Inspiring Okeechobee: Amber Garcia, taking the plunge

OKEECHOBEE — If you knew of the stressful events Amber Garcia has gone through in the last six months, a death in the family, moving and starting a new business, you would expect her to be a nervous wreck, but instead, she is a calm, capable business woman, which probably explains the success her new business is experiencing. Amber was born and raised in Highlands County but spent most weekends and summers in Okeechobee because this is where her grandparents lived. When her grandfather passed away in August, Amber and her husband decided it was time to make the move they had been wanting to make and packed up their three children to come to Okeechobee permanently so they could be closer to Amber’s grandmother.

Amber home schools her three children — two girls ages five and six, and one boy age nine.

Amber Garcia is here with her children. Amber home schools her three children — two girls ages five and six, and one boy age nine. Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble.

She coordinates a home school group, Heartland Homeschool Group, which can be found on Facebook. The group has members from Highlands, Okeechobee, Glades and Hardee counties, and they get together for things like field trips, potlucks and various other gatherings. Because Amber considers her store ground zero for her kids’ schooling, she came up with ways they could learn while doing things that needed to be done every day in the store. She explained they learn all about math when they help figure out how much they need of a particular material. Her 9-year-old son knows how to run the cash register, and she is hopeful all her children will learn to run a successful business by the time they graduate.

Amber owns a small store, located in the Trading Post Flea Market, called the Country Boutique which sells a variety of handmade candles and wax molds along with a few crafts made by other locals. Before opening her doors in April, Amber started out with direct sales, and sold products made by others. She said she looked around and saw a need for her product. No one else in or around Okeechobee makes handmade soy candles with no dyes.

Okeechobee didn’t have anything like it before she started selling them. It didn’t take long for her husband to realize she would be better off making her own products rather than selling those someone else made. At first Amber was hesitant, but in April she decided to take the plunge. She opened her first shop and by August had already outgrown it and needed a bigger one! She moved into the bigger store and now says it is really too small, but they are making do for now.

Because she also does different festivals and events, she needed some help in the shop. She now has three employees. The Country Boutique does candle pouring parties where food and drinks are included. They have special events such as Christmas Carols and Candles, and customers can go in any time and pour their own candles. Amber taught herself to make the candles by doing a lot of research on the subject and then trying different things to see what worked. All of her candles are made from soy wax, which burns longer and cleaner and contains no chemicals. They do not add any colorants to their candles because the dyes soak up the fragrance and, unless you are using natural colorants, they take out everything that is beneficial in the candle, says Amber.

Starting a new business can be a frightening endeavor, but when she hears people around town talking about her business, “it makes it all worth while,” she says.

Amber Garcia is in front of her shop in the Trading Post Flea Market, called the Country Boutique.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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