They say that God works in mysterious ways—both in the face of our greatest losses and biggest wins. And while the road to uncovering the reason and ‘why’ behind such marvels may seem dim, what’s later relieved often lights the path to our purpose. And thus was the case for Brittney Winbush, founder of the breakout candle brand, Alexandra Winbush (AW).
Photo Cred: Mark C. (Mark Clemmons @mark.c)
After experiencing a house fire during college, much of what Brittney called home was unrecoverable. “I was like, why did this happen? Why did it happen in my room? Why was I the only person that lost something?” she tells xoNecole. As the aftermath of the fire brought on waves of anxiety and depression, Brittney began to reestablish a sense of stability back into her life through her sacred self-care trinity: music, tea, and candle making. “Now I have this routine. Now I'm tapped in, open, and happy to talk about my journey with anxiety and depression,” she says. “I found comfort in candles and tea and music, and I was able to build a business out of it.”
What came from the ashes was a brand that’s rooted in self-care and grounded by an ever-growing community that’s found a safe place to land during life’s toughest moments. “I always say that AW is for your bad days,” she shares. “Everybody's bad day isn't a house fire, but it could be a rough day at work, tension in your relationship, or what none of us saw coming: a global pandemic that puts you in the house for a year. I create products for those days.”
Photo Cred: Mark C. (Mark Clemmons @mark.c)
Supplying a product that allows her customers to take a load off, this wellness founder has found her sweet spot. Through her curated playlists, aromatic candle line, and teas, Brittney is proving that peace of mind and ease can be found in the small moments we make for ourselves. “The combination of escaping with scent, sitting down with a cup of tea, and enjoying whatever music I want in that moment, feels like the perfect three,” she says.
And as she embarks on a new chapter in life, having recently celebrated her 30th birthday, Brittney is confident that wherever it leads her, she can always return to the home within.
“I thought at 30, I needed to be somebody else. But now that I'm here, I'm happy with who I am,” she reflects. “I'm leaning into the newness of, ‘hey, I thought I needed to have it all figured out,’ but I don't — and that's actually exciting.”
“I'm excited to figure it out and be on this next part of my journey and see what the next decade brings for me.”
xoNecole: As someone who is in the business of self-care, how has your relationship with self-care evolved since starting your business and what does it look like for you today?
Brittney Winbush: Self-care is ever-changing for me. I always say the biggest form of self-care is listening to yourself. There's no one particular practice, although I do have the things that I always can go back to, on any given day, I might need something different. Some days I need to get on the phone with my mom and talk about whatever or nothing at all, other days I need to close my laptop and only do things that make me happy. I’ll go to yoga or the spa.
The best form was self-care is me being honest and listening to myself when I want to do nothing, ask for help, or be alone to pray. It's listening to those things and doing it.
Photo Cred: Skylar Marshai (@skylarmarshai)
xoN: In the age of social media, entrepreneurship can be so glamorized and highly curated. But what would you say is something that has been a challenge for you to adjust to on your journey, and what have you learned from it?
BW: As a small business in the digital age, really big things happen really fast. You could be having slow sales one day, and then the very next day, Issa Rae can post about your business and you can have the most amount of orders that you've ever had. Because you're a small business, and it's so insular, the moment eventually goes.
So take time to revel in those things that happen, because when other things come in, it'll just be a moment that passes. It's okay to sit in those moments and take them in because when you let them pass you might not be thinking about the lessons or the celebration part—but take in every moment, big and small.
“It's okay to sit in those moments and take them in because when you let them pass you might not be thinking about the lessons or the celebration part—but take in every moment, big and small.”
I’m literally in church talking to God asking Him to guide me in my business, take lead & just give me a push because I’ve been feeling off lately. I grab my phone to take notes from the sermon & see this notification from ISSA FREAKING RAE. pic.twitter.com/C9cC43rl5q— Brittney 🕯 (@voguebritt) August 18, 2019
xoN: Speaking of Issa Rae, back in 2019, you got a major shoutout from her highlighting your "September Sixth" candle. What did your now-viral moment teach you about the power of preparation?
BW: I think sometimes with a business, especially a small, Black business, and with the lack of capital that Black businesses have in the playing field, that we start at such a different place than a lot of other businesses. There's only so much you can prep for sometimes. There are certain things you don't know until it happens.
The best thing you can do is be prepared for flexibility. I feel like I held on to the moment as best as I could and got the orders out. But oh my gosh, that was like a hell of a time. I felt bad for my roommates, they couldn't walk through our apartment because orders were everywhere. I was shipping further than I ever had before. Candles are breaking in transit. Those are things I couldn't prepare for because you don’t know until you know. The most I could do was be prepared to be flexible, be prepared to learn, and then be prepared to be transparent along the journey.
Photo Cred: Mark C. (Mark Clemmons @mark.c)
xoN: You have such a solid, supportive group of friends in your circle. As a creative, how has your community played a role in the growth and trajectory of your business?
BW: Oh my gosh, it's everything. AW is nothing without our community. A part of that is my really close friend circle and the way that they've supported and helped me with this business every step of the way. From the very beginning, AW has been community-driven, and I think that stemmed from my own personal brand and community that I had before I launched AW. There was a community of people that already trusted me because before I had products I still talked about the house fire, my anxiety and depression, and things I was doing for myself—so they already trusted me.
Once we built AW, the community grew with people that were open to sharing bad days and good products.
xoN: One of the things I admire about your brand is that the aesthetic and design all feel like an extension of who you already are as a person. What tips do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to create a product or service that fits their passions and lifestyle?
BW: If what you're trying to do is a medium of self-expression and a part of the passion you have, then you have the biggest tool already there. Start with what you have. It's okay to put in the groundwork silently. It's okay if you even do it loudly, but no one's paying attention. But just start with the little things in whatever you have. And if you're building something out of love and passion and a reflection of you, it's going to attract the right people. You just have to put yourself out there and lean into your resources and your people.
"If you're building something out of love and passion and a reflection of you, it's going to attract the right people. You just have to put yourself out there and lean into your resources and your people."
There’s this Issa Rae quote where she talks about how sometimes people are trying to network up but you need to network laterally. There are people right next to you who are doing amazing things and are killing in their industry. Link up and create.
xoN: Overall, I think we’re all pretty excited about what’s to come from your brand. What can your supporters expect from Alexandra Winbush this year?
BW: You can expect to see us a lot more in public. We'll be celebrating our five-year anniversary in April, which I'm really excited about. We also have a brand new candle coming out in February. It's called “Plum Wine.” It's incredible. I'm obsessed with it. So expect new products throughout the year that we'll be putting out and we’ll have some in-person events so we can get back around each other and love on each other as a community.
For more of Brittney, follow her on Instagram @voguebritt. Shop Alexandra Winbush here.
Featured image by Mark C. (Mark Clemmons @mark.c)