I’m a firm believer that God puts certain people in your life for a reason. For me, God put Julie Tassy in my life for a long list of reasons.
I first met Julie Tassy several years ago when Charlotte Smarty Pants was just a baby and her biz too was just getting started. It was love at first sight when I saw her fun display of Charlotte neighborhood candles at Cotswold Marketplace. Then I strolled into her little sercie booth and knew we would be fast friends. She was selling everything that I could ever want!
For the last 5 years, Ella B candles have been my go-to gift for my girlfriends, my sister, my in-laws, my clients. They make me smile and relax, and think of my good bud who is the mastermind behind them.
Julie and I have bonded over the woes of starting and growing a fast-paced business, or two in her case. We bonded over raising children. We bonded over working with our hubbies (mine didn’t last very long – he, he!). And we ultimately bonded the most over going through the process of losing our moms to cancer.
My mom passed a few months prior to Julie’s. Both of our moms were under hospice care and when she reached out to me with her fears of losing her mom, the unknown process of hospice and how to help her dad – it was as if I was reliving EXACTLY what I went through and I knew I could help. So I jumped right into action and shared with her what I learned all along the way, and continue to learn each day that passes. It was therapy for me and gave me a new respect for our special friendship. We are in the “club” that nobody wants to be in – the sorority so to speak – the one that you have lost your mom. Trust me, initiation is your worst nightmare. The only way I can describe that feeling is that of an orphan. You feel like you’re not really sure of your self on some days, you get a new perspective on life and that perspective keeps evolving as each day goes on without “mom” on this earth.
Smarties, you’re in for a real treat today. Meet Julie Tassy, business extraordinaire, super mom, super wife and super daughter. To say I adore this woman is an understatement. Meet Julie!
Julie’s Smarty Mom Stats:
Mom of: Harper(13), Ella(11)
Married to: Chris, 15 years. We were set up on a blind date by our siblings in 1998 and were married 9 months later.
Years in Charlotte: We moved to Charlotte right after we got married, so that we could be “fun aunt and fun uncle”. We’ve called Charlotte home for 15 years.
‘hood: South Charlotte, on the edge of Matthews.
Hometown: I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. I wanted to be a singer/songwriter (like everyone else in Nashville). I am so thankful that my life took a different path. And I have found much more fulfillment singing in the choir at Central Church of God than any stage in Nashville.
Occupation: Well, my official titles are “Hive Mama” and “Sercie Girl.” I work alongside my husband, running Ella B. Neighborhood Candles. And Sercie at Cotswold Marketplace is my retail store.
You are a seasoned Mompreneur! What tips do you have for other women thinking of starting their own business?
Be teachable. Listen to wisdom from others who have more experience than you. Read books on business (The E-Myth by Michael Gerber was very helpful for us). And realize that you don’t know what you don’t know. Ask for help.
Don’t panic. You will make mistakes, and so will everyone around you. Focus on developing systems and continuously improving.
Think about others. Christopher and I have a desire to build more than just a business for ourselves. One of our greatest joy is in providing jobs for women (mostly moms), and helping them discover their gifts and potential. Think about how your business can help the people around you.
Tell us how Ella B and Sercie.com were born.
I started Sercie when my girls were 2 and 3 years old. It was called Good & Perfect Gifts, and it was a personalized retail gift business. But, I found that a lot of people needed a gift sooner than I could turn around an engraving or embroidery job. So, I started selling a candle line – the blue Volcano candle. It was a hit!
After a few years of selling candles, we developed our own line, Ella B. Candles – personalized by neighborhoods of Charlotte. Each deliciously fragranced, hand-poured, pure soy candle was named after a Charlotte neighborhood. Myers Park, Dilworth, NoDa, and Ballantyne had their own fragrance! We pitched the concept to some local gift boutiques, and they loved it. So, we began to manufacture and sell the candles wholesale to stores in the area. My friend Erin Caronis (who manages Cotswold Marketplace) encouraged me to grow this concept beyond Charlotte. I laughed at her, asking where I would find the time to build a candle company. When I told my husband about the idea, he volunteered to help me grow this company. We made a 5 year plan to grow Ella B. Candles so that he could leave IBM and we could work together. We started taking the model of Neighborhood Candles to stores in other cities, and we realized that the Neighborhood Candle concept worked nationwide. That 5 year plan was reduced to 7 months, and in October of 2003, Christopher traded in his suit and tie for jeans and a white t-shirt. We moved the candle production out of our house, and leased space in Matthews – we call it The Hive.
We have kept Sercie in its two locations – inside Cotswold Marketplace, and online at www.sercie.com. We provide personalized gifts, cards, candles, and perfect little happy presents. You know, “sercies”.
Your hubby quit his job to work for you – tell us about that☺
Even though I started this candle business, I really see Christopher as the head of this company. I need his leadership and level-headed decision making, since I am a bit off the charts when it comes to creativity and emotions. Working together has refined our marriage more than anything I can imagine. We spend almost 24 hours a day together. Our marriage is a true partnership. We don’t have a traditional “division of labor” at our house. Whether it’s grocery shopping, driving the girls to volleyball, talking to one of our customers, or doing laundry, we are “all hands on deck.” I am in charge of cooking, and he cleans. Some things were just not meant to be messed with.
Tell us where can we buy Ella B candles?
Our neighborhood candles are sold at over 400 stores nationwide. In Charlotte, you can find Ella B. Candles at Paper Skyscraper in Dilworth, Blis Uptown, Creative by Nature in Blakeney, Cotswold Marketplace, and Green with Envy in Plaza Midwood. A complete list of retailers can be found here.
What’s your favorite candle?
Where do you see Ella B in 5 years?
I am scared to say – because it might happen in 7 months again! I see this continuing to be our family business. Our hope is that we continue to grow into more stores, give more people jobs, and launch new concepts, like our customized candles – which we are rolling out this Spring.
What’s your go-to gift for girlfriends at Sercie and on Sercie.com?
I am a huge fan of the Archipelago soaps and lotions – the Milk and the Morning Mint. They have saved my skin this winter, and they smell so good! I am kind of into good smells.
My favorite go-to gifts are probably the fabulous Kate Spade items I sell at Sercie (in Cotswold Marketplace). From agendas and desk accessories to water bottles, they just make ordinary life a little bit more fabulous.
Moving on to the mom stuff…how has your business rubbed off on your children?
First of all, they make sure we always have candles burning at home. Harper and Ella have a better understanding of home management than I did as a kid. They are really helpful when it comes to domestic stuff. There are times when they need to be at The Hive with us, but they are like their mom – they would rather be at home. But entrepreneurship – I think it’s in their blood. Harper is developing a line of homemade skin care. Stay tuned.
You lost your mom recently. How has that changed you?
As my mom knew her days on earth were coming to an end, my sister asked her, “Mom, what does it feel like to be in this place, knowing that you are dying?” Her answer changed my life. She looked at the two of us and said, “I have no regrets for how I invested my life. I am so glad I poured my life into my family. You two are my life’s work, and I couldn’t be happier.”
I want to invest my life in things that have real value.
My sister and I shared a glimpse from our perspective at Mom’s memorial in November, youtube video here. Our tribute starts at 45:00. (Jen here, Smarties, y’all need to take some time to watch this – it’s captivating:-)
What is your favorite thing to do with your family in the spring?
We love warm weather – enough of this cold! Spring means mornings and evenings on the screened porch, the chance to take walks on the greenway and go swimming… and Christopher can’t wait to take the top off the Jeep.
What is the last meal you cooked – include recipe?
Chicken Pesto Pasta
(I can get almost everything at Costco)
One pound of Penne pasta
1 jar of Pesto
Pine Nuts – toasted
Boil the pasta, drain and save 1/4 cup of starchy water. Bone the chicken and add to pasta, add pesto, grape tomatoes. Garnish with shaved parmesan and toasted pine nuts.
Blue Taj in Ballantyne!
The One Year Bible. It takes the whole Bible and breaks it up into daily portions, so that you read the whole bible in a year. My mom read through it 30 times. She inspired our family to start each day in Scripture. I can’t imagine my life without it now. Christopher and I get up and have coffee and read the Bible together every morning.
Behavioral trait you hope your children don’t inherit from you.
I think it’s too late – over-reacting and the tendency to not finish what I start.
The phrase you’ve said to your kids more than any other at home is…
BE REAL. Have real conversation, eat real food, be a real friend, play a real game, and put down the electronics.
Favorite kids movie?
The High School Musical Trilogy. When we go on road trips, we listen to all three soundtracks.
Favorite kids iPhone app?
I have a love/hate relationship with iPhones. I love texting with my girls during the day – just to connect. But games and apps distract them from being real. So, I feel like a nerd, but I would say the Weather app. That way they can figure out what to wear. Ella gives us the weather report every morning. It’s pretty cute.
Candy. Candy. Candy. It has always been my weakness. But, if you drink a Diet Coke, it balances out, right?