There is nothing more enchanting and educational than exploring other countries, islands and cities. The people, the food, the sounds and the scents become a part of you, forever leaving a mark in your heart and soul. This is a philosophy taken on by many, but is the embodiment of the cultural experiences that Teri Johnson has encountered throughout her many years of travel. Teri Johnson is a world traveler, co-creator, writer and host of Travelista TV, an online video network focused on travel, culture, lifestyle and entertainment around the world.
Inspired by her travels from the world, Johnson recently created Harlem Candle Company, a candle company inspired and transformed by the many scents she has experienced in her journey, but also paying homage to her hometown Harlem. Teri has traveled to over 55 countries, is multilingual and is a true adventure seeker. From hunting with the Kuku-Yalanji aborigines in Australia to trekking through the mystical Dogon country in Mali, nothing is off limits for this global citizen. So, it’s no surprise that Johnson’s scents range from Marrakesh to Bali.
BlackEnterprise.com spoke with Teri about her inspiration behind her line, Harlem Candle Co., the biggest challenges of entrepreneurship, and her favorite city in the world.
BlackEnterprise.com: What inspired you to start Harlem Candle Co.?
Teri Johnson: I’ve always loved fragrances. As a teenager I used my bathroom as a lab to concoct my own perfumes using flowers, oils, and anything that smelled good. As an adult, I started a love affair with luxury-scented candles whose fragrances were so unique that they would create lasting impressions. From my travels around the world with my company Travelista™, I became inspired and transformed by many scents and I knew I wanted my next endeavor to involve my passion for culture, candles and travel. I initially collaborated with a chemist on creating travel candles inspired by some of my favorite cities, but quickly realized that I should also create a collection of candles inspired by the place I love the most and consider home, Harlem. Thus, the Harlem Candle Company was created and has given birth to a few signature scents.
What led you to quitting your full time career in an effort to becoming a full time entrepreneur and travel enthusiast.
I quit my full time job as a consultant when I reached a point where I could no longer let my dreams sit on the shelf. I saved my money, took various classes, and joined different organizations that fueled entrepreneurial endeavors. I knew my dream job did not exist and I had a burning desire to create a life rich in travel, experiences, and building brands. Through my first business, Travelista™, I gained a lot of skills that helped me unlock my creativity, cultivate relationships and become my own boss.
Why is Harlem so special to you?
Harlem is special to me because of the people. There is a strong sense of community, pride and joie de vivre here. I enjoy walking down the street and saying hello to the local storeowners, café employees, street crossing guards and other Harlemites. It is particularly fascinating to me because it is so different from where I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. It is a neighborhood rich in history, style, architecture, and culture. I am fortunate to have been a homeowner in Harlem for the past 10 years and love sharing my neighborhood with friends from different parts of the city and from all over the world. The ability to combine my love for Harlem with my passion for scented candles through the Harlem Candle Company is a dream come true.
How have other places inspired the line?
There are quite a few cities around the world that inspire me and I felt like I needed to share the essence and energy of these places through a scented candle. Under the Harlem Candle Company brand, I’ve created a collection of Travelista Candles inspired by places including Bali, Cape Town, Marrakesh, Martinique, Capri, and Rio de Janeiro. My chemist and I collaborated on creating scent combinations unique to certain places like Moroccan jasmine, Spanish bergamot and patchouli which are the base notes in the Marrakesh candle.
If you could choose one, what is your favorite city?
Besides NYC, my favorite city is Florence, Italy. I love the Italian language specifically spoken with the Florentine accent. The culture, lifestyle and pace in Florence is wonderful, stylish, and relaxing. Dining there can be an all night affair and is best enjoyed with a large group a friends which is the norm. I find the restaurant owners extremely charming especially when I speak Italian while placing my order.
What have been your biggest challenges in starting your own company and how do you work to overcome them?
My biggest challenges are: 1) having limited start up capital and 2) limited manpower. I have been in the habit of funding each of my passions/businesses with money made from previous endeavors. I know there is limited growth by doing it this way, but it has always been important to me to prove the viability and effectiveness of the business. I recently partnered with a small team of brand and digital strategists who are helping me take Travelista™ and the Harlem Candle Company to the next level.
Why is traveling the world so important?
I believe it is important to travel the world to gain different perspectives, become more open-minded and to explore the wonderful elements from other cultures and lifestyles. I strongly believe in the transformative power of travel. We experience a range of emotions when we travel thus exercising different parts of our brain that respond to foreign language, smells, tastes and environments. The feelings and memories created through travel last a lifetime on both a conscious and subconscious level which fuel creativity and self-awareness, which ultimately enhance the way we live.
Are there future plans to open a brick and mortar location for Harlem Candle Co.?
Currently there are no plans to open a Harlem Candle Co store but the online shop is always open. I will continue to sell at pop-up shops and farmers markets in the NY area and I plan to have the candles in a few select stores around the country.
What’s next for your business and brand, Travelista Teri?
Travelista Teri will continue to live online as a travel and lifestyle web series on various platforms including Youtube, AOL, Kollide TV, Blinkx, etc. I plan to have my Travelista Candles in concept stores, spas and airport gift shops around the world. I have also been in talks with a few TV production companies regarding my own show. Stay tuned.