Farm Family Adds Candle-Making Business To Chores

Deborah C. Cross, LeBlanc, Scuddy J., Merrill, Thomas A., Morgan, Johnny W.  |  4/19/2005 10:29:04 PM

South Louisiana entrepreneur Karen Schumacher, left, discusses making soybean candles with LSU AgCenter economic development agents Deborah Cross, center, and Scuddy LeBlanc. Schumacher and her husband Hank just moved into their new candle-making factory and hope the increased production they can sustain will be accompanied by an increase in business.

News Release Distributed 06/01/04 

One Southeast Louisiana farm family has added candle making to it’s list of chores – as a means of increasing production income.

But the candles they’re making aren’t run of the mill. These candles are made from soybeans.

Hank and Karen Schumacher of Husser, who are Brahman cattle producers, say they first had the idea for supplementing the family income with candle making while on vacation in Indiana.

With some research on their own and some help from educational opportunities offered by the LSU AgCenter, the business is up and running – with customers in a variety of states and even a bite from one of the home shopping networks.

The LSU AgCenter is working on a variety of fronts to help farm families and others learn how to add value to the products they produce. The Schumachers are taking advantage of at least three of those programs – the LSU AgCenter’s Leadership Development Program, economic development seminars and assistance with finding grants to develop new industries.

As for the candle-making enterprise, the Schumachers think theirs is pretty unusual for this area.

"We were on vacation in an Amish community in Shipshewana, Ind.," Karen Schumacher said. "They were making these soybean candles, and we had never seen this before. So when we got home, I did my research on the Internet for about four months – finding out how to make it and where to get supplies."

She said she found most of the necessary supplies are mainly made up north in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, where soybeans are plentiful. So she had to get supplies to make the candles from out of state.

But LSU AgCenter community economic development agent Deborah Cross said she hopes that may change. She is working on a grant to try to attract a manufacturer of the soybean wax that’s needed in the candle production to locate in Louisiana.

After the supplies were located and her business was off the ground, Karen Schumacher also attended an LSU AgCenter workshop entrepreneur workshop last fall. She says it also was helpful in getting their candle-making business going.

LSU AgCenter community economic development agent Scuddy LeBlanc said the workshops generally are conducted to help potential entrepreneurs evaluate and develop their business ideas.

"Entrepreneurs are important to the local economy, because they provide most of the new jobs in the present economy," LeBlanc said, adding, "Many people have an interest in starting their own business but have difficulty in getting started."

As for the Schumachers, for nearly two years their kitchen has been converted to a candle-making shop, complete with 8-foot tables for their products.

Hank Schumacher is involved with the candle-making, but he also is involved in lots of other arenas.

"I’m currently the president of the Tangipahoa Cattleman’s Association and a board member for Farm Bureau, and I’m running for a seat on the Soil and Water Conservation Board in St.Helena/Tangipahoa parishes," he explained, adding, however, that the LSU AgCenter is responsible for a lot of his involvement in civic leadership.

"I wasn’t involved in any of this before I entered the LSU AgCenter’s Ag Leadership class," he said, explaining he’s the oldest person in his class – which is designed to help agricultural leaders develop their potential to serve in their communities. "I’m learning a lot in the class. I’m a cattle producer, but Dr. Mike Futrell (director of the program for the LSU AgCenter) is teaching us about other ag products and some of the problems that those producers are having."

Hank Schumacher said the more he learns about other commodities, the more he realizes the soybean candle business has the potential of helping American farmers.

"Currently the candle industry uses 550 million pounds of paraffin wax to make candles," he said, adding, "If the soybean industry could capture just 10 percent of the candle market, this would mean that 55 million pounds of soybeans – or 5 million bushels – would be going into candle production in the United States."

The Schumachers also point out that soybean candles have other benefits that paraffin candles don’t have.

"They are, first of all, basically soot-free, because it’s not petroleum-based," Karen Schumacher explained. "It’s vegetable oil. It’s biodegradable, non-toxic and non-carcinogenic. In addition to supporting the American farmer, when you burn the candle and it forms the melting pool, you can dip your finger in it, because it’s not hot, and you can use it as a moisturizer for your body."

The Schumachers attend fairs, festivals, craft shows and conventions promoting their product. They ship candles to Alabama, Nebraska and Texas.

Karen Schumacher said the QVC shopping channel recently contacted her, too, but that network would require 80,000 candles to handle her product – and that sum is more than her volunteer workforce can produce at this time.

The Schumachers recently moved the candle-making operation into a new building and are able to produce about 1,000 candles per week – in the 20 scents they sell.

As for advice, Karen Schumacher says anyone trying to get into business needs to do his or her homework and to seek as much advice as possible.

Their company, Barefoot Creations, will have its Web site up in June with help from a grant that Louisiana Tech has to help with value-added Web sites for businesses in the state.

For additional information on the LSU AgCenter’s community economic development efforts, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contacts:
Deborah Cross at (225) 642-2044 or dcross@agcenter.lsu.edu
Scuddy LeBlanc at (985) 543-4129 or sleblanc@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writers:
Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or jmorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu
Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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