Attention Baltimoreans! Gearing up for holiday shopping but tired of supporting behemoth corporations? When you shop at independent stores with local makers, your money stays in the city you love. Made in Baltimore is proud to share this series spotlighting some of the Baltimore City’s most local-supporting retailers, created by our 2019 intern, Jacob Took.
Letta Moore opened KSM Candle Co. to prepare for the apocalypse.
Watching The Walking Dead, Letta Moore realized she needed to master everything she could do with her hands if she wanted to survive a zombie horde takeover. At first, she didn’t plan on opening her own business — she sold her handmade knitwear, soy candles and metal jewelry to friends and coworkers. As the demand for her products grew, though, she realized she was onto something.
In the early days, she called her business Knits, Soy and Metal. She met Andy, Made in Baltimore’s program director, back when Made in Baltimore was still a distant idea. Even then, both she and Andy saw a need for resources to support local makers and small business owners.
“For a small business trying to get their footing here in Baltimore, trying to find like-minded people or even just a place where they can just gain access to education, having Made in Baltimore is invaluable,” she said. “When I was starting out my business, I didn’t have any of those centralized places where I could find resources.”
As Knits, Soy and Metal, she opened up a storefront in Mount Vernon with Keeper’s Vintage where she still stocks her product. Keeper’s Vintage gave her a place to sell her products and host candle-making workshops, but she needed a dedicated production space to keep the business growing.
“I would work there for eight hours and then go home and work another eight hours making product,” she said. “You work eight hours in the store, you don’t want to go home and make anything right then and there.”
Letta’s next move was to an eight-month pop-up in Harbor East called Homegrown. For Homegrown, she partnered with fellow women-owned Made in Baltimore businesses Cedar & Cotton, a furniture and home décor line, and B. Willow, a flower shop. In addition to their own products, they supported other local women-owned businesses.
At Homegrown, Letta also expanded her workshops, which became a primary part of her business. The workshops (which are BYOB) mostly attract hobbyists, but they also work great for birthday parties, bridal showers and other events.
“People are interested in doing something different — not just going out to dinner, not just going out for drinks, but spending an evening coming in and trying something a little different, getting a little messy,” she said. “When you start a business, it’s important that you have multiple income streams.”
As the workshops expanded over time, Letta moved away from knits and jewelry to focus mostly on candles and other scented products. She also sought a location that would accommodate her need for retail, workshop and production space.
Eventually, she found what she was looking for in Woodberry’s Meadow Mill, a renovated warehouse that previously housed manufacturing for the coat company London Fog. She moved in earlier this year after working with local design company Branding by Brandi to develop a new look with the updated name KSM Candle Co.
Having production space and retail space together has sizably eased Letta’s workload, she told me, because she can work on filling wholesale and online orders while customer traffic is slow. Letta works tirelessly to keep her shelves packed with hand-poured candles in over 50 scents.
She also hosts workshops for other makers and small businesses — they’ve done everything from CBD bath bombs to financial literacy to tarot reading.
“We’ve done a lot of different things in the space, and I don’t charge to use it,” she said. “It’s important to give people the ability to be able to grow their business and not have to pay an arm and a leg to do it.”
Now, Letta stocks a range of Made in Baltimore makers alongside her own products, including Indiglow Holistics beauty, A Childhood Store art products and lifestyle brand Presence & Grace. She tries to use her position as a retailer to offer more resources to other local businesses — a mission she’s also been glad to see Made in Baltimore carry out as the program has grown.
“What’s great about Made in Baltimore and specifically about Andy is that he’s a visionary,” she said. “He saw this thing happening and he just understood the value in being able to have these types of resources in Baltimore for people who are trying to build their businesses here.”
She added that the program’s attention to inclusivity means it can better represent all of Baltimore’s entrepreneurial talent, pointing out Made in Baltimore’s advertisement campaign earlier this year which featured, among other members, Letta’s longtime friend Jamillah Muhammad of Taste This Cake.
“To have this beautiful Muslim woman with her hijab on this billboard like ‘look at me’ — I love that. Made in Baltimore doing that just shows so much progression and so much forward-thinking that this city is capable of,” she said. “It’s just great that you’re able to bring so many different types of people together all because we’re just making it in Baltimore.”
And Letta really is making it in Baltimore — she recently graced the cover of Baltimore magazine’s December issue as part of a spotlight on local makers, which included other Made in Baltimore members like Mount Royal Soaps and La Loupe Designs.
While she plans to take the world by storm in the coming years (assuming a zombie apocalypse doesn’t beat her to it), she’s also taking a moment to breathe after navigating KSM Candle Co. through the whirlwind of 2019.
“Moving into this space and being a retailer all on my own is a new feat for me. I just want to make sure that I grasp what’s happening right now and give it everything possible,” she said. “I’m not a person who believes in resting on their laurels.”
Visit KSM Candle Co. at 3600 Clipper Mill Rd. suite 123 or online at knitsoymetal.com.
To enjoy the benefits of a Made in Baltimore retailer membership, a store is required to stock three (3) Made in Baltimore-certified brands (though many carry more). Membership includes networking, business development opportunities, educational workshops and dedicated marketing campaigns. Interested? Sign up today: https://madeinbaltimore.org/become-a-member/