After a 22-year stint as a math teacher, D’Shawn Russell realized it wasn’t the path she was meant to embrace. So she did what many people only wish they could do, she turned her hobby into her full-time job.

Russell founded Southern Elegance Candle Company — where candles evoke the feelings of a simpler time and are made using locally-sourced products — and hasn’t looked back since. Each candle represents a place that has meaning to her in the South.

D’Shawn’s mission is to foster a sense of community, southern hospitality, and the comfort of home through Southern Elegance products. Each small batch of candles is meticulously crafted deep in the heart of North Carolina to ensure customers  receive the highest quality candle possible.

Bunker Labs Connection

“I did the Bunker Labs, Launch Lab Online program. It is a must for any new business owner or anyone thinking about going into business. It covered everything a new business owner needs to get started right! And the Bunker Labs Facebook group is a wealth of information from other seasoned business owners.

I became involved with Bunker Labs really just kinda randomly when I signed up for the online program. When the pitch contest was announced, I really applied on a fluke never thinking that I would be chosen, let alone actually win it. The Muster event will go down as one of the highlights of my business.”

Pitch Event

Ford Fund Pitch Competition at the Raleigh-Durham Muster, March 14, 2019

Intended use of prize as stated in 2018

“The pitch competition prize money will allow us to scale certain aspects of our production and in the process save money. We will be able to buy larger quantities of wax, fragrances, and retail boxes.”

Actual use of the prize money

“I did, in fact, use the money to buy supplies, custom, locally-sourced, boxes (photo below). We also got picked up by a rep group (a rep group shows your products to stores, like a distributor) and the money helped pay the Showroom fees.”

“The prize money really was instrumental in helping me grow the business.”

“Also as a result of winning, I was interviewed on SheVentures Podcast, invited to be a part of Bunker Labs’ CEOcircle program in Raleigh-Durham, and I will be joining the Bunker Labs National Summit in Seattle.”

Ford Fund Recognition

“Thank you so much to the Ford Fund. This grant will allow me to scale my business in a way that would be otherwise impossible. I am a micro-manufacturer and we do everything in house. From melting the wax, adding the fragrance to boxing and shipping the orders out. Growing a company like this takes time and frankly, money. This will jumpstart a new era in growth for us. I am immensely grateful..”