Local candlemaker Tiffany Brown is using her gift to go beyond the sweet smells of home.
We’ve been inside for MONTHS. Reduced to rearranging the furniture and decor to break up the monotony, buying new plant pets, and of course, online shopping.
I won’t lie to you and say I haven’t been stalking a certain store’s semi-annual sale, namely for candles, but let’s be honest — it’s not happening this year.
“I’ve always been a person that burned candles,” said Tiffany Brown, owner of Wicks NOLA. “I always went to the bigger named companies, the big blue and white companies, Marshall’s, Home Goods, places like that because I’m always been into different fragrances. I would go to Bath & Body Works, especially when they had like those semi-annual sales and buy all kinds of stuff.”
But Brown got to a point where she thought about making the scents on her own, especially when she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted.
“There would be a lot of times where there were certain scents that I wanted, that during certain seasons they didn’t have,” she said. “They would only sell Christmas during Christmas. You could only find fall during fall, and they would discontinue scents that I like. So you know, I was like, ‘I think I’m going to try to make my own and generate some extra income in the process.’”
From Abita to Zydeco
In June 2018, Wicks NOLA was born. Brown uses natural coconut wax, instead of chemically-made paraffin wax, to bring scents reflective of her hometown to life. Atchafalaya is a blend of amaretto, tonka and sweet oud wood. Bride’s Cake brings you back to your favorite childhood bakery. Crepe myrtle is reminiscent of summertime in the city, with notes of honeysuckle and jasmine. Her shop features 50 different unique scents, and customers are raving with multiple 5-star reviews. Her wood-burning wicks bring a crackling sound that stands out among the candle crowd and sets a luxurious ambiance.
“I was actually born at Charity, but I was raised in Kenner,” she said. “Of course, everything about the city of New Orleans is intriguing. The culture, the people, the architecture, the festivals. It’s just like this place is unlike anywhere else in the world. You go to other places and it’s like, I may have fun for a while but then I’m always ready to come back to New Orleans. That’s the way people feel when they visit here. It’s just our own different place, we’re our own culture here. I felt like that was something that I needed to share with the world. I wanted to be able to name my scents after the things here and have it all relate back to the city of New Orleans.”
Like every business, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Brown, but she was able to make it a positive. During a recent panel with Curve the Runway, Brown talked about the effects the pandemic had.
“This has probably been the best thing to happen to my business because people are home,” she said. “They are trying to make their spaces more comfortable, they want to be able to relax. They’re lighting candles, they’re spraying sprays, they’re burning wax. It’s just been the best thing that could probably have happened to my business. We’ve grown leaps and bounds since this pandemic started.”
Brown said her company has grown from 60-100 orders on average a month to over 1,000 in the past two weeks.
No Justice, No Peace
Coupled with being both Black-owned and female-owned, Brown has seen the community come together to back her company.
“After all of these tragic events have happened with systemic racism and Black people and police brutality, the whole thing with George Floyd I think has made people feel differently,” she said. “It was just something different about this one that really just affected people, and even seemed to affect white people. You know after all these years of us screaming and saying it, I think they finally realize that Black lives do matter.”
She said the recent months have brought a surge of support for her products.
“I’ve had a lot of white people that I’ve talked to say that when they went to buy for their shops or when they went to buy things for themselves they never really thought about the race thing,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot of women say, ‘OK, support other women,’ but never thought that maybe I need to look at supporting Black women, separately from just women as a whole because we don’t get a lot of the same opportunities that our other counterparts get to sell our products, or have our products placed in stores.”
Brown teamed up with local influencer Tracey Wiley to create a new scent named ‘No Justice No Peace.’
“She called me and she was like, ‘Hey, I think I want to do a candle with everything going on,” Brown said. “I had been thinking too, like, what can I do? What is my gift? What can I use my gift for to contribute to this? I had been thinking about it too, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. She was like, ‘I was thinking about calling it justice.’ I said OK, but something with that was just not hitting me. So I called her back the next day and was like, ‘What about And Justice For All?’ Then she came back and said, ‘What about No Justice, No Peace? I was like, ‘That is it! That is awesome!”
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“Of course, being from New Orleans, all I could hear was Mystikal saying ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,’” Brown said. Those exact words frame the front of the candle label, which is described as a smokey, regal and rich woody blend of tobacco, patchouli and oud wood.
“As soon as I put it up, we sold like 200 of them that day,” Brown said.
And for a good cause; 50% of the proceeds go to BENOLA (Black Education for New Orleans), a Black-led, Black-governed nonprofit organization working to build capacity for sustainable Black involvement in New Orleans public education.
Brown wants to use her business to provide more than spectacular scents.
“I want to be able to employ people,” she said. “My dad was incarcerated and got out of jail and did not have much opportunity for decent jobs. I want o to be able to hire people that have been incarcerated, hire youth that may not have a chance to come in here, and do something as simple as pouring candles. Something that they can do to where they’ll be able to provide a living for their family. I have so many things, like showers for the homeless, that I want to do through this company. My end goal is to be able to generate help for the city, generate money for the city to be able to put back into the community here. To be able to put wealth back into the community.”
When asked what was the best piece of advice she could give to new entrepreneurs, it was to just keep going.
“I’ve had a business before so I know that business is work,” she said. “But it’s work especially when you have family and you’re trying to work a 9-5 job to pay your bills, you have a husband, you have kids, you have other responsibilities, friends are tugging at you because they want to hang out still and you’re trying to grow your business. Just try to surround yourself with like-minded people. People who are positive and want to support your dream and support your growth. Just keep going no matter how hard it gets, no matter how at times it may look like it’s not working. Just keep going. Even the smallest sale, the smallest victory is worth it in the end.”
You can click here to visit Tiffany’s Etsy store, or here to follow her on Instagram and Facebook. You can also visit Monomin, Dirty Coast or Lionheart Prints on Magazine Street for your immediate Wicks NOLA fix.