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Superior students kindle new market with signature candles

Creating the items themselves provides motivation, instills pride.

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Superior High School business teacher Tara Hansen pours hot wax into a jar while she makes scented candles with a student at SHS on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Students who run Superior High School’s Spartan Shack can now add “maker” to their resumes. The teens began hand-pouring Spartan Scents candles and Spartan lip balm this fall.

The soy wax candles come in three signature scents: warm vanilla, winter bough and pine. There are four different gluten-free lip balm flavors to choose from: vanilla mint, blue raspberry, bubblegum and acai blackberry. Candles sell for $5 each; lip balm is $3 per tube.

The new items have been on sale since Thanksgiving and have been well received, the students said.

“They actually sold pretty quickly,” said senior Robby Powell, one of the students who works behind the scenes at the Spartan Shack.

He and the other members of Tara Hansen’s fashion and retail marketing class recently began pouring a second run of candles and lip balm. Candle making was new to the senior, but he said it wasn’t difficult to learn and it brings a sense of pride.

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“It’s cooler when people buy the things we make,” Powell said.
Since 1983, the Spartan Shack has been offering real-life retail experience to students in a school setting. The move to making their own products adds another layer of learning.

“We’re motivated more to actually sell something that we made and actually means something to us,” Powell said.

The idea to add candles to the shop’s array of Spartan gear came out of a student brainstorming session over a year ago. They shopped around for vendors to supply candles, but felt the prices were too high.

“Our goal is to make everything as affordable as possible,” for Spartan fans who shop at the store, said Hansen, a business and marketing teacher. “We’re trying to keep our costs down so it’s affordable, and especially for kids.”

They decided to make their own. It’s not the first time students have put their own products on the shelves.

Hansen and industrial arts teacher Justin Aulie taught a trio of marketing students how to engrave their own water bottles last spring. A number of their designs are still available at the Spartan Shack.

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Superior High School business teacher Tara Hansen, left, hands a bottle of scent to senior Olivia Linden as the two make scented candles at SHS on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The candles will be sold at the school store, the Spartan Shack. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“It’s just really important for me that the kids get to experience making something, prepping it for sale, and actually selling that item,” Hansen said.

Creating their own products helps the teens become more invested in the store.

“I think it’s beautiful. That’s the kind of education, you know, that I really like to see kids participate in. It’s real-life skills,” Hansen said.

In addition to being locally-made, the candles are locally-sourced. Ingredients come from Bitter Creek Candle Supply in Ashland. That has helped at a time when supply chains are affecting other vendor orders like apparel.

“It’s been like the one normal order I’ve asked for, compared to everything else,” Hansen said of the candle-making supplies.

This is Powell’s first marketing class. The senior’s eyeing a future career in business and said being involved with the class has taught him a lot.

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A few Spartan Scents candles cool as others wait for melted wax to be poured into them at Superior High School on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The candles will be sold at the school store, the Spartan Shack. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“It helps you understand how a business works, not just by selling things but ordering and making and even working in the storage room helps understand more aspects than just the store would,” Powell said. “You get to hear consumer wants and needs, too.”

Students have found ways to provide customers with a wide array of Spartan gear, apparel and accessories despite the supply chain issues. That includes a healthy stock of Spartan blankets and their new signature candles.

The Spartan Shack is open to the public from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays until Christmas break, which begins Dec. 22, or by appointment. Email spartanshack@superior.k12.wi.us to set up an appointment. Online orders can also be placed through the website: https://sites.google.com/superior.k12.wi.us/spartan-shack/home .

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Superior High School senior Olivia Linden does a smell test to a scent as she makes scented candles at SHS on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

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