When thinking about this next class for Saturday School, I wanted to focus on the idea of networking with your peers. Many people strive to network with people that are in the positions they want to be in, instead of checking for their peers who are on the rise. With that in mind, I scoured the internet and chose people that personally inspire me. After one quick DM and email exchange, this led me to my first interviewee, Brittney Winbush creator of Alexandra Winbush.
Before I became a candle owner myself, I had seen the carefully crafted and aesthetically pleasing candles all over Instagram. Instead of admiring from afar, I decided to interview the woman behind the brand. I met Brittney at her apartment in Brooklyn and as soon as I walked in I felt like I had walked into a life size Pinterest board. From the cute art throughout the apartment to the carefully curated office space, I was inspired. Seeing the thought she puts into making a space feel like a home you can tell she puts that same energy into her brand. With only being in business for a year, Alexandra Winbush has garnered quite the following. We discussed what it really takes to be in business for yourself and how to successfully grow a brand within a market that is slowly becoming saturated.
Why did you decide to name your company Alexandra Winbush? I know your last name is Winbush.
My middle name is Alexandra, it comes from my mom’s maiden name Alexander. I feel like the name is all encompassing and timeless, I can turn it into anything.
The name definitely caught my eye, especially on the packaging. Do you design the packaging yourself?
No, two of my best friends are graphic designers. Shema did the boxes, where she sketched leaning candles on them. A lot of people don’t know that but now you won’t be able to unsee it. My friend Ashley did the logo and candle label. I designed the website and the tea labels.
They look great! I feel like packaging is so important. It clearly drew me in [laughs].
It is! I just wanted to take my time to figure it out especially with a new brand.
So do you distribute everything out of your apartment?
Yes, so right now I hand package everything myself and ship it out. But I’m about to stop doing that because it’s not convenient.
You pay for the shipping and everything?!
Yes, I do. It’s crazy [laughs].
That sounds like a huge feat. I always wonder how that works when you go into business for yourself. As you can tell, I’m clearly very interested [laughed]. Who manufactures your candles? Is it mass production?
No, the current team that makes the candles are women based in Miami but for the new fall collection I’m working with a group of women in Atlanta who hire homeless girls in need of jobs. I try to work strictly with women. Even with the teas, I work with women farmers.
Women definitely need to stick together and continue supporting each other. I think it’s cool that that’s a big part of your business as well. How did you come up with the different scents for your candles and different flavors for your teas? I feel like that’s the hardest part.
At first I ordered a bunch of everything and smelled everything. I started with candles so I had to smell a lot of oils and fragrances and then had my friends tell me their favorites as well. For example, Window Seat is my most popular candle but I’m not a huge fan of it personally! But that’s Chandler, Skylar and Shema’s favorite.
Once I figured out the candle scents, I searched teas that matched them. For the September 6th candle the scent is Moroccan Amber but the tea is an spiced apple chai. It’s not spot on but it gives the vibe I was looking for.
Going back to the origin of the brand. What made you want to start this?
I came up with this idea in December.
Wowwwww! That’s amazing!
Yeah! That year I had wanted candles for my birthday and no one gave me candles but my brother got me candles for Christmas and it inspired me to make my own line.
Thinking on my relationship with candles, my sophomore year of college the house I grew up in burned down. I didn’t like my college at all so at the time I lived at home, worked in Atlanta and commuted to school. So when my house burned down I went into a full blown depression. To help heal, I looked into natural teas that would increase endorphins to help. In order to make my space at school feel like home, I would drink teas, light candles and listen to music. So when I decided to start Alexandra Winbush I wanted to incorporate those three things because that’s what was healing to me. I wanted the brand to be about self healing, self love and self reflection.
That’s beautiful. We get a lot of messages about seasonal depression and depression in general and I feel like some approaches aren’t as effective and I think yours is an organic way of receiving it.
Yes I want people to naturally take care of themselves and check in on themselves. You might not even realize that when you brew some tea and lay down and listen to music that you’re contributing to positive mental health.
I agree! I feel like we all go through it to some extent and we don’t even know because we’re moving so fast, especially in New York.
It’s getting so much better now. It was harder when the image of depression and anxiety didn’t look like a normal person, but it is a “normal” person. It’s the girl who looks like she has it all together, is fly on Instagram, has friends and travels, but she’s depressed. Depression doesn’t discriminate. That’s why I’ve always been so transparent online about my anxiety and depression because I don’t want someone to look at me and be like “I want to be just like Brittney” no you don’t. You want to be just like you. I rather people see what I go through and realize that it’s okay.
I think that’s a super important message to continue relaying to people. Especially in the Instagram age. But going back to the business side of things, I know to make money you have to spend a lot of money. How do you finance your company?
Credit cards. It’s all credit cards. My parents are extremely helpful and supportive but as far as my products those are all on credit cards that I’m paying back.
I’m always fascinated by that because people are doing it! I never think I could because I personally don’t have it [laughs].
I’ve applied for grants but nothing has hit yet but I am excited for quarter four because sales usually double. With the new fall line, my profit margin is going through the roof. With my current collection my profit margin sucks so making money is hard.
So you just started last December and I see you have a huge following, how did you gain that following?
People have always kept up with me on social because I used to have a blog. Me and friends are always dropping different projects and we’re just talkers so everywhere I go I interact with people and that’s how I’ve gotten a lot of followers. So when I dropped Alexandra Winbush people were shocked. I have a large group of influential people who follow me so I immediately sent them products and I think that helped a lot. For example, I gave Cindy the owner of Chillhouse one. Also Kristen Crawley, Don C’s wife, is obsessed with September 6th. I think people haven’t seen anything like my brand before and I think that’s cool.
I agree! I didn’t know you but I had seen your candles on different people’s Instagram stories so I was immediately intrigued about the person behind the candles. Speaking on cross promotion, who are some of your peers that you admire?
I’ve been very fortunate that I am genuinely fans of my best friends. They are all killing it. Skylar is hand making her own lingerie line, Chandler has a sex and relationship blog, Ashley is a graphic designer and a full-time mom and Shema is a nurse as well as an amazing illustrator. I think other people look up to them and I’m just fortunate that they’re actually my girls. It’s so rare and I get chills thinking about it!
It’s always great when your friends can truly serve as an inspiration for you! Outside of your own business what are some of your favorite black owned businesses?
Base Butter! Radiate changed my skin. When my bottle runs out I get so sad. I love her, I love the rebrand and I love how they communicate with their audience. Also, As You Are Intimates which is Skylar’s lingerie line coming out.
So what’s next for Alexandra Winbush?
I’m releasing a fall line, a Christmas set and a birthday set. Majority of the proceeds will be going to a mental health program for kids of color. I’m also doing a for guys only set, I don’t think I’m going to launch that until New Years. So that’s six candles I’m coming out with!
Well I’m excited because those are great gifts for people! Last question, if you could give advice to high school you what would you say?
Wow what wouldn’t I tell myself. I would tell young Brittney “it won’t even matter so don’t waste your energy.” also learn about budgeting now!