David Johnson was finishing his final year of high school when he made the decision to join the U.S. Army.
His father and grandfather had both served, so when he hit a crossroads, he turned to the military.
Johnson spent four years in the Army before trying Ozark Technical College, “but it just wasn’t for me,” he said.
He bounced around restaurants in Springfield for a while as a manager before joining the family candle business, which would become his new venture.
Johnson now runs Reborn Co., where candles are hand-poured using soy wax described as environment and skin safe.
Reborn Co. sells a series of collections, including one for each season and a line of military-inspired scents. Examples include blackberry bourbon, magic library, warm sugar cookie, bear claw and creamsicle.
The business started as a side project with a group of friends at Branson’s Silver Dollar City. After Johnson’s father retired from the military, he bought the business.
In the beginning, sales depended on craft shows and tours, but eventually the candles were distributed in outlets that discovered them. Johnson started pouring candles and fell in love with business, later buying it from his parents. He continues to run it today.
He has since turned his attention the wholesale end, even changing the business model. Instead of relying solely on sales under the Reborn brand, Johnson said he likes to support other businesses by making signature scents for them, including Springfield clients PFI, Grove Spa and Five Pound Apparel.
The candles are made with natural soy wax and scented with skin-safe oils that add the signature scents.
On a typical day, Johnson drives from his home in Springfield to the factory in Rogersville and unlocks the building. After lining up all invoices for the day, he and employee Gage Mackie will begin to pour the candles and set the wicks.
Then the two of them will blend the bath and body oils to create the scents. From there, the wax and oils are combined and wicks added before the candles cool overnight.
“Then we might wick bars for the next day to get ready for another pour. Maybe we fix old candles that have little pits or craters in them from being in the heat or not getting them inside quick enough,” Johnson said.
While Mackie continues to fix candles, Johnson makes deliveries in Springfield or ships the candles to their destinations via UPS.
“Then hopefully I have enough time to get home and clean up before dinner,” he said.
The scents often come from trial and error or finding scents from everyday items, but others are suggested by customers. The military-inspired candles are derived from the personal experiences of those in the business who have served in the Armed Forces.
Johnson and his father created a candle called “Guns and Boots,” a blend of leather and gunpowder scents, while a former employee who served in the Navy created a candle called “Anchors Aweigh” with hints of coffee and sea-mist.
The line also includes candles for first responders, including firefighters and police officers. While each scent may not be everyone’s favorite, Johnson said the sentiment behind the candles matters most.
“Firefighters aren’t necessarily going to buy that scent, but their families will because it’s what their father came home smelling like,” Johnson said.
In the future, he said he would like to support more businesses with his products, allowing Reborn to be an influential factor in their histories.
The Springfield area has embraced Reborn, Johnson said, and he has tried to repay the city with fundraisers for the Rogersville public schools he attended.
“Springfield itself is literally the backbone of our business,” he said. “All the businesses that carry us and all the people in Springfield that buy us have done great telling friends and family. Springfield has really made Reborn what it is.”