When Tiffany M. Griffin began dating her husband, Dariel, in 2014, they discovered a shared love of candles. They began researching how to make their own and soon, a passion project was born.
But it was not until Tiffany found herself furloughed from her government job in 2019 that she decided to turn that passion project into a full-time pursuit. Bright Black Candles was incorporated as a business late last year, and things were off to a promising start. Then COVID-19 hit, forcing them to move their outdoor-market-based business to an e-commerce model.
As a small startup, a pandemic could have had dire consequences for the couple, but with more of their customer base quarantining, they noticed a small uptick in sales. Then, nationwide protests against systemic racism hit — which led to something Bright Black could not have possibly have predicted: a mention on a viral Twitter thread, which led to a mention on Beyonce’s website, which led to an astronomical spike in requests for hand-poured candles. Host Anita Rao talks to Tiffany M. Griffin about the wild ride she, Dariel and Bright Black Candles are navigating.
On Finding Out Bright Black Candles Was A Stop on Beyonce’s “Black Parade Route”
As has become her custom, Beyonce dropped a surprise single with a theme of Black empowerment on Juneteenth. In conjunction, she updated her website to include a curated list of Black-owned businesses nationwide. Bright Black Candles was included on that list, but Griffin had no idea that they would be. “We actually didn’t know that we were included on the list until well into the evening of Juneteenth when I finally looked at my phone and realized that I had about 60 DMs from various people who had seen the list and let us know that we were on the list.”
On Scent Artistry
Griffin says that Bright Black Candles’ mission is broader than just delivering scented candles to consumers as cozy home accents. She and her husband considered their hand-poured candles a way to deliver artistic messages to their customers. “Olfactory art — or scent as a medium for telling stories — is kind of understated or less recognized. We wanted to use scent as an artistic medium because you have to be fully present to experience it,” says Griffin. “It’s directly tied to memory. It undergirds taste in many ways. It’s a very powerful sense.”
On The Significance of The Ida B. Wells Candle
“This is the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage. Too often in this country, ‘women’ is conflated with white women. ... When people think of the social category of woman, they think of a white woman. When they think of women’s suffrage, they think of the contributions that white women made. We wanted to highlight the contributions that Black women made to women’s suffrage … so we leveraged this candle offering — the Ida B. Wells candle — as entree into this dialogue around voting and the importance of the contributions that Black women have historically made and continue to make to voting,” explains Griffin. “The scent notes are black tea, ginger and sage. We nicknamed that candle ‘Stay Woke.’ A lot of people understand the roles that Black female voters play in dictating and shaping elections in this country and the candle offering is a way to spark that conversation.”
On The Sudden Need to Scale Up, Post-‘Beyonce Bump’
A mention by one of the most famous women in the world can turn a new business upside-down. It is something Griffin and her husband are learning in real time, faced with a sudden need to meet a product demand much higher than they were managing less than two months ago. “There aren’t tons of examples of hundreds of percent of scaling in four days. Prior to the first week of June, our following were people who, through various pathways, came across our business, liked our story and were coming on our journey with us. In three days, we have this influx of literally thousands of people who don’t know us from Jane and are sort of just buying candles because Beyonce said it’s cool. ... While we’re incredibly grateful that, out of all the businesses to support, so many people chose us, we’re also mindful of the responsibility that comes with it,” says Griffin.