Small Dog Candle in Ottawa a full mother-daughter enterprise

Jamie, Avery Wheeler making, selling own candles

The mother/daughter team of Jamie and Avery Wheeler are not only selling but producing their own candles and other products for their shop in downtown Ottawa.

Sometimes the greatest opportunities are born of the greatest misfortunes.

It was a family tragedy just before the onset of the pandemic that set the Ottawa mother-daughter team of Jamie and Avery Wheeler on their path to creating not only their own thriving new business, but also possibly a national and/or international empire.

The Wheelers are business partners in Small Dog Candle Company and Market, a unique business located at 619 La Salle St. in Ottawa and based on not just the selling of their handmade scented candles but their creation, marketing and delivering those products around the world from right in Ottawa.

“With our first product jar, we didn’t know in the beginning stages of a candle company. We never thought about sourcing materials and shipping costs,” Jamie said. “Now that all is said and done and the doors are open, we couldn’t be happier having this come to fruition. We’re very grateful for the word of mouth and the community support that’s kept us going, kept us growing.”

The Wheelers business story began in a sad way. Jamie’s father suffered a stroke at his home in Clearwater, Florida, so naturally her family raced there to be with him. Unfortunately, after less than three months, he died.

The family brought him home for the services and Avery returned to Ottawa from Lexington, Kentucky, where she was working on her Masters thesis as a materials and textiles scientist who once studied in Milan, Italy.

But that’s when the COVID pandemic hit the country, throwing their lives in disarray. The services were canceled, the videography business run by Jamie’s husband Ryan Wotherspoon was put on hold and Avery was not immediately allowed back to Lexington to complete her work.

One day shortly thereafter, in the midst of their financial despair, Jamie was walking past a lit candle in their home and couldn’t smell it, causing her to “lose my mind,” she said. After calming her mother, Avery spent the night studying candles and their properties and made some interesting discoveries.

She learned candles are in two basic classes: a hot throw in which the wick needs to be lit to get the scent, or a cold throw that gives off an odor lit or not. The strength and duration of the fragrance is determined by the amount of fragrance per wax, the wax type, the wick type, the temperature and the bonding time.

That night, Avery ordered some ingredients online and the process was underway. Within four weeks, Avery had a lab set up in the basement of their Ottawa home. The Wheelers – Avery provided the chemical know-how while Jamie provided the business acumen – created several scents with different formulas, delivering prototypes to friends with a form asking them to track the scent and how long it lasted. Other friends put them in sprinkle baskets left on friends’ porches.

The two were making and delivering their products throughout the area and were soon – after a switch from heavy glass jars to lighter tins – shipping them. It had become a full-time job and the need for the storefront on La Salle Street had arrived. It is now a full-fledged store, right down to original water color art by friend Anne Uranich.

“By the time the world was opening its doors again, we were really busy every single day,” Jamie said, “getting candles to people, pouring candles, creating new scents, more than full time hours when everyone was still hanging out … The beautiful thing about this venture is that it was a time of healing, in so many ways, Avery and I being coworkers has been a beautiful and rewarding experience.”

Eventually, they needed a name and a logo.

“At the time we were working to pay off medical bills for our tough little family dachshund, Smalls, so we figured since we’re working for him, why not name it for him,” Jamie said. “That’s where Small Dog and the likeness came from. Suddenly, dog lovers were buying them for themselves and friends. It was amazing.”

The business has expanded into other facets. While the downtown building is available for parties wedding and baby showers, at which participants can create their own scents, other products like scented carpet and laundry powders and diffusers, for homes where open flames might be risky, are also available. More are still in the works, Avery said, and will be released shortly.

Meanwhile, the search continues for a production facility.

“We take this seriously,” Jamie said. “My father once told me, your name goes into the home of everybody that purchases something, so it better do what you say its gonna do and we take great pride in that. Everyone is happy.”

For more information, visit the business website at, its Facebook page or call the shop at 815-201-6260.

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