better scent throw,” Nielsen explained. The use of hemp wicks is fairly unusual and sets their candles apart from others, she said.

“We use natural fragrance oils to scent our candles,” Nielsen continued. “We usually are inspired by something, so we have an idea of a scent in our mind. We then go play with mixtures of different fragrance oils until we are happy with the end result.” Blood Orange+Lavender and Moss+Rain are among their top scents and sold year-round. 

How many candles they make depends largely on the season. “Spring and summer are slower, and we make 20 to 30 per week. However, when it ramps up in the fall and winter, we do 50 to 60 per day,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen said she’s hired someone to help with labeling and packaging so she can concentrate on her true passion: candle making.

Neither sister has concrete plans for what Happy Place Candle Co. will be going forward. “I don’t know,” McKenzie said. “Personally, I think the possibilities are endless.”

Happy Place Candle Co. products can be found at Made in Omaha; Hutch; Downtown Omaha Massage; Simply Styled in Louisville, Nebraska; Stella Clothing in Lincoln, Nebraska; and on their website. Glass jar candles and wax melts are both available. Prices range from around $6 for wax melts and $18 for an 8 oz. candle. 

Not only do these sisters love candle making, but they also think the world of each other. “I always think everything Nicole does is super cool. She’s always been more creative,” McKenzie said. 

“We have a strong bond,” McKenzie added. “I know I have a really great sister. Not everyone’s blessed with a great sister like I am.” 

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This article was printed in the October 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.