I’m in the Matchstick Business!
Melissa Moore, Owner of Strike a Match
People are usually curious about how I got into this business of selling matchsticks and match strike paper.
I have been a candle and incense lover for years and have always strongly preferred using matches to light them. That’s where it all started.
In 2004, while browsing handmade pottery at an art show in Atlanta, I noticed these beautiful oil warmers and had a "flash" of an idea -- a little pocket in the back of the oil warmer that could store some matches. I thought that that would make a neat and complete lighting kit and would look very pretty, instead of having an ugly matchbox or lighter laying around. I did a few sketches of this potential product, but mostly left it alone. A few years later, during an unrelated business meeting, I had another "flash" and realized that what I really wanted was just a cute container for the matchsticks themselves, so I started playing around with different vases, literally cutting the striking strips off of matchboxes, and then gluing them to the containers. I even sold a few of them to friends.
Fast forward through several years of research and experiments, discovering the world of antique match holders and strikers, learning more about matchstick production than I ever wanted to know, and *most* importantly -- finding the matchstick manufacturers that sold sheets of match strike paper -- and Strike a Match was born, though with a different name at time.
I opened an Etsy shop in the summer of 2011, and initially, I only sold little glass matchstick holders. These were 3" rectangle vases that held 2" matchsticks, and had a striker shape on the side, which I cut out of the match strike paper using a handheld paper punch.
Then people started asking me if they could just buy the match striker shapes and not the match holders, which surprised me, but I obliged and started selling the match striker shapes separately. I only had a small selection at first -- heart, moon, sun, cat, fleur de lis -- plus circles and squares ranging from 1" to 2". People started requesting custom sizes like 3" squares, 1/2" x 2" rectangles, 3/4" circles, etc. So, in response, I started offering a wider range of shapes and sizes, and to this day, the match striker shapes are my best-selling products, especially the 2" rounded squares in honeycomb pattern, 1" circles in dark gray, and ½” x 2” rectangles in dark gray.
Eventually people also started asking me where I purchased the striker shapes, or how I made them. I explained that I cut them from sheets of match strike paper that I imported. Now, if you had told me 8 years ago, that sheets of match strike paper would account for nearly 30% of my gross revenue, I would have laughed in your face.
It started off as a trickle. One person a month would ask about the match strike paper, as opposed to just the match strike shapes; then 2 people a month, then it started happening almost weekly. I would then create a custom order, agree on pricing, arrange shipment, etc., often overseas and often immediately. I had no idea there was an actual, urgent NEED for these things.
It finally dawned on me that the match strike paper *itself* was a product, and it could be something I listed on Etsy. At the time, I couldn't even take great pictures. I laid the sheets on my carpet and kitchen tile and did my best with my apartment lighting. I had nothing to lose, right? Yet within 2 weeks, they started outselling everything. I got orders from teachers, troop leaders, camping ground companies, candle makers, theatre production houses -- and still do.
Further, there's an even smaller niche of printing companies and marketing firms who create custom-sized matchboxes for their clients and then need the sheets so they can cut custom-size match striker strips. I've gotten requests for thousands of sheets, as in, more sheets that I'm even able to import...for now.
Now, despite all of this, the #1 question I have always gotten is “Do you sell matchsticks, too?”, and when I answered No, the next question was "Where can I buy matchsticks online"? You'd think that buying matchsticks online would be easy these days. Well, it's not hard, but it is tedious and requires a lot of research. There is not a single website that contains a full range of matchstick colors and sizes available to retail consumers.
Many sites sell 2" matchsticks in a variety of colors, but rarely 4". AREO Home sells 4” matchsticks in a variety of colors, but they all come in decorative boxes; lots of customers prefer plain white boxes. Several sites carry 10" or 11" fireplace matchsticks, but only in one color. There are wholesalers like Maryland Match who do have an entire catalog of matchsticks, but you have to purchase at least 1,000 boxes, whereas most people only want a few, as in 1 to 5, or even a few hundred, but not thousands. So last year, I finally started matchsticks to my online shops, with the ultimate goal of creating the best online retail store for matchsticks in the world, where you can buy 2", 4", or 11" matchsticks in a rainbow of colors.
It will be a slow process, but each year, I will add more matchstick colors and sizes until I have the online retail store that I envisioned.
Check out our story on the Side Hustle School podcast from December 2018, Episode 565! It's not an interview, but rather a short summary of our business, based on a questionnaire we completed for the show.
I have been in business officially since the summer of 2011, initially on Etsy and then I started selling on Amazon in 2018, which has increased sales tremendously. However, my ultimate goal is to have a really cool e-commerce site that will be the #1 resource for matchsticks, match strike paper, and match striker shapes.
I am looking forward to connecting to more and more matchstick lovers each year. This has been so much fun, and I'm truly tickled I get to do this full-time.
I am still stunned and amused by it all.