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Small Dog Candle in Ottawa a wholly owned parent subsidiary – Shaw Local

Small Dog Candle in Ottawa a wholly owned parent subsidiary – Shaw Local
Small Dog Candle in Ottawa a wholly owned parent subsidiary – Shaw Local

Sometimes the greatest opportunities come from the greatest setbacks.

It was a family tragedy just before the start of the pandemic that left Ottawa mother-daughter team Jamie and Avery Wheeler looking to not only build their own thriving new business, but potentially a national and/or international empire.

The Wheelers are business partners in Small Dog Candle Company and Market, a unique business located at 619 La Salle St. in Ottawa. The company not only sells handmade scented candles, but designs, markets and ships these products worldwide from Ottawa.

“When we first started our product jar, we didn’t know in the early stages of a candle business that it would become a candle business. We never thought about sourcing materials and shipping costs,” Jamie said. “Now that it’s all said and done and the doors are open, we couldn’t be more excited that this has come to fruition. We’re so grateful for the word of mouth and community support that has kept us going and growing.”

The story of the Wheelers case began on a sad note. Jamie’s father suffered a stroke in his Clearwater, Florida home, so of course her family rushed to be with him. Sadly, he died less than three months later.

His family brought him home for the service, and Avery returned to Ottawa from Lexington, Kentucky, where she was working on her master’s thesis in materials and textile science. She had studied in Milan, Italy.

But then the COVID pandemic hit the country, throwing their lives into disarray. Services were canceled, Jamie’s husband Ryan Wotherspoon’s videography business was put on hold, and Avery wasn’t allowed to immediately return to Lexington to finish her work.

One day, shortly afterward, in the midst of their financial desperation, Jamie walked past a burning candle in their home and couldn’t smell it, causing her to “lose her mind,” she said. After calming her mother down, Avery spent the night studying candles and their properties and made some interesting discoveries.

She learned that candles fall into two basic classes: a hot throw where the wick must be lit to get the scent, or a cold throw that will give off a scent whether lit or not. The strength and duration of the scent is determined by the amount of scent per wax, the type of wax, the type of wick, the temperature, and the setting time.

That night, Avery ordered some ingredients online, and the process began. Within four weeks, Avery had set up a lab in the basement of their Ottawa home. The Wheelers—Avery providing the chemical know-how and Jamie the business savvy—created different scents with different formulas and sent prototypes to friends with a form asking them to track the scent and how long it lasted. Other friends put them in straw baskets that were left on friends’ porches.

The two made and delivered their products throughout the region and soon, after switching from heavy glass jars to lighter cans, were shipping. It had become a full-time job and the need for the La Salle Street store was created. It is now a full-fledged store, down to the original watercolors by friend Anne Uranich.

“By the time the world started opening up again, we were very busy every day,” Jamie said, “bringing candles to people, pouring candles, creating new scents, working more than full-time hours when everyone was still hanging out… The beautiful thing about this venture is that it has been a time of healing in so many ways, Avery and I as colleagues has been a beautiful and rewarding experience.”

Ultimately, they needed a name and a logo.

“At the time, we were working to pay the medical bills for our tough little family dachshund, Smalls, so we thought since we were working for him, why not name him after him,” Jamie said. “That’s where Small Dog and the likeness came from. Suddenly, dog lovers were buying them for themselves and their friends. It was amazing.”

The business has expanded into other areas. While the downtown building is available for parties, weddings and baby showers, where attendees can create their own scents, other products are available, such as scented carpets and laundry detergents and diffusers, for homes where open flames can be risky. More are in the works, Avery said, and will be released soon.

Meanwhile, the search for a production facility continues.

“We take this seriously,” Jamie said. “My dad once told me, ‘Everybody who buys something, your name is going to be on their house, so it has to do what you say it’s going to do, and we’re proud of that. Everyone’s happy.'”

For more information, visit the company’s website at shopsmalldog.com, its Facebook page or call the store at 815-201-6260.