Lighting The Way Toward a New Career

SPONSORED BY Panthera Candleworks

By Carrie Vittitoe | Photos by Mary Helen Nunn

While you may think of Southeast Asia when you hear the word bamboo, Colombia actually has a wide diversity of bamboo species and was an obvious choice for Colombian-born Renata Nunez, founder and CEO of Panthera Candleworks, when she began working to create a biodegradable candle some 20 years ago. She worked full time at a university but found that many of her friends and colleagues really liked her product.

Upon moving to the United States, Renata’s candle-making took a backseat because she was learning the language, going to school, and preparing herself for her new life. When she made return visits to Colombia, she took candle-making classes so that she would continue to learn new techniques. “I wanted to start my business here, but every time I came back from Colombia, something new came my way and I had to put [the idea] in the back [of my mind] again,” she says.

COVID, though, was the impetus that brought Panthera Candleworks to life. Renata lost her job and was considering investing in a course to become an importer, but she realized that she didn’t need to import anything; she already had a business that just needed her undivided attention. “I started working with paraffins and molds and trying different styles of candles,” she says. She has created a biodegradable candle made with bamboo and all natural materials and has a patent pending. “When the candle is gone, you can just throw it in your backyard so it will decompose in the ground,” she says.

As Renata continues to expand her scent, wax, and candle container options, she is also working to bring a Panthera Candleworks’ storefront in Columbus, Indiana to life, hopefully in June 2022. The shop will include a candle bar, where customers can pour their own candles. “It’s going to be fun for people to come to my store and create,” she says. Her two decades-long interest in candle-making is something she wants to share with as many people as she can.

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