Local Salon Owner Spent Quarantine Making Candles, and Her Clients Can’t Get Enough

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During the COVID-19 era, we’ve been hearing many stories that have shown that people can turn lemons into lemonade, especially local business owners who have quickly changed course in their strategy or business model. But when the going gets truly tough, and your business is shut down for the foreseeable future, the tough make candles. And Dina Racciatti, owner of Dina’s Kiss and Makeup in Secaucus {formerly of Hoboken!}, did just that.

Dina Racciatti opened her Secaucus beauty salon at 1259 Paterson Plank Road in October of 2017, after over 6 years of having a storefront in Hoboken, and originally starting her hair salon out of her Willow Street apartment in 2011. Fast forward to 2020, and she currently has eight employees at Dina’s Kiss and Makeup and offers hair services such as balayage, cuts, keratin treatments, makeup applications, lessons, and airbrush tans.

dinas kiss and makeup secaucus hair salon

^Dina’s salon, pre-COVID-19

Things were going well for Dina, as she has quite the local celebrity following — having been a stylist at JWoww’s wedding, styling Deena Cortese, Mara Wilson {Matilda!} for her book release party, and of course Elvis Duran and the Z100 crew as well as iHeart Media for many events. She’s also the go-to stylist for radio legend Delilah as well as Natalie G. from Mob Wives.

Read More: The Local Beauty Gurus in the Area You *Must* Know

But when the pandemic struck, things came to an ultimate halt. No one was able to come in for services — let alone had events to attend where they needed glam.

“Having to shut down the salon was hard, but we closed about a week before we had to. My staff was scared, I was scared, and we all knew it was the right thing to do. Things are a little different for me. Many business owners who are the sole proprietor do not put themselves on payroll because of the extra expenses involved,” she explained.

dina kiss and makeup

“Because of that, I am never eligible to apply for unemployment. And because people’s retail locations don’t have any physical damage, businesses cannot apply for what’s called ‘Business Interruption’ insurance claims. I began to panic because I still have my mortgage to pay, utility bills, business insurance, software system, car payment, etc. to pay for every month. Ya know, the same panics most people are facing right now!”

Read More: How to Help Small Businesses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

But she didn’t just sit complacently; she decided to take a side business she and her husband had been developing since December and take some time to focus on it.

“We started making a few for ourselves to have at home. When we felt more comfortable, I brought a few different scents to have at the salon. It was very low-key, I only sold maybe 15-20 at the salon and kept very low inventory,” she recalled.

But the week after the salon was closed, Dina decided it was the perfect time to load up on candle-making inventory.

“It’s something we always wished we had time to do, and finally we had it. The plan was to make a couple hundred candles and have inventory for a long while. We basically wanted a stockpile, but instead of toilet paper… candles!”

dina racciatti dinas kiss and makeup pandemic candles

So, naturally, as any Millennial would, she began posting the candles on her personal Instagram and Facebook. “I honestly figured some Secaucus locals would feel bad for me and get 1 or 2 out of pity (lol). I was hoping to sell 10-20 a week to help pay for groceries. I never expected my current reality,” she told HG via email.

To date, she’s 30 days into the candle business and has a total of 314 orders with 941 candles sold.

dinas kiss and makeup candles

But, as any “new” business owner knows, it didn’t come without its fair share of hiccups in the beginning.

“The first week, I had over 90 orders through my Instagram DMs. The customers loved the candles so much, they were making posts and IG stories, and their friends bought them, too. It snowballed and I was having trouble keeping up with all the messages, payments, and tracking numbers. My friend Nina (NinaPfaff.com) is a former bride of mine, and she’s a phenomenal web designer. I called her right away and she whipped me up a shopping site in a day,” Dina explained with gratitude.

See More: Millennial Entrepreneurs Kicking A$$ in Hoboken + Jersey City

The candles are vegan, made from soy, paraffin-free, and super affordable.

The most popular product, according to Dina, is the “Birthday Cake” candle. “It’s our line’s signature candle and the #1 product,” she shared. “The scented candles include Birthday Cake, Hazelnut Coffee, French Vanilla Latte, and Cinnamon Chai Latte, and more will be added soon.”

New to her online shop is her aromatherapy line, featuring dried flowers and herbs. “We have the original Aromatherapy, Lavender, and I just made an Aromatherapy Energy candle with sage, mint, and eucalyptus last night. Tonight I’m making a crystal-infused candle for meditation.”

dinas kiss and makeup candles

^Some of Dina’s essential oil candles

But it doesn’t stop there. “Our 8oz jelly jar candles include Creamy Coconut, Angel Love, High Tide, Sea Salt & Orchid, So Fresh & So Clean (amazing laundry smell), and Stolen Hoodie. I named it ‘Stolen Hoodie’ because it’s inspired by all of us gals who have stolen a dude’s sweatshirt before (because it smelled like his cologne). There are 14 scents in the 8oz jars with more being added soon,” she explained, noting that the 8oz. candles burn around 45 hours.

“The candles are 100% vegan and made with soy wax. Most people don’t realize how much healthier soy wax is versus paraffin wax. Paraffin candles are what you get from any of the major candle companies, or if you get a really inexpensive candle. Soy wax offers a much cleaner burn because it’s made from natural vegetables while paraffin is made of petroleum, a gasoline by-product,” said Dina, describing the dangers of paraffin candles that create petro-soot.”You do not want to breathe in those carcinogens. We’ve had several asthmatic customers tell us they finally found candles they can burn. Their paraffin candles would irritate their breathing, so were delighted when we heard that feedback! Soy candles also have a significantly longer burn time, so your soy candles last much longer.”

dinas kiss and makeup

^Dina’s packing assistant, Starr

But she’s not the only one taking matters into her own hands, as her fellow stylists and employees are working their side hustle magic as well. “My girls are working their side hustles, too! Samantha [a stylist] is making really cool tie-dye items on her page (@choptandpaintedbysam) and our shop assistant Marisol is making desserts (@marisol_lucero).” DKM is also currently offering to-go salon kits with Olaplex, dye, and more to support the staff.

Unfortunately, not all have received their unemployment yet. “My staff and I are in a group chat and we talk every day. Some of them have received unemployment and some have not yet. I know we all want to get back to work ASAP. I’ve also tried to apply for the government business loan, but like many others, have not heard anything back.”

As for the future, Dina has exciting plans for when she reopens. “The salon is being converted to 100% vegan with all of our hair and makeup supplies, I am so excited!” she explained, as a vegan herself. 

“[Candles have] helped me because I am not a person who can sit around and not work. I am a hustler by nature, and I love that I am still connecting with people. I’m not making the same salary as what I used to, but that’s okay because I’m really happy right now,” Dina said. “I’m getting the nicest messages from customers, chatting with them on Instagram, and I love that I’m bringing a little bit of happiness into people’s homes right now. I really need to figure out how to restructure my life when we have some sense of normalcy back because I now have a new business to grow.”

To order a candle {or candles!}, click here.


 

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Jen is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of HobokenGirl.com. With deep entrepreneurial roots in Hudson County — as her grandparents owned textile businesses on Tonnelle Ave in North Bergen dating back to the 50s — she started the site as a Hoboken resident to discover the amazing things happening in the area. When not planning the next Hoboken Girl event or #HobokenGirlHelps volunteer project, she can usually be found shopping at local boutiques, eating an Insta-worthy meal, walking her two pups, or watching Bravo TV and ordering takeout with her husband.


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