EPISODE 8 SOUTHERN ELEGANCE CANDLE COMPANY
episode 8 summary
Against All Odds! A Story of Second Chances!
D’Shawn (Shawn) Russell’s story begins growing up barefoot on a dirt road in rural North Carolina, not far from Fort Bragg (now known as Fort Liberty). Her family has a long military history, including her grandfather, father, and uncles. Her father was the first black air traffic controller at Fort Bragg. Her mother’s advice: be a teacher and marry a soldier, thinking well down the line that Shawn would be supported by two good pensions. And that’s exactly what Shawn did. Shen became a teacher and married a U.S. Army soldier she met at Fort Bragg.
Shawn’s story continues, now as a Military Spouse deployed to Germany. This was her first time out of the country, and missed home deeply. This helped her realize, “I am very southern and very country.” During her time as a Military Spouse, Shawn was still on her teaching path, working on her doctorate in Leadership and working as an Assistant Principal. While still in Germany, at age 40 and pregnant, Shawn was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to quit her job. The illness helped Shawn look at life differently and motivated her to live a life of meaning. A new Math teacher position opened up, but she hated teaching so much she started making candles as a hobby. She gave her candles as gifts to other teachers, and the response was so positive it motivated Shawn to make it a full-time business.
Shawn leveraged her Southern roots and culture and opened Southern Elegance Candle Company, located in Raeford, N.C., not far from her childhood roots and Fort Bragg. She had no family history or education in running a business. “The idea that I could own a full-fledged company never occurred to me.” Shawn became self-taught in the “School of Google and the School of YouTube.” She completed several prestigious entrepreneur programs, including Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and The Workshop at Macy’s. Bunker Labs was instrumental to her success and even provided some initial funding, with Shawn winning $10,000 in her first pitch competition. She was a quick learner and reached $1M in sales in three years and over $2M in sales in the last three years, eventually growing to 40 employees.
Shawn has also started a consulting business to help other product-based businesses design balance into their lives. Her success as a Military Spouse is an example of how a side hustle that can travel with you is a viable career path, and it is now even easier with online businesses. Shawn’s message to viewers of her Veteran’s Playbook episode – “Please support small business. Buy products from your local small businesses.”