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Kristen Pumphrey PF Candle Co
Kristen Pumphrey PF Candle Co
Courtesy of Kristen Pumphrey
Career > Work

For P.F. Candle Co. Founder Kristen Pumphrey, Success Isn’t Linear

For recent graduates entering the workforce, it can feel like landing a dream job is more challenging than ever. Case in point: In a May 2024 Her Campus survey of 562 Gen Zers, approximately 56% said they felt that their undergraduate career did not prepare them for their post-graduate job search. With an increasingly competitive market, some even feel the need to already have their careers meticulously planned out before even stepping foot across the graduation stage. 

However, P.F. Candle Co. founder and creator Kristen Pumphrey is living proof that this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, Pumphrey is living proof that life is anything but linear.

Before creating and co-founding P.F. Candle Co., Pumphrey went to school for acting at New York University, with dreams of becoming a renowned actor. “My whole high school career, I wanted to be an actor and would spend my summers doing conservatory training so that I could get into one of the top programs,” Pumphrey tells Her Campus. However, during her undergraduate years at NYU, Pumphrey began to pivot from that childhood dream. “I got there and became disillusioned about that potential career path,” she says. That’s when she took on a minor in creative writing, with a new dream of working in publishing. “As soon as I graduated, I said I wouldn’t pursue acting … I’m going to pursue publishing, [and I] got an editorial assistant job.”

Everything was aligning career-wise for Pumphrey… until she was laid off from her editorial position in 2008 due to the Great Recession. But when one door closes, another one opens. Pumphrey’s resilience and adaptability helped her decide to create P.F. Candle Co. during the Great Recession. “I, in the beginning, was patching together different jobs. I was a host at a restaurant and worked at an art gallery — just anything to patch together an income.”

When she first began her business, it was a craft storefront on Etsy. She named the shop after her DIY blog, Pommes Frites — a play on her last name, Pumphrey, that translates to “French fries” in French. Eventually, she realized the candles were selling the best, and prioritized selling candles — as well as pivoted the brand’s name to what it is today: P.F. Candle Co.

kristen pumphrey
Courtesy of Kristen Pumphrey

As P.F. Candle Co. grew, Pumphrey learned how to overcome the challenges of starting a business despite not having any previous leadership experience. “I only had a leadership position once; when I started my own company, I started to scale and grow; that was probably one of my biggest challenges, which was learning not only how to run a company but also how to lead and manage people,” she says. 

As for the future of P.F. Candle Co., Pumphrey’s aspirations are ambitious, but grounded. “My goal right now is to create sustainable growth for P.F.,” she says. “We had fast growth during the pandemic, which was not sustainable for us.” Pumphrey hopes to create more shops in the U.S. in the next few years. “Expanding the shops has been a huge pet project … We’re trying to open one in New York.”

For those looking to strike out on their own to create their own dream job like she did, Pumphrey recommends aspiring entrepreneurs to follow this rule of thumb: “Comparison is the thief of joy,” she says. “You’re going to always look at someone’s highlight reel that they’re showing you on social media … When you just take a step back, you become grateful for the things you have in your life and the skills you have; rather than comparing yourself, you can use it as motivation to keep you going. I try not to beat myself up.” 

Another piece of advice Pumphrey wants to leave college students with is to surround yourself with similar-minded people. “Think about mentors and peers you can work alongside,” she says. “It doesn’t just have to be a mentorship, but it is so important to surround yourself with like-minded people who are doing the same thing so you can build a community.”

Ultimately, Pumphrey believes humility and the willingness to learn more helped her succeed in creating her dream job. “Just be willing to be humble and constantly studying,” she says. “I’m still always trying to improve my skills and learn. I listen to tons of podcasts. I read a lot, like nonfiction, to improve myself, and I just don’t think there’s a point where I’m done learning to be better.”

Eliana Jacobs is a National Contributing Writer for Her Campus. Born and raised in Southwest Florida, Eliana writes articles about lifestyle, Her 20s, and career-related goals/activities. Before becoming a national writer, Eliana wrote under the UCF Her Campus Chapter,where she wrote about health and wellness. Additionally, she has a passion for social justice, advocacy, and race-related news. Beyond Her Campus, Eliana also writes flash fiction and poetry for the nation’s largest student-run organization, Strike Magazine. Some of her most recent publications include Life In Plastic: It’s “Fantastic”. Eliana also was awarded multiple honorable mentions for her writing during her undergraduate career in her school’s Tutors’ Choice Flash Fiction Contest. Lastly, she recently graduated from the University of Central Florida, earning a dual degree in Sociology and Interdisciplinary Studies on a Pre-Medical Track. Ultimately, Eliana aspires to pursue an MD/MPH to specialize in Pediatric Endocrinology while intersecting her passion for public health through medical research, poetry, and journalism. In her free time, Eliana enjoys shopping, working out, and traveling. Lastly, Eliana loves exploring local cuisines and documenting restaurants she tried (Orlando and beyond) on her food Instagram.