We had the good fortune of connecting with Bonny Tillman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Bonny, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
It was a lightbulb moment.  During the housing crash in 2008, my husband was laid off for a year.  I was working two part-time jobs. One, at a cute little wine shop that sold wine, gifts and gourmet food.  Twice a year, I accompanied the owner on buying trips to the AmericasMart Atlanta. We were excited to find candles in reclaimed wine bottles, as they were new to the market. To our dismay, when they arrived, the quality was poor and they looked nothing like the display candles. That was my lightbulb moment.  I thought I could do a better job. I enlisted help from my husband, James, we tested different tools, broke hundreds of bottles in the process, watched youtube videos, tested various waxes and fragrances, and six months later, in 2010, started “Vino-Eco Candle Company,” selling Recycled Wine Bottle Candles.  At the age of 50, a new company was born.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.

In my previous career, I worked 18 years for a pizza chain, so the business and management experience was beneficial. We are passionate about repurposing the wine bottles, keeping the glass from landfills and creating a product that can be refilled over and over. Custom orders are a large part of our business and we love to hear the stories about special occasions where the wine was enjoyed. We can keep that moment alive by turning the bottle into a keepsake.

The wine shop was the first store to sell our candles.  From there, a sales rep discovered us and the wholesale side of the business was launched.  I set a goal in the early days to sell to 40 stores, we hit that goal in 3 years and at the peak, about 60 stores carried our candles, in addition to Etsy and website sales.  Celebrating our 11th year in business, we now focus on our Etsy shop, custom orders, and our long-time stores that have sold our candles since the beginning.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We are in a community about an hour north of Atlanta. I would start in my home-town of Acworth. We have a cute little downtown area. If Covid wasn’t a factor, we would get coffee and walk daily at Logan Farm Park, with paths and a forest to explore. There are many local restaurants, lunch at 1885 Grill or Dogwood Terrace, and wonderful Italian food at Fuscos Via Roma to name a few. On the weekend, a local winery, called Qualusi in Acworth offers wine tastings, food trucks and music. We’d bring chairs and sit by the vines. It’s the perfect place to pack cheese and charcutterie and enjoy nature and good conversation. The north Georgia mountains of Blue Ridge are an hour and a half away and a great place to rent a cabin, explore the town and attend festivals. There are many things to do in Atlanta, from sporting events, music, art, etc. We love Eclipse de Luna for tapas in Atlanta.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So many people have been instrumental in our success.  My family first, who didn’t tell me I was crazy to start this adventure, Cookie, the owner of the Oak Barrel was the first to encourage and to sell our candles, along with Darlene at Serendipity House, The Nest in Carrollton, Leaning Ladder, Marietta Wine Market, Gifted Ferret, Jen at Herrons, the wineries, and many more boutique shops and our loyal Etsy customers.  James, my partner in crime, and chief bottle cutter, Kim, my friend and former co-worker, Holly, my cheerleader, Susie, my bestie, the ladies of P.E.O. that support and encourage me, and most of all, Phyllis and the Starr Lake gang that faithfully save bottles, order custom candles and EVERYONE that gives us bottles.  We would not be in business without a steady supply of bottles.  KEEP DRINKING WINE and don’t drip on the label!

Website: https://www.etsy.com/shop/vinoecocandles
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vino-Eco-Candle-Company-168989456452800
Other: https://www.vinoecocandles.com/index.html

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