ROCKFORD (WREX) — Chad Burgess is a child of the 815.
He grew up in Rockford, graduating from Jefferson High School before heading out west to California.
In 2009, he met Melissa, the woman who would become his wife.
The two lived together in San Diego for 10 years, having four kids along the way.
However, Chad and Melissa are more than just husband and wife.
They're also business partners.
The couple started their candle business Craft + Foster four years years ago after Melissa picked up candle making as a hobby.
She was doing it as a way to help her cope with PTSD from her time as an army medic in Iraq.
"I started with just a little candle kit. I didn't necessarily think anything was going to come of it," Melissa Burgess said.
"It is a very therapuetic process to do something from start to finish and complete projects and all those kinds of things."
The project turned into Melissa making candles for a few friends.
That gesture grew into selling candles as some small local markets.
Today, Craft + Foster candles are being sold in hundreds of stores nationwide.
Melissa sums up the success of their business in one word.
"To find ourselves as business owners, sometimes we laugh about it because it's really cool to see how far we've come," Melissa said.
When the business started, Melissa and Chad were working out of their home in San Diego, making candles (and a few messes) through their kitchen, dining room and kids playroom.
Eventually, as the business and their family grew, the Burgess' made a decision.
They needed to move.
"We loved the coast. We loved all the perks but at the end of the day, we've got a family of six in San Diego which gets pretty expensive," Chad Burgess said.
"To run a small business out in California is also very expensive. It was about the pace of life, cost of living, cost of doing business."
Which brings us back home to Rockford.
The Burgess' are now in the stateline and ready to intergrate Craft + Foster into the foundation of small businesses the 815 is built on.
"There's plent of opportunity. I think it's now that we are in a position to where we can actually begin to focus on some of those things and what the big picture is," Chad said.
The last few years have been ones of trial and error for Craft + Foster, but determination has pushed them through.
Melissa calls it "grit" and she's seen plenty of it through all small businesses in a year that has presented nothing but challenges.
"A lot small business owners have grit that gets them through. You think 'I've already come this far. I'm not going to shut it down now,'" Melissa said.
"I think you take every challenge and you tackle it as you go."
So now as Chad and Melissa think about their next steps, they wonder how to become more than just a candle company.
Though candles were how they started, the true catalyst of Craft + Foster was to serve a much higher purpose.
"There's tons of organizations in Rockford that, in the midst of all this are helping people and we love to get behind some organizations that are feeding people and clothing people and helping people get into rehab. That's definitely in our hearts," Melissa said.
"At the end of the day, it's about something bigger something greater that gives back and I think we're in a good place to find that locally," Chad said.
If you are interested in Craft + Candles, you can learn more and make an order by clicking here.
Craft + Foster was built on the ideas of fostering community and are excited to work toward that goal with the rest of the 815.
If you or anyone you know is making a difference in the stateline, you can fill out a nomination form here or you can reach out to email@example.com.