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Sometimes your life may take a turn that you never expected. For Shane Washington ’18, that unexpected turn was owning a candle company. Shane Washington and his wife, Erica Rome-Washington, are the owners and founders of River Birch Candles. Founded in 2018, Shane and Erica set out to create an all-natural candle that could still provide the same amount of fragrance as other candles on the market. After months of trial and error, they developed the perfect formula, and River Birch Candles was born.
They also knew that they wanted to make a difference in the world, as well. Since Shane and Erica are based out of Dallas, they decided to partner with local charities to help the homeless. For each candle that is purchased, one meal is donated to an individual experiencing homelessness in Texas. They even recently partnered with Feeding America to help give back on a larger scale. Shane and Erica never imagined that they would own a candle company. But before they experienced life as entrepreneurs, Shane got the chance to experience what it was like to be an online student at UL Lafayette.
Shane’s journey to becoming a Ragin’ Cajun is a bit different than others. He experienced everything online. Shane grew up in Virginia and met his wife, Erica, in high school. After graduating from high school, they ended up going to different colleges but remained in a long-distance relationship. Shane went to a school in Louisiana while Erica stayed in Virginia. Once Erica graduated from college, Shane still had a few semesters left to finish his kinesiology degree. So, he decided to search for an online program where he could finish his degree while also being with Erica.
After looking at several schools, he discovered UL Lafayette. “[It] was the best fit for me,” said Shane. The couple moved to Dallas, Texas, where Erica began working in the insurance industry while Shane finished school online. Even though he was taking classes remotely, Shane still got the same wonderful Ragin’ Cajun experience as any other student. His courses were challenging, he got to interact and meet other students digitally, and his professors were there for him if he ever needed help. “They wanted me to succeed,” said Shane.
After Shane’s graduation, he started working at a local gym as a personal trainer. However, he quickly realized that this was not the career path for him. Shane had always wanted to be his own boss, so he decided to take the risk and develop a product of his own: an all-natural candle. This idea had been something that he and Erica had talked about before, but now it was time to see if it could work. “We wanted to make a candle that was safe for everyone,” said Erica. After trial and error, they landed on the perfect candle recipe. Soon after that, Erica left her other job. The two began running River Birch Candles full-time in November of 2018 and haven’t looked back since.
Both Shane and Erica have learned several lessons as business owners over the past few years. While figuring out budgets and marketing strategies, the two have made it a priority to find time to enjoy each moment of their journey. “Don’t be afraid to slow down in the moment,” said Shane. When asked about the future of River Birch Candles, the entrepreneurs would love to increase the size of their business so that they can produce more candles. They also would like to continue giving back to their community in any way that they can. “If we can make one person’s day better, [it] means the world to us,” said Erica. Shane and Erica have found themselves on a path that they never expected. Still, they’re determined to follow their dreams and make the world a better place one candle at a time.
Photo Caption: Erica Rome-Washington and Shane Washington '18, owners and founders of River Birch Candles.