For Bennett Novak, a UVM senior majoring in community entrepreneurship (CENT), being stuck inside the house all day was anything but a disadvantage. Inspiration struck for Bennett last spring in the midst of the pandemic and remote learning. “Quarantine was honestly the perfect storm,” he explained. “All of a sudden I had so much free time.”
It was during this time spent at home that Bennett launched his new organic candle company, EcoBee Organics. As the name implies, Bennett makes his candles out of sustainably harvested beeswax, with an organic hemp wick, and organic fragrances.
“In many ways, CDAE helped to prepare me for this pandemic by encouraging me to give actions to my ideas, leading to the start of this business,” Bennett said. “Being a CENT major gave me the skill set, and quarantine provided me with time. Together, both parts aided in the execution of creating EcoBee Organics.”
With his business, Bennett wants to provide a healthy, organic and sustainable alternative to the toxic paraffin wax typically used in candles, and zinc and cotton wicks, which he says can be harmful to people’s respiratory systems.
“What sets EcoBee Organics apart from all other major corporations is the element of transparency,” Bennett said. “I want customers to know that we are not taking advantage of them.”
Various CENT class lessons helped Bennett start his own business in this climate, such as how to apply an innovative mindset, create a new demand, thrive through creative thinking, and find out where there are opportunities worth taking.
“I have been on a wonderful track with the tools that CDAE has given me,” he said, “and there’s no doubt that being a CENT major has provided me with a great deal of confidence.”
Starting a business was always a part of Bennett’s plan, and he encourages other UVM students to do the same. “Find an idea that you're passionate about, do your research, test, and get yourself out there,” he recommended. “Talk with people about your ideas, and aim to focus your efforts on ways that will further your passion. In the midst of this pandemic, it may seem harder to connect with others. However, undergraduates have the advantage of being given many helpful resources [at UVM].”
With the restrictions that have come with the pandemic, entrepreneurs have had to make a lot of changes to their business operations. “I think that in times like these, doubt and worry are incredibly prevalent,” Bennett explained. “In a way this pandemic has allowed all of us to learn that doubt is temporary, and hope is eternal.”