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This Single Mother Got Laid Off & Started A Candle Business That Doubled Her Income

BOSS UP

There are some people who become entrepreneurs on purpose. They know that it means late nights, early mornings, and an inconsistent sleep schedule that nobody would envy. They acknowledge that it means taking risks to win where others only see failure, sacrificing time, money, and recreational freedom for a greater vision that money can't buy but that others can certainly (and preferably) invest in, and that it means being wrong more times than being right.

Yet knowing those things, they continue to dream of a life of being their own boss and creating solutions to the world's problems. Even if they can't take the leap right away, they spend years preparing for their big moment.

But for others, being an entrepreneur is neither planned nor desired—sometimes it's just a matter of survival, or in the case of Kristin Scott—founder of Gifts From A Virgo—divine intervention.

Photo Credit: DeMayne Earvin

If you were to ask the Youngstown, OH native what made her ditch her 9 to 5 and pursue a career in candle-making, she couldn't even tell you. But what she will tell you is that she wasn't even a devoted candle lover when she first started out on her new venture.

“I might buy the wall things from Bath and Body Works, but me burning a candle everyday? No, not at all," she says. “I don't know where it came from!"

In April 2012 the single mother was laid off from her job where she was overworked, underpaid, and miserable when the idea of starting a candle business came to her. Despite the uncertainty and lack of knowledge about the business, she chose to take a leap of faith instead of filling out another job application. She initially started searching for tutorials on YouTube, but soon realized that her research wasn't yielding enough information to know how to make the candles. The constant feeling of defeat became too much to bare, and she decided to call it quits soon after.

“I had somebody say it's not burning down right—it's not burning evenly, and there was no scent. That was like my first couple of months; then I stopped."

Yet she kept having this nagging feeling that somehow these candles were tied to her purpose. She confided her new business idea to a friend and was referred to a woman with her own successful candle business out of Detroit, who schooled on the basics of business such as coming up with her brand name and getting her LLC. Kristin then purchased her first 10 pounds of soy wax, fragrance, and five boxes of glass jars with just a few hundred dollars to her name.

But having a mentor didn't excuse her from the trial and error process of being an entrepreneur. Despite her newfound knowledge and research, the product, nor the smell, were coming together quite like she imagined.

Not willing to let go of her vision, Kristin took a trip to Detroit to pay a visit to her mentor in hopes of getting the first-hand information that she needed to make her candles burn without burning a hole through her pockets. This time she learned that seeing is different than doing, and no matter how many times she was shown the process, she still couldn't seem to master the right wax-to-fragrance ratio and left feeling like she gained no more knowledge than she came with. Once again, she caved in and gave up.

“I just was like, okay, forget it; I was just done again," she admits. “I don't know how many times I felt like that in that first year; I put so much time in."

This wasn't the last time that she would feel defeated, but it was the last time that she would quit.

Around September she once again got the urge to try again. She got back in the kitchen and kept making mistakes until she finally got it right.

“I think it was a good thing for me to learn my way through trial and error," she says. “I literally had to teach myself how to make them. You think you're doing everything right until you get that one honest person like this is not worthy. And then you've got to really go back in the kitchen and just try different methods, you know, so, basically I just really taught myself."

Confident that she finally had the perfect candles, Kristin began attended her first event in October 2012 to sell her deliciously fragrant soy-based candles. She'd light the match and watch the candles draw in buyers by the dozens. She admits that at this point she didn't view herself as an entrepreneur; in fact, she lacked knowledge about the product that she was selling. When a potential buyer came up to her and told her that she could make more money if she advertised that the candle could also double as a massage oil once the wax melted, she was shocked, and maybe even a little embarrassed, that this wasn't something that she was aware of when she began purchasing pounds of soy wax.

Gift from A Virgo candles have not only an amazing strong scent, but they also double as massage oils.

Once she began marketing her candles as massage oils, her sells dramatically increased, and she closed out her first year of business with almost $40,000 in revenue.

Taking her side-hustle seriously, she began researching the product and how to reduce her costs. At the time she was conveniently purchasing all of her supplies from her mentor, but the more her sales grew the more the profit-margin decreased, so she cut out the middleman and started purchasing her wax from a wholesaler.

“I probably wouldn't make that much of a profit because I'm buying from her. I'm buying 10 pounds of wax from her for $25, but 50 pounds of wax for $25 from a wholesaler. I didn't even know what kind of wax she was using. It's all learning; it's all growing. It's getting wiser on your business moves."

She also realized that there weren't enough hours in a day to be a full-time boss a full-time employee. Back in November 2012 she has picked up a job to pay the bills, and was burning the midnight oil trying to juggle her job and her business. But between traveling and attending events to promote her product, the businesswoman had to make a decision to leave her full time job, and in May 2014, almost two years after launching Gifts From A Virgo, began pursuing her newfound passion full time.

“I looked at it as, if I do this full time and it does not work I can always find another job, but I can't go to these events and I can't do as much as I want or get my company because I'm up 24 hours. Basically come home, making candles to two in the morning, getting up at 4AM or 5AM, getting my son up for school…it basically was like, Kristin you've got to just go for it and pray about it, so I did that."

With more time to dedicate to her business she began turning her attention to other ways to promote her product. It was after running into rapper T.I. at a restaurant in Atlanta that she realized that guerilla marketing and face-to-face communication did wonders for her brand and for her confidence. She had been watching the rapper for a few minutes before her friend encouraged her to approach him about her business. Nervous, she swallowed her pride and strolled up to him with her Mangolicious candle, ready to give her 60-second elevator pitch.

“Once I saw that he was cool and he wasn't like a mean person, I just kept going and telling him about my candles. He was perfectly fine, and he was actually really nice about it. He could've been like, 'girl get your butt out of here!' But he was perfectly nice and was like, 'well can I buy ten right now?'"

She didn't have ten candles on her, but she did pass him her business card not expecting anything to come of it. But when Shamra Rodriguez, best friend to T.I.'s wife, Tiny, and mother of Bahja Rodriguez of the OMG Girlz contacted her for candles, she was sure that it was because of her earlier conversation with the Atlanta artist.

Kristin and Keke Palmer

Kristin also begin reaching out to celebrities via social media and through mutual connections, getting her product in the hands of Keke Palmer, Lisa Raye, Tiffany Evans, and a number of other influencers including Karen Civil, who loved the candles so much that she requested them for her Live Civil Brunch in Los Angeles.

This past November, just three years after launching Gifts From A Virgo, Kristin announced the opening of her new storefront in Youngstown. It's not just a huge accomplishment for her, but for her hometown of people who are looking at her as a sort of heroine, and rightfully so given that the post-industrial city has seen a drastic decline in population, and thanks to high crime and poverty rates, has been compared to the cities such of Camden, New Jersey.

“Throughout my city we have killings like every day, and our city's so small. People look at me like, 'you're really doing it' and I don't even think I'm doing it! When a man comes to me and is like, 'you make me wanna drop the dope game; you make me wanna do some legit business,' that's an accomplishment."

She's not patting herself on the back without acknowledging her own skeletons. Growing up she admits to being the chick who would throw down in a heartbeat if you just looked at her wrong, not even letting a knife or gun wound keep her from getting scrappy. She credits her business to being the motivation behind her turning her life around, and helping her to make amends with former enemies who often show up to her events and ask to buy a candle, despite the animosity that once existed between them.

Photo Credit: DeMayne Earvin

“My candles have actually brought my enemies and me at peace."

"I've grown so much to the point where I'm so positive that I could shake any negativity off. I have too much to lose at this point in my life. Before I had a kid, but I didn't think. Now I think before I react to certain things."

It's ironic that Kristin, who admits that she never even had a passion for candles and no desire to even be an entrepreneur, is now shopping for an accountant for 2016, and hopes to eventually catch the attention of retail giants such as Wal-Mart to wholesale her products. It's even more ironic that she still can't tell you what made her even think to sell candles, and yet it's the one thing that's undoubtedly saved her life.

“My business has allowed me to grow and mature so much, and I've been able to have a better relationship with God. I was a lost person at one point in my life. My business, this is my everything right now. I put my all into this. I dedicate myself to this everyday of my life."

If that ain't God, I don't know what is.

To learn more about Kirstin's candles visit Gifts From A Virgo!

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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