Meet Rachael-Lea Rickards, founder of hilarious-to-heartwarming Real Talk Candles.
Her hobby helped her heal from a traumatic experience — now it’s her business.
Rachael-Lea Rickards is a self-described Artsy Fartsy Toronto Girl, with a creative brain that never shuts off. She’s a playwright and published author, acted in the musical theatre production ‘da Kink in my Hair, and also comes with a background in corporate training and leadership. All of this experience has helped with her business, Real Talk Candles, but the spark that got her started on her entrepreneurial journey was actually a traumatic event: while waiting for an Uber, she was randomly hit in the face by a stranger. Candle-making helped her deal with the anxiety it caused, and once she added in her writing skills to create hilarious ‘scent’ descriptions, her hobby turned into a business — and took off.
My first job ever was… Canadian Tire. I was and still am terrible at math, so when the man who wanted me to ring through 20 million nuts and bolts at the register glared at me when I lost count, I knew very quickly, this wasn’t for me!
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… It fits my lifestyle and personality. I tried to fit into the corporate world, but then soon realized I needed to create a work environment where I can sing, dance, and create. It’s important to love going to work every day. And I can switch it up if need be; I’m not a stranger to a really beautiful tailored suit for important meetings, but I function just as well in a pair of yoga pants and some really great music playing in the office.
I founded Real Talk Candles because… It was born out of trauma. About a year ago, I was decked in the face by a complete stranger. Just standing there waiting for an Uber. And like most women, we just figure, “ah, it’s no big deal. I’ll get over it!” Well, it wasn’t that easy. The candle making was a way to relax and work through that anxiety.
I’m also a writer, so I bridged the two worlds together. My audience was thirsty for “Real Talk” and I think that’s why they continue to do so well. The pandemic brought a lot of fear and uncertainty, and I believe women just needed to laugh. And who doesn’t love candles, right?
I get my candle ideas from… I want to say research, but really, they just come to me (I spend a lot of time talking to myself in the shower!). I am my audience, and my audience is me. I’m your average 40-something who has friends both younger and older. I always say, my candles aren’t for everyone; you must have a dry sense of humour.
My proudest accomplishment is… a tie between starting Real Talk Candles as well as dealing with anxiety and PTSD — that was one of the hardest things to do, and it is a continual effort.
“I tried to fit into the corporate world, but then soon realized I needed to create a work environment where I can sing, dance, and create. It’s important to love going to work every day.”
My biggest setback was… I think my setbacks have allowed me to grow. We used to be located near St.Lawrence Market, but our building neighbours at the time complained about the scents. The building loved us being there, and told us we could stay — but the caveat was that we couldn’t make candles. We were flabbergasted. I knew we had to move.
I overcame it by… I called on community. I asked for patience from our customers, as we had to halt candlemaking until we could find a new space. We had to move literally overnight. But because of that, we were able to open a front-of-house retail store in Leslieville. We’ve been welcomed into a space that celebrates who we are and the neighbourhood agrees. This would have never happened if we were still at our old location.
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is… Don’t wait. You’ll never truly be ready. Look after your finances and know what you’re spending. Know your audience and sell to them. If you don’t know who they are, then you’re wasting your time. Engage with your customers, not just when you need them. Social media content is key!
The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… Work-life balance. It’s so important to carve out that time to step away from the business. Do something not related, stop talking about it, go and swing on a swing or walk in the grass with no shoes or socks on in the summertime.
The thing I love most about what I do is… I’m able to make people happy — primarily women. I make them laugh, think, and start conversations by the candles they buy. I’m so proud to be able to do that. And I can be unapologetically myself with what I create.
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… A strong team. My company culture fosters open communication and support. With that, I feel just as supported.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I can be shy. If you googled me, you’d think the opposite. I’m a powerful speaker and the stage doesn’t frighten me at all. But have a cute boy cross my path, and I’m a babbling fool! (Any matchmakers out there?)
I stay inspired by… Continual learning. Not getting too comfortable with what I know. Surrounding myself with like-minded women who have walked the walk before me, who inspire me to be bigger than my circumstances or current position.
The future excites me because… There is one. As simple as that sounds, the pandemic has really made me grateful for every day that I’m able to breathe and live. And with that, it’s another day to inspire and create. I love watching my business grow and I see the Real Talk Brand expanding triple fold by next year.
My next step is… I’m already in the beginning stages of expanding the home décor side of Real Talk Candles. Soaps are our latest venture and they launch next week. We are also working on a line of “not so polite, but so honest” greeting cards.
On my bucket list is… a TEDx talk by the end of 2022. I claim it!