Success Stories

All Hail the Candle Queen

Laetitia Mfamobani, known as The Candle Queen, is the Founder & CEO of Eliana Fragrance, where she celebrates the feminine spirit with handcrafted candles that spark beautiful memories and create emotional connections.

Laetitia is called “The Candle Queen” for good reason. The storied journey that has led her to claiming this celebrated title as the Founder & CEO of an artisan candle company began well before she arrived in Vancouver, B.C. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, Laetitia was always helping her mother run various businesses, from a snack bar to rental properties. This planted the seeds of entrepreneurial ambition early in her life. However, the road to success was bumpy and filled with a multitude of obstacles, including one that nearly caused her to give up on the passion that sparked Eliana Fragrance all together. “As I was growing up, I was very good in science... Especially chemistry and math… Losing my sight did not allow me to pursue that area. So, when I'm playing with oils, that little chemistry fulfills [me]... I may not be in school studying chemistry and math, but I can do something here, because you play with measurements, you play with the chemistry of each oil...” she explains.

Eliana Fragrance fuses Laetitia’s passion for chemistry with her dedication to celebrating femininity. She knows what women want, and this shines through in every aspect of her business, from the creativity of the branding to the high-quality precision of production.

It’s not every day that you meet business owners who are able to form such a deep connection with the products they sell. This connection was forged when she moved to a new city. “I had no English, but [was] taking my ESL [English as a Second Language) classes. I had no friends, I had no family. So, I was really lonely. And because of that, I fell into a depression. After a little while, I began to burn incense. By nature, I’m a perfume lover, [I have] always loved perfume since childhood. I began to explore the world of incense. And I [had] realized that whenever I burned those little vanilla incenses at night, it really elevated my mood. And then from incense, I graduated to scented candles,” she recounts. This was when her idea of making candles really started to take shape.

Let’s talk about the business

When Laetitia began exploring this emotional connection with candles, she discovered something that laid the foundation for her business. “They were expensive, and I was not working. So, I decided to learn how to make [candles]... I started it as a side hustle, sending [them] to friends, and you know, just people around me. Then one day, I realized that most of the people who buy soy and scented candles are women, and according to statistics, it's like 70 to 80% of them are women. Then when I looked online, there [were] no [companies] that really celebrated these women, instead, [there are] many companies that are working so hard to attract men. So, I thought to myself, well, I know exactly what good scented candles can do to somebody... I'm going to create my own company and dedicate my company to celebrating femininity,” she says.

An artisan company through and through, Eliana Fragrance is Laetitia’s love letter to women across Canada. “[We make] unique, natural and highly-scented candles with memorable names and dedicated to celebrating femininity. Each blend is carefully made to reveal a woman. Because I strongly believe that women are like flowers. And we love to be pampered, we love to be taken care of, we love to feel special. At Eliana, we make candles that speak directly to our soul, so, to who we are as women. We make candles that literally create little personalities, candles that tell a story, candles that make an emotional connection with us, [and] candles that trigger good memories,” she explains.

By recognizing that women seek products that speak directly to them, she infused her candles with scents that would evoke emotion, stories and moments of self-care bliss for each and every one of her customers. Each time a customer burns an artisan candle from Eliana Fragrance, what they will feel, remember, and experience will be completely different than another customer who has purchased that same candle. This is all part of the unique impact Laetitia is able to make with her products. “When you look at the diversity of scents in flowers, that's how women are, we are a huge diversity of people. So that's how I began to make the connection between women, flowers and scents. I realized some women have sweet personalities just like Maple Butterscotch. Some are energetic, just like Vanilla; we have some who have this calm personality, just like Lavender and Chamomile. That's how it all started and now we are able to create little mini-personalities,” she describes. 

Laetitia has a bank of recipes, many of which she plans to release in time. She spends her time developing products in the kitchen, making the lovely blends that Eliana Fragrance has on offer today.


Laetitia Mfomabani

[Image description: Laetitia Mfomabani, CEO & Founder of Eliana Fragrance, on a TV show set in Quebec giving a demonstration while blending oils to make into scented soy candles.]

As for the name of the company, and why she deliberately did not pluralize it, Laetitia explains, “Eliana is a woman, [it’s] a girl’s name, and there is one Eliana with one personality. So, ‘Fragrance’ here refers to who you are, your soul, the soul of the person, and that's why I always feel like women should see themselves as the company itself, because each woman has her scent, each woman is represented. Eliana represents one particular woman, and Fragrance represents that particular woman’s personality… It can be Laetitia Fragrance, it can be Meghan Fragrance. So, it's one Meghan, one personality. That's where the name came from.”

How the business has impacted her life

Many business owners tell the story of how their successful side hustle turned into a full-blown business, and the circumstances that led to this transition. Laetitia has one of the most memorable founder stories out there. Now that she can call it an established business, she reflects on how it has impacted her life. “Owning a real business has impacted my life positively. It has brought back my hopes. For somebody who was born and grew up in Africa, I lost my sight very early due to a medical mistake. I was kicked out of the school system right after elementary school just because they could not accommodate me... I was literally considered somebody who has no structure, because there was no way for me to go back to school… There was no future for me, it's almost like I was condemned to remain in my parents’ house,” she recounts. “Even after moving to Canada, life did not really change because, as we all know, people with disabilities are still experiencing lots of challenges in this country,” she says.

Then something extraordinary happened. She met her mentor. “As soon as I met him, he saw in me what I could not see anymore. He saw in me a smart person. And somebody has strength, who has ambition, who can do anything she wants to do. And right away, I remember that day, he called me in his office, and he said, ‘You are too smart to be sitting at home. Bring your resume, we're going to help you to find a job,’” she remembers.

Later on, after she had found a job, her mentor called her into his office once more and said to her, “‘This is not enough for you, you have too much energy and strength, go start a business.’ So, that's how the whole idea of [a] business started. And even at the time I started, I still was not sure that it was going to work, but with time and his encouragement, and people helping me throughout, gradually my [hope came] back. And now, believe me, there is nobody who can tell me it’s not going to work, work because I know it's working. Just by the feedback that I get from customers, I know I have quality products,” Laetitia says.

Advantage Print & Design Carol Bulford

[Image description: Eliana Fragrance’s Laetitia Mfamobani lighting a handcrafted soy scented candle with a match and showing only her hands.]

3 ways partnering with Community Futures BC helped Laetitia thrive

  1. Worked to put her idea on paper with a solid business plan
  2. Allowed her to develop the skills she needed to manage and scale the business
  3. Helped her secure funding

How Laetitia overcame barriers on her entrepreneurial journey

As a business owner with disabilities, she has encountered a barrage of challenges along the path to success. ”For me, as a blind person, it's sometimes even more [challenging]... My business is a visual business. So, I need to always upgrade pictures and update the website, and that’s already an issue. And also, most platforms are not fully accessible to screen-reader users. [That] became another issue... When it's not really accessible, it becomes very challenging,” she says. She sees these first few obstacles as ones she can easily overcome, then she proceeds to detail a mindset that signals a larger, more systemic issue in the business sector. She then shares how bias and discrimination have impacted her bottom line, “[A barrier] that is still an issue, even till today, is being able to change people’s mindsets toward people with disabilities, especially toward blind people… Many times I tried to, like, establish partnerships with some stores, [and] instead of store owners [looking] at the quality of the product that I'm offering, most of the time, and I will say, all of the time, they look at me as a person... Most of the questions I usually get [are] like, ‘Oh, but you can’t see, how can you make these candles?’ [and] ‘Oh, but I'm not quite sure about the quality.’” With a focus on who she is rather than on the marketability of her product, Laetitia has seen the impacts these biases have had on her profits. Her message to store owners is clear and confident, “Having a disability doesn't mean you cannot do something, right? And as I always say, ‘Yes, I might be blind, but my brain is still working.’”

While many would crumble in the face of this magnitude of adversity, Laetitia’s inner strength and ambition keeps her driving forward. Her advice and encouragement to entrepreneurs and professionals facing both small and sizable challenges in their working life is inspirational. “I do not believe in impossibility. I strongly believe in the power of trying to find ways to overcome challenges. Whenever I face challenges that have to deal with my disability, I always step back and think. There is power in thinking. Think and try to create a plan B, C, D, E, and try all of them… Until you find the one that helps you to overcome the challenge. And giving up too early because you tried once and it's not working, it's not good… Always take time to think, and do not rush,” she advises.

In the uber-visual digital world, where social media’s image-obsessed feeds pose a challenge for those with vision impairment, Laetitia follows her own advice. “My business is highly visual. As a blind person, it looks impossible. I've tried a lot of ways to be able to convince people that even as a blind person, I can do something right… Because I can't do it on my own, [I have to] hire somebody to do the remaining work, because that's the only way I can overcome the barrier,” she says.

When she connected with Community Futures, she was very specific about her needs. She details how they helped her in a few significant ways, “The first way was to help me [write] a comprehensive business plan, which is essential to be able to build a real business. And also… I'm getting the skills that I need to be able to manage the business through business coaching. And the other thing... I desperately needed some funding to be able to update my website and get all the materials that I need to be able to launch properly. But also to get the tools that I need to be able to expand.”

What Laetitia loves the most about what she does

Not only are her scented soy candles able to light up a room, they have aromatherapy qualities. “I know that this product has the capacity to elevate someone's mood. These are products that help all these beautiful women across the country to remember [those] good moments of the past; a product that has the capacity to make them feel special, to make them feel pampered, to help them to enjoy that little quiet moment just for themselves,” she reveals. 

Those who have heard her story are forever changed. And this ability to inspire others is what fuels her love for her business. “I don't know how many times I've had people emailing me about it... I remember one girl emailed me sometime ago, and she said, ‘I heard about your story and I feel like, if you can do this, I can do better because I have no disability.’ So, I work to help women [to feel] special. But in [another] way, I also know that in our communities, there are so many people who are discouraged, who feel like they cannot make it any more. So, I feel like when I succeed, I also help other people to succeed to rise up and take care of themselves,” she says with a heartwarming smile.

The exact moment she felt the most proud of her business.

Her business has always been a source of pride. Even before she had created her first product. Though, the moment Laetitia felt the most proud of how far she had come was the day she was contacted by Unis TV - TV5 Unis, a French-language specialty channel, to appear on one of their lifestyle shows. “I was contacted by ‘Tournée Générale’ a show on Unis TV, to be featured on International Women’s Day. I was contacted not because I have a disability, but because of what my business stands for. It was both a moment of recognition, and a confirmation that I am doing something special,” she explains.

Here’s what Laetitia learned about her business amid the pandemic

Bringing many businesses to a grinding halt, the pandemic also impacted Laetitia’s business in significant ways. “The pandemic slowed down my efforts to have my beautiful products in local stores. It prevented me from attending craft shows, et cetera,” she explains. “I did learn to be more creative in reaching out to more women,” she says on a positive note.

What’s next?

Laetitia is a natural-born storyteller. Every time she tells her story, it speaks to someone in meaningful ways. She encourages those who want to learn more about her story and her work to, “Go to the webstore [and] follow the company on social media. Also, contact me for any feedback or just for a little chat as I am always ready to hear what will make a treat-like candle for anyone,” she offers.

I strongly believe that my product will be on shelves [this year]. So, I need to be ready, I need to get the equipment that I need to be able to scale… [Community Futures has] helped, and are still helping.”

 

Contact

Community Futures British Columbia
C230-7871 Stave Lake Street
Mission, BC  V2V 0C5
  1-604-289-4222
 

About Community Futures

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