League of Extraordinary Women – Steph Nissen


Steph Nissen

Steph Nissen


What was the catalyst for you launching your business?

The Candle Girl’s first moments were 4 months ago when walking with my partner Alessandro. I expressed to him that now was the time for me to do something meaningful. I am fully capable person and I want to use my skills and strengths, to help others. Already making candles for fun, and loving it, I decided I would grow this love and create gorgeous candles that would then go on to help others. Everyone loves and buys candles, but what if that little candle could go on to contribute to life saving research, providing clean drinking water and safe places for those battling with mental illness. My excited mind got to work! The Candle Girl was born. Needless to say when I’m in a ‘brain fog’ or having a ‘moment’, I grab Ali and we go on a long walk!

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

First thing – coffee!! My gut tells me I should be drinking lemon with warm water but my head is saying coffee, coffee, coffee! Next, I would sit down with my dose of caffeine answer emails, print orders and have a quick check on Instagram. Some days require me to pour new stock and other days I have to send orders to wonderful customers all over Australia. Once the day is over and I have processed all my orders I would make a list of things I need to get done the next day, prioritizing most from most important to least. I would do that until 4pm each day. Now that I am a Girl Boss there is no excuse for not having ‘me’ time. At 4pm I take some time out for myself and go for a lovely walk or Hot Yoga in South Yarra.

What are your guiding principles?

Stay true to myself and follow my intuition. There have been opportunities that have come up and I know as soon as I feel a heavy weight in my stomach, its probably not the right move for me.

How do you make yourself more productive?

That is where my diary and ‘things to be done’ list comes into it. When I make a list of jobs the night before, I am more productive the following day. I LOVE putting a line through a job on that list!

What are your top resources when you’re in a need of creative inspiration?

I have a couple of ways I get creative juices flowing:

1. I accessorise my desk (which I call my nook) with things I love such as candles, fresh flowers, books and pictures of friends and family. I have also added photos and letters received from the charitable organisations The Candle Girl supports.

2. Ali and my mum. They are my rocks when it comes to advice and extracting creative ideas from my brain.

3. Instagram. People are so clever and I love scrolling through beautiful images and finding inspiration.

What mindsets helped make you successful?

Only being operational for two months I think I am far from successful yet, but in saying that I will acknowledge how far I have come and proud of my achievements.

The thing that has kept me on track is the charities I proudly support. The responsibility is a big motivation and I love it. I know that every time one of my candles finds a loving home, at the end of the month I get to pop that donation into the account of a charity so deserving and that feeling (butterflies in stomach), is why I know The Candle Girl will be successful. I care and love what I do.

What do you do to challenge your underlying beliefs, paradigms and assumptions?

I try to really listen to my customers. If something I believe will work doesn’t, I will try another way. I am open to changes and appreciate good advice.

This is a new direction for me and I am learning all the time. I want The Candle Girl to not just be my passion, but of my customers and charities too.

If you wanted to create an environment where motivation can thrive, what’s the first thing you would do?

For me as long as there is a beautiful candle burning and a fresh bunch of flowers – I feel fabulous and motivated.

If you are working in a team environment from experience I feel it’s important to have a good working relationship with your peers. There is nothing more motivating than surrounding yourself with wonderfully creative people, all with a common goal that can bring different ideas to the table.

Which person of influence, dead or alive, would you like to have as a mentor and why?

I’m lucky to already have the best mentor – my mother.

It’s sounds cliché but very true. She is kind hearted and very smart, the perfect role model.

I would love the opportunity to learn from Lisa Messenger. Her books, especially the latest ‘Money & Mindfulness’, have been a huge catalyst in giving me the tools and ammunition to start my own business. I will always be grateful for her words and would love to sit down and have a coffee one-day. I can only imagine the wonderful conversation.

What book would you most recommend and why?

Easy – I would encourage everyone to read Lisa Messenger’s books. She writes with such passion that it becomes infectious! I bought them for all my friends for Christmas presents last year!!

Did you have any ‘entrepreneurial experiences’ as a child?

I grew up in Strahan, a small town on the west coast of Tasmania. I was a very lucky girl growing up in such a beautiful place. My parents owned a Bed & Breakfast and I, very early on found that I loved conversing to ‘our’ guests and helped Mum and Dad wait tables in their small restaurant. I think that was when I fell in love with meeting new people.

What do you find most exciting about being an entrepreneur?

I must admit I love being a Girl Boss! Running my own day. I also love the fact on how creative I have become.

What things about entrepreneurship do you struggle to understand?

Right now I am learning budgeting!

What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?

1. Trust yourself – listen to the words of your peers and family but take them as advice. Stay true to yourself.

2. Follow your intuition

3. Enjoy your business! Looking back I have spent so much time worrying and not reflecting on the achievements.

What has been your biggest sacrifice or challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?

Being a business that supports charities I have learned you join a team of others who have done the same, some with the very best intentions, others not. There are many skeptical people ready to start dissecting everything you do to prove that your objectives are not honest.

Perhaps naively, I had no idea this would happen and when I finally came up against it I took the accusation very personally. ‘How could she possibly think I would do that’ and ‘doesn’t she know I’m a nice person and I want to help?”. This confrontation was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, in that moment I really new that I CARED.

What has been your most effective marketing tactic or strategy?

Two months in I have found that the most effective tool is word of mouth, from my family and friends. People, who have a personal connection with the charities The Candle Girl supports, also want to buy candles for their family and friends. I have received some of the most beautiful emails from customers who love the fact that their purchase has a special message.

Instagram is also growing. I have made some wonderful contacts through social media. Ali (who is great with a camera!) and I have been working together to put beautiful shots together for my followers.

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

These candles are very close to my heart as each candle wears the name of a special person in my life. I didn’t want them to be known by their fragrance but a name, something much more personal.

Every candle supports an incredible Australian charity or organisation. 15% from every candle is used to support, assist in research, promote awareness and find life saving cures. Candles are something we all buy and they make the perfect gift. I make these candles with love knowing they are doing so much good and wear the label of each charitable organisation with pride.

What systems/apps/organisational tools have you used to automate your business to give you more time for planning & development?

The most effective tool is my diary. EVERYTHING goes in it. The notes and jobs I have plotted the night before guide my whole day. Also, now everything on my computer has a file – no more miscellaneous files all over my desktop!

What is the most courageous thing you’ve done in business?

Start it! I am naturally quite a shy person so step forward made me feel very vulnerable. Everyday I am learning and creating and I am very grateful for the opportunity and the support I have received from my family and friends.

How do you deal with failure?

I don’t see anything as a failure. You try something, it doesn’t work, you learn from it and move on. The little bumps in the road can be a good thing and can lead you onto a path that is better suited to you.

Looking back, what would you do differently?

Nothing. I like where I am now and appreciate all the experiences I have had on the way.

What do you love the most about what you do now?

I am so lucky to support such great charities around Australia. I still pinch myself when I make the end of the month deposit into their accounts. Definitely the best part of my job!

What does female empowerment mean to you and why is it important?

As an individual I think it is belief and confidence in yourself and ability. As a collective, we all give each other strength and support. It is important to have wonderful groups like the League of Extraordinary Women, where we can all come together and share our passions and big ideas.

Do you follow any health/wellness/family routines you would recommend to other female entrepreneurs?

What works for me is a healthy balance off all the above. I try to drink as much water throughout the day as possible, at least half an hour of exercise (although Netflix and chocolate sometimes drown out the healthy mantra), see my family as much as possible and spend quality time with Ali.

Words of Wisdom / Personal Quote:

“A candle that continues to love, long after it finishes burning” – The Candle Girl

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