RACINE — Shakeeus Graves knows that sometimes, a scent can make or break a first impression of home.
That’s why her house always smells good, often thanks to her own candle and wax melt creations. Graves is the owner of Black Essence Candles, an online candle company selling homemade home fragrances.
“I’ve always loved buying candles and burning candles,” said the mom of two. “I was always burning candles, but they never really lasted long. And so I started making them and testing them to see if I could make my own scents.”
Signature scents include CoCo Cashmere, warm vanilla musk; Kingston Sunrise, fruity and tropical; 90’s Cartoons, reminiscent of sweet cereal; and Man Cave, woodsy and clean.
Her candles can be purchased at www.blackessencecandles.com, or locally at Perennial Soaps, 316 Sixth St. in Racine, and Shonda Locs, 1341 52nd St. in Kenosha. Graves also often attends craft fairs in surrounding areas; she typically announces her future stops at Facebook.com/BlackEssenceCandles.
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Black Essence is not Graves’ first business venture. She previously sold jewelry for another company for some time. But Black Essence is the first one she has been able to create from the ground up herself.
“I wanted to do something myself,” she said. “My own rules, my own labels, my own blends. It’s something I’m passionate about and enjoy.”
Graves, a Park High School graduate, is a full-time social worker in Racine County. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, then pursued her master’s degree in social work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As far as making candles goes, she was only an enthusiast before she jumped into creating her own in March 2020. After perfecting the process of candle-making, which she said can be very tedious and full of trial and error, she began making sales in November of that same year.
“You have to get the right wicks, you have to make sure the jars work,” Graves said. “It was a long testing phase, because you want to make sure it’s right.”
Graves named her company “Black Essence” after her identity and culture as a black woman, a concept also applied to some of the scents. For example, Kingston Sunrise was modeled after the vibe of having a fruity drink in Jamaica.
“I’m proud of it,” she said.
Outpouring of support
When her business was just starting, Graves mostly sold candles to family and friends. Since her business has picked up from attending local craft fairs and selling online, she has had customers from all over the country interested in her candles.
“It’s a one-woman show” of candle-making, Graves said, except for when her mother, Pattee, helps her at craft fairs or her boyfriend helps her create a scent. So it’s gratifying when new customers recognize her work, especially when a majority of what she knows is self-taught.
“I do feel empowered that I’m able to everything and just learning everything myself in having my own business,” Graves said.
Pattee said she feels proud whenever she witnesses customers give positive feedback at craft shows. There are some customers who even follow the pair across the county just to buy Shakeeus’s candles.
“It’s something we do as a mother and daughter,” Pattee said. “We get a lot of compliments. It makes me feel proud. (Shakeeus) goes the extra length to make sure the candles smell good, and burn well.”
In photos: African American Chamber of Commerce hosted business expo over weekend
Members of the AACCGR
Big City Brims
A purchase at Plush Clothing
2 Swift Suits
Bling & Things LLC
Black Essence Candles
Cops ‘N Kids Reading Center
Buses and pencils
Cassandra Sweet Breads
Harper Tax & Financial Literacy Group
M. Dika Dermatology
Women in healthcare
Relay For Life
Professional Women’s Network for Service
Urban League of Racine and Kenosha
Racine Family YMCA-George Bray Branch
Greater Racine County/Business Lending Partners
Rob’s Fragrance Oils
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