In 2001, Roxanne Reed looked for employment after moving to Camp Lejeune with her Marine husband and children, but there were no jobs in her field of brand marketing. She got creative and went out on a limb to start her own business. In her base-housing kitchen, she started making candles, and All Fired Up Candles™ was born. Originally marketed to military wives, the soy candles became popular gifts and fundraiser items. Roxanne’s creative business ideas did not stop with All Fired Up. She came up with another idea while participating in a 2003 “Jane Wayne Day”, a day when wives of reconnaissance groups wear their husbands’ gear. She would design unique apparel and accessories that would exemplify the strength and femininity of military wives. Jane Wayne Gear™, the original design company of military wives, would be “painting the world camouflage and pink.”
Roxanne soon moved the business from her home to a storefront but soon needed assistance to manage and grow the business. Though Roxanne excels in marketing, she had no background in finance and operations. In her search for business assistance, she met Anne Shaw of Coastal Carolina Community College’s Small Business Center Network and was referred to the SBTDC’s UNC-Wilmington office. Roxanne soon met with small business counselor Jim Howell.
Jim jumped right in to assist Roxanne, and her new business partner Celeste, with their business by working with them to streamline the operational structure. “We had great designs, concepts, and marketing, but lacked in operations,” Roxanne says. The company had over 150 styles of products, some of which were not selling well. Jim, Roxanne and Celeste analyzed the products and expenses, and devised a plan to reduce the number of product styles, which reduced design costs and simplified product tracking.
Jim also assisted with business planning, financial projections, and raising capital. She credits Jim for teaching her how to make the business profitable. Roxanne, a few of her keystaff, and Jim to hold three strategic planning retreats which turned out to be great for the overall health of the business. “The SBTDC’s strategic planning and Master Entrepreneur Program retreats are amazing! After attending, all of our tasks were solidified, we developed staged growth plans, and the employees enjoyed it.”
“Jim’s been through our tears and cheers” says Roxanne, who has kept the original pouring pot used when she made her first candles. “If you’re going out on your own to start a business, go to the SBTDC first. Jim showed me the tricks of the trade in how to run a business.” While getting assistance from the SBTDC, Roxanne also earned her masters in business administration and knows the whole experience has taught her to be a better designer and businesswoman.
Today, All Fired Up and Jane Wayne Gear are doing quite well. Since starting in 2001, revenues have tripled and the company expects $1 million in annual revenue in the near future. With over 80 employees, contractors and advisors working to make the companies successful, the products are now wholesaled to most military exchanges and a couple of major retail outlets, as well as retail sales in the company store and online.
Through all of the success, Roxanne never forgets the assistance she has received from others and the military wives who dream of having their own business. She mentors other entrepreneurial military wives by sharing advice and referring them to SBTDC. One of her successful mentees recently opened a retail outlet for her scrapbooking business, which Roxanne helped her develop from scratch; she’s now a loyal client of Jim’s.
“Without the advisory teams, I feel confident in saying that we wouldn’t be the successful business that we are today.”
Story originally featured in the SBTDC’s 2007 Annual Report.