Kay Luttrell is the founder of UNLAX Candles, a company she started in 2019. Kay is active duty military, currently serving in the US Navy at Joint Expeditionary Base-Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Virginia. As part of both the Black and military communities, Kay has had friends and loved ones battle mental health issues and stress. Kay herself has struggled with anxiety, and one self-care practice that’s helped her personally has been the ritual of lighting a scented candle and setting aside time to relax.
After studying and researching the science of candle making, she launched UNLAX Candles in December 2019. From the start, UNLAX has worked with One Tree Planted, and makes a donation to plant one tree for every candle sold. UNLAX has seen increased sales in recent months, as more and more consumers prioritize support of Black-owned businesses.
UNLAX Candles creates high-quality and hand poured scented candles with a luxurious, minimalist twist. The candles are inspired by self-care therapy and are aimed to fill the mental and physical space of its customers with serenity and an abundance of calm.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
KL: Being an entrepreneur for me is about following your passion and purpose through serving others. It means blazing a new trail for yourself and your family. I am creating my own destiny in life through self-employment. It allows me to be the creative, free-spirit I was intended to be all while making the world a better place through my mission.
How did your company come to be?
KL: I was losing it. By ‘it’, I mean my mind. My anxiety was winning time after time. Six years of military stressors and carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders was starting to take a toll on my mind and body all at once. After seeking therapy, I learned that my anxiety was triggered by my inability to relax. Who knew something that sounds so simple was a hard thing to do?! I then started making candles as a hobby around the house and slowly started to incorporate them into my meditation routine. Both helped me tremendously. I knew at that moment I had to share this with others and that’s when UNLAX Candles was born. Those “Others” have now become my online family! As I always say, it’s the flame that soothes the soul.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
KL: I honestly don’t feel like I’ve had to make changes when it comes to my primary business model, which is a huge blessing. UNLAX Candles has seen tremendous growth, partly due to having a strong online presence. I rely on GoDaddy’s incredibly easy-to-use website builder to keep my business running smoothly and customers happy! Another aspect contributing to our growth is that UNLAX Candles is targeted towards unwinding and relaxing and during such an unprecedented time anything that can support your mental wellbeing is critical.
What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
KL: My proudest moment so far in my business is going viral on Twitter. Because of the mass support that arose for Black businesses in the past few months so many amazing opportunities have come my way that I wouldn’t expect until years down the line. I have been able to expand my reach not only to many states but also many countries including Canada, Australia, South Korea, and Germany.
How is your company changing the landscape?
KL: My company is changing the landscape by breaking taboos. We are normalizing the conversation around mental health and self-care. We want our online family to know that IT’S OKAY to take time and invest in ways that will support your overall wellbeing. Relaxation is often viewed as an indulgence in our fast-paced society, we’re always taught to be busy and sometimes even feel guilty for taking time to ourselves. However, relaxation is just as important as exercising and eating right in terms of ensuring you live a healthy life.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
KL: I find inspiration by looking back on my journey. It’s a huge motivation to reflect on where I started and to see where I am now when times get tough. My business has grown tremendously and its because of supporters like my online community, tools like GoDaddy and people relentlessly supporting small businesses at this time that make all the difference.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
KL: Success for me is having an amazing team of people around me working towards the success of the brand.
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