Candles became Tura Lura entrepreneur’s new business outlet

Hanah Lopes

Amel Ali (right) talks to Tara Lura owner Erika Christiansen (left) about candle scents as Ali attends a candle pour bar candle making class with Grace Zalenski (center) at the Green House in Iowa City on Nov. 20. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Laura Hayes (right) smells a candle scent as she attends a candle pour bar candle making class with Marney Wilson at The Green House in Iowa City, Iowa, Sunday, November 20, 2022. Students create a scented candle while socializing with friends and other students. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Bri Nicholson of North Liberty, Iowa, weighs candle scent in a small pitcher as she attends a candle pour bar candle making class at the Green House in Iowa City, Sunday, November 20, 2022. Students create a scented candle while socializing with friends and other students. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Alyssa Nevill (left), Bri Nicholson (second from left) and Becky Bockenstedt (right) all of North Liberty, Iowa, pour candle scent and soy wax mixture into a candle jar as they attend a candle pour bar candle making class at the Green House in Iowa City, Sunday, November 20, 2022. Students create a scented candle while socializing with friends and other students. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Becky Bockenstedt of North Liberty stirs candle scent into soy candle wax until it’s combined as she attends a candle pour bar candle making class at the Green House in Iowa City, Sunday, November 20, 2022. Students create a scented candle while socializing with friends and other students. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

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Tara Lura owner Erika Christiansen leads a candle pour bar class at the Green House in Iowa City, Sunday, November 20, 2022. Students create a scented candle while socializing with friends and other students. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Erika Christiansen first came to Iowa City as an undergraduate dance student.

After spending many years working as a professional dancer and instructor, a hip injury put a stop to her performing. So she took to other outlets, including baking for others.

But when the pandemic brought that outlet to a halt as well, Christiansen started playing around with candle making.

“I’ve always been pretty crafty,” she said. “My mom was an artist and I’ve always liked to try new things and need a way to stay connected with people.”

She thought candle making might be a fun outlet as it had some similarities with baking, including measuring and science.

“I decided to use concrete vessels because I didn’t really see anyone else doing that around here,” she recalled.

Today, her hobby has grown into a small business, Tura Lura Co., selling small batch concrete candles and home goods.

She credits her beginnings to support from family and friends who encouraged her to do more than just make candles as gifts.

This gave her the courage to try selling them online and at a local market.

Since starting, Christiansen also has begun offering candle pour bar classes in partnership with the Green House in Iowa City — another woman-owned business.

“People are really having fun with the classes and figuring out that, once you find the right formula for making these candles, it’s not so intimidating.”

Christiansen said these classes create a nice connection to her graduate degree in teaching, as well.

“I am really enjoying the in-person connection this is now opening up,” she said. “We are creating experiences that foster community and I really love that.”

This year she also launched Local + Good events, to help connect local shoppers with local makers and their products.

“A lot of the work that I’ve been doing this last year has been trying to connect more artists and makers who are emerging in our area to try and get their products either into retail stores or just selling their products more effectively to consumers because our community cares about the arts and cares about buying small,” Christiansen said.

“These makers put so much passion into their work.”

Christiansen was awarded a scholarship to join the Iowa City Area Business Partnership. Through the Builders + Backers program — which matches funding with people seeking to address a community issue — Christiansen was able to receive mentorship, funding and support to launch her ideas.

“This experience has been life changing,” she said. “There is a learning curve, especially when you are a solo entrepreneur, and that can be a challenge, but I am so grateful for the resources I’ve connected with.”

So much of her business is rooted in connection and her beliefs in sustainability.

“I source materials from Iowa and small businesses around the country,” Christiansen said. “I make them with non-toxic products, and I believe in upcycling and bringing soul into a collection of home goods.”

Christiansen said she’s in full holiday-preparation mode these days.

She will have a holiday pop-up shop in Downtown Iowa City from Dec. 1 through Dec. 11, selling her candles and other locally made goods.

With a toddler and an infant at home — and working part time with the University of Iowa’s Center for Human Rights — Christiansen also has to get creative with when she worked on this new venture.

“I do a lot of work at night after my kids get to sleep, that’s my creative time,” she said.

“And it doesn’t feel like work at all at this point because I still like getting down in the basement and creating. Plus, I have a really supportive partner, especially when it comes to doing a market on a weekend.”

“I am just taking this step by step,” Christiansen added. “I’m not trying to grow too big too fast. I still have a lot of other priorities, but I absolutely love what I’m doing right now and I am energized by it. I’m not drained by it.”

Know a business that could be a good “My Biz” feature? Tell us, too, at [email protected]

Tura Lura

Founder: Erika Christiansen

Address: Iowa City

Website: turaluraco.com

Candles became Tura Lura entrepreneur’s new business outlet

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