By Alexandra Frisbie
“If you want change, make the change. Put yourself in the game.”
Like many other institutions in America, the real estate system is built on and steeped in white supremacy and racism. Home ownership builds generational wealth and equity, which in turn can pay for things like student loans and other educational and lifetime investments. There is a big disparity between the size and location of real estate available to white people and Black people, which perpetuates a vicious cycle in which it is extremely difficult for Black people to build generational wealth.
Kim Vendryes learned this from the time she was a child, when her mother used to drive around Greenwich, Westport and Black Rock, Connecticut to expose her to other nice neighborhoods and let her know that anything was attainable. As Kim recalls, her mother used to buy houses in Bridgeport for two or three thousand dollars and work on them to sell at a profit. This sparked her interest in real estate at a young age.
Kim became interested in investments and wanted to be her own broker. She originally shied away from real estate because she didn’t like sales. Instead, Kim worked for a large healthcare organization, doing nothing related to real estate, but her interest and passion for real estate never waned. In 2018, Kim “woke up”, in her own words, and decided to register for classes to obtain her real estate license. She took the required sales classes and passed the state test on her first try.
Kim has been in business now for just about three years. Her business is almost 100% referral based. She views real estate ownership as more than a transaction; it is a life experience that should be equally available to everyone. Her strength is helping people who may be afraid of commitment to real estate to understand that it can facilitate them to get what they want. Kim has primarily mentored first-time home buyers and says it is incredibly gratifying to see them learn firsthand that home ownership is achievable.
One experience Kim shared was of a long time friend of hers who was raised by her grandparents and never knew her own mother. She never thought she could be a homeowner. Then, one day, her uncle was selling his house. Her friend was interested, but needed help through the process. She was very nervous, but Kim walked her through it and when she bought the house, it changed her confidence--not only about homeownership but also in so many other aspects of her life.
Kim has conducted several workshops over the past few years to assist with minority homeownership. She is planning to launch a “Main Street Initiative” to teach prospective homeowners about credit and wealth, provide educational empowerment and possibly partner with mortgage companies to provide a product to assist with down payments and closing costs.
Kim wants people to know she is very approachable and happy to answer any questions about homeownership. She can be contacted at (203) 816-1764 or on Facebook. When you call her, mention you read about Kim Vendryes on ShopBlackCT.com!
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By Brenda De Los Santos
Summertime Fine. Living Single. Get Ta Steppin’. Gramm’s Kitchen. These are just a few of the varieties of candles and wax melts made by So Black Candle Co., “the place where culture meets lit scents,” based in New London, CT. Kylah Chadwick, owner and creative force behind the online business, combined her love for candles with elements of Black culture to create the business in September of 2020.
Chadwick hand makes all of her products, and has done extensive research and testing to ensure that her candles and melts are the best. Her products use a parasoy wax blend, which she says has a nice scent throw, and she customizes the amount of fragrance in each variety based on the type of jar used. She has even researched to ensure her candles have the right wick so her candles have strong scent throws, slow, clean burns, as well as longer burn times. Chadwick notes, “Before you ever get the candle there is so much testing that goes in behind it. I double check the packaging and the candle itself. I go above and beyond to make sure when the candles arrive they have a good experience.” She has even gone so far as to contact shipping services on behalf of her customers.
A one-woman show, the business keeps her very busy — she does everything herself, from website creation and maintenance, designing her product labels, and regular trips to the post office to ship orders. She thinks that being relatable to people is a big part of providing great customer service. “At first, some people don’t realize there is an actual person behind the business,” she says, “but then people see that I am a regular person listening to their concerns.”
With many other handcrafted candle businesses out there, Chadwick knows the concept behind her candles and melts stands out. “People will see a label and connect to it whether it's a show that they remember or that the Gramm candle reminds them of their grandma.” Some of her most popular varieties are 90’s R&B, a sangria scent that comes with a playlist, Double Melanin, a cocoa butter and cashmere scent, and her sample packs, which include nine varieties in tea light form. Her Black culture-centered products are available as wax melts, 4 ounce candles in a tin, or 8 ounce candles in a glass jar, as well as two different options for sample packs.
“People will see a label and connect to it whether it's a show that they remember or that the Gramm candle reminds them of their grandma.”
Having gone to school for social work (she has a masters degree in it) and currently working as a full-time crisis specialist, candle making has given her a creative outlet; She sees each candle as a work of art. “I feel like I found my passion,” she says, “I knew I wanted to make it into a business, I just didn’t expect it to go this fast.” So Black Candle Co. celebrates it’s one-year anniversary in September 2021, and Chadwick’s next goal is to be working for herself.
Find So Black Candle Co. on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or visit their website to shop or learn more.
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By Alicia Brown
“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” is an anonymous quote that seems fitting for Oh D’Luxe Candle + Co., a growing company based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Oh D’Luxe is owned by Oddette Staple-Brown, an amazing candle making guru.
During the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic, many people seemed to be trying new things. Some found yoga, and some, like Staple-Brown, dabbled in online language courses. But it wasn’t until she remembered that she loved candle making—after all, she has an “utter obsession with all things with amazing scents”—that she was fully inspired to dive deeper into it. She started trying out different waxes, settling on soy-based as her preference.
“I am of the belief that scents play a great role in cultivating a tranquil and elevated state of mind. The candles I would smell in the store did not smell the same once they were taken home and lit,” she explained. “So, I went online and found a whole community of candlemakers."
What Staple-Brown was referring to is the term for how a candle smells in the store compared to when it burns at home: cold throw and hot throw. She claims that “hot throw,” or consistency between both experiences—what you smell before and during a candle burning—is key.
The candle makers group on Facebook, which was very collaborative and open to sharing their ideas, helped her learn all things “wax-in-ating”, like techniques with materials, temperatures and scents. Soon after, she shared her new creations with her friends at church, who fell in love with them!
In September 2020, Oh D’Luxe Candle + Co. was born. With her husband by her side, she knew she’d have some great support as she embarked on her mission to create candles that would satisfy her requirements for quality, appearance and an amazing scent profile.
“Throughout this journey of experiments and discovery I found a love and passion for this whole new world that opened up to me and what started as a hobby has now transcended into Oh D'Luxe Candle Company."
“What makes this work is that my husband loves chemistry,” she explained.
And, that’s what candle-making is all about. It’s not just about pouring wax and calling it a day. Ratios of wax to scented droplets, which wick works best for burn time and many other factors are things Staple-Brown considers when crafting her candles.
“Where my weakness is, that’s his strength,” she said. “And I thank God every day for it.”
Staple-Brown continues to learn and add to the Facebook group, giving back to the online community that was so giving to her. She also looks forward to giving back to her local community by teaching students about the candle making business once the pandemic passes. Oh D'Luxe Candles strongly believes in giving back—they actively donate a percentage of their profits each month to help offer educational opportunities to youth.
“Throughout this journey of experiments and discovery I found a love and passion for this whole new world that opened up to me and what started as a hobby has now transcended into Oh D'Luxe Candle Company,” shared Staple-Brown. “Remembering ‘our why’, we have fittingly employed the mission statement ‘to provide luxurious candles on a budget.’”
Oh D’Luxe Candle + Co was birthed from Staple-Brown’s inherent need to find something interesting to do during the pandemic, and was first supported by friends and family. Thanks to her new endeavor, playing with scents, wicks and waxes has now turned into a business.
“I have so many ideas where I want to see this business go,” she shared. “And I am thankful for everyone who has supported me.”
All Oh D’Luxe candles are hand poured in small batches to ensure that we provide quality products. Their ingredients are 100% American-grown soy wax, phthalate-free fragrance oils complete with lead free wicks to ensure a clean burn and amazing scents while also being non-toxic.
Find Oh D’Luxe Candle + Co. on Facebook and Instagram, or shop online at ohdluxecandles.com.
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