Candles are a common shelf item in most stores, but when you see John Mark Candles, they are not made by a big chain or some generic company. These candles are the result of extensive research, and the desire by a high school student to be the best he can be and produce the best product he can produce.
John-Mark Roller at age 17, (now 25) lives in San Angelo, Texas and says his candlemaking business started with a career interest survey he was given at Wall High School when Roller was a junior. The survey had close to 100 questions about jobs that might be of interest to him, and, at the time, he had been thinking about getting a summer job.
Many of the jobs he wasn't interested in, he says, and the ones he was interested in, he couldn't physically do. John-Mark, born with Spina Bifida, has used a wheelchair since he was a toddler.
"I felt very discouraged and wondered what I could do to make extra money besides folding laundry for my mom," he says.
John-Mark's dad, Mack Roller, was in Oklahoma visiting family with his sister Brenda, (John-Mark's aunt) and the two started brainstorming, John-Mark says.
After spotting a candlemaking kit online, dad Roller called John-Mark and asked if that was something he wanted to try. John-Mark said he'd try it, his dad bought the starter kit, they made a batch of candles, and the rest is history.
"I loved it," John-Mark says. "We made a batch of the Blueberry Cobbler fragrance and it was incredible! After making it I said, 'I can DO this!' so the Blueberry Cobbler has become my signature candle."
He says he and his dad talked about this being a possible career choice, and John-Mark says he knew it was. "It is fun, exciting, interesting, adventurous, but most of all . . . something I can do that I really enjoy."
"Some of my friends have jobs and, yes, they are making money, but they don't like their jobs. I am happy that I don't feel that way," he adds.
Before starting his line of candles, John-Mark spent several months researching the things that make a great candle. He and his parents, as well as his Aunt Brenda, studied different jars, wicks, waxes, dyes, fragrances and candle suppliers. They met with various companies and individuals for ideas that worked and to learn about those that didn't, and sent out surveys asking for consumer input.
After the research phase, John-Mark started on the testing phase, where he tried all kinds of wicks, waxes, fragrances, containers and dye colors.
"One day we made over 60 candles to "test" and kept cards on each one as we observed it burning," Roller says.
"The goal was to make a clean burning candle with little mushrooming of the wick, a strong scent from start to finish, an even burn from start to finish, and little or no wax left when the candle was gone," he points out.
He produces a soy-blend candle that he can add color to, but also produces soy candles because they are soot-free, they burn slower and longer, they burn at a lower temperature so John-Mark can use lead-free, cotton wicks, they clean up easily with soap and water so containers can be reused, and they support U.S. farmers.
John Mark Candles currently features about three dozen fragrances including some intriguing names like Dusty Mexican Morning, Leather and Lace, Havana Nights, and, hmmm, Monkey Farts, that people say actually smells very good.
John-Mark says he is very involved in his church group, he loves to swim and play water sports, and plays PlayStation in his spare time. He has a dog named Norman that keeps him busy, and is being trained to assist Roller with some of his daily activities. He says hanging out with friends is also a favorite pastime.
He and his parents live in San Angelo, where his dad is pastor at Glen Meadows Baptist Church. His mother, Kris, was a teacher's aide, but now works for John Mark Candles. "The pay is a lot less, but she enjoys it anyway," he says with a smile.