The Gulf War was on, and Laurel Schrock was flip-flopping on a major at Iona College when “a wave of patriotism hit me,” she recalls, prompting her to join the U.S. Army. Over the course of eight years, she rose to the rank of Army specialist, working in computer system repair and network installation. Prior to her military training, she admits, “I had zero computer knowledge.”
Following an honorable discharge from the military, Schrock took her newfound know-how to the Pentagon, where she was a contractor at a network monitoring center within the U.S. Department of Defense. She had top-secret security clearance, and yes, she was in the building on 9/11.
Longing to return to her roots in Mount Vernon, she accepted a job at Verizon in Manhattan; 14 years later, she’s still there, employed as a field service engineer (i.e., a network technician) installing and providing connections and service to commercial customers.
Schrock loves her job, even “crawling on floors,” running fiber-optic cables, but the best part of her day happens afterward, when she starts pouring wax into jars. “I’d been making candles as gifts for about five years before my boyfriend said I should sell them,” she says. That was more than one year and upwards of a thousand sales ago — and at the height of the pandemic.
All-natural and handcrafted in small batches, Hand Made By Laurel candles are 100% soy wax, a renewable material grown and produced in the U.S. There are no phthalates in the fragrances, and the wicks (free of iron and lead) are fashioned from interwoven cotton and paper, ensuring a clean burn with minimal smoke.
“I make six to 12 candles at a time of a particular fragrance,” she explains, blending such soothing signature scents as Mistletoe, Thanksgiving Morning, and Hibiscus Palm. There are also uplifting and colorful offerings, like Mango Tango, Lime in De Coconut, Peach of Me, and Love Spell, alongside the unscented Butt Nekkid.
Much like her day job, “there’s a science to it,” Schrock says, “making sure they’re safe, that they burn properly, and smell good.” They’re also good for the environment, as the Mason jars and chic black-matte glass she works with are both recyclable and reusable.
Schrock mainly runs her business online, relying on the solid techie skills she didn’t always possess. “Making candles is my creative outlet,” she says — and she does it all at her kitchen table, hardly ever crawling around on the floor.