OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Midlands African Chamber is holding a contest for small, minority businesses. Each participating company pitches its plan to a group of judges. The business with the best plan will win $10,000.
The Pitch Black contest is now down to five final contestants. One of the finalists is a business created by an attorney and a mental health therapist. As 3 News Now anchor Serese Cole reports, the two friends came together to create a luminous legacy for their daughters.
When it comes to hobbies, Kalisha Reed and Shereece Dendy-Sanders have had their fair share.
"We've done everything from stitching, knitting, crocheting, we started an advice column, we looked into a podcast and so it's always been two friends just spending time together," Reed explained.
The adventurous duo recently moved on to candlemaking.
"l love candles, right. Just to create an atmosphere, an ambiance. And so, I told Kalisha — I told her we can make a quality candle," Dendy-Sanders, said.
Last year the ladies took their newest hobby to the next level.
They created a candle company with a purpose.
"We started doing the candles and then the conversation turned into, 'We can make this our legacy for our daughters.' That's where the name came up — Islasimone Candles — to name the candle company after our daughters....to do this for them," Dendy-Sanders shared.
"I will be honest, I'm not so much into candles. I really love fragrances. And so Shereece was really persistent with the candles — like we can really make candles that are meaningful," Reed said.
Not only is the company named after their girls, all of their candle names are also a quality or characteristic they want to instill in their daughters — like Cherished and Wisdom.
Both candle makers came up with their own signature scent.
"Mine is Worthy," Dendy-Sanders stated. "I always want my daughter to know that she's here for a purpose. She's worthy. She's worthy of everything that she wants."
Kalisha's signature candle is Comfort.
"The candle is an oatmeal and honey fragrance," she explained.
Oatmeal is something her mother always made growing up.
"It gives me kind of those feeling of nostalgia from my mom. My mom died of breast cancer over 20 years ago, so the candle comfort was just something to remember my mother," Reed said with a smile.
Once they made the candles, they came up with a plan to sell them.
"We had the idea, 'Let's do a soft launch in December of 2020 and see how our candles would sell,' and we did that. We sold out at a craft fair and so we knew people believed in our candles," Dendy-Sanders recalled.
The goal now is to keep up with demand.
"Increase our inventory because individuals are calling, emailing...they want candles and we need to make more," she added.
Kalisha and Shereece say their candles may be small but they're mighty. They all have a burn time of ten hours.
"The wax is coconut wax and so that's the secret sauce to our candles. And the coconut wax provides a cleaner burn...a slower burn," Dendy-Sanders explained.
They now know more about candles than they ever imagined.
Two friends, now business partners — with one bright future.
"It's definitely something, I'm really happy, that we were able to do together," Reed said.
Right now, the Islasimone Candle line has four luxury candles and the ladies plan to bring back their holiday candle this winter. They also hope to create larger candles in the future. Each of their candles also comes with candle care and safety instructions. If you'd like to place an order, visit their Facebook or Instagram page. You can also find their line on Etsy. The candles are less than $10.
If you'd like to watch the final round of the Pitch Black competition in person, it will be held on August 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Omaha.
For a ticket to the event, go to the Midlands African Chamber's website.
KMTV's Serese Cole will be emceeing the finale.
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