Black Excellence: Eco-friendly entrepreneurs promote self-discovery in a candle

Two young Afro-Caribbean women turn lessons from elders into a flourishing business
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Lighting a candle to settle down, decompress, and devote time to yourself is a ritual unlike any other. In its simplicity, there is peace and quietude that cannot be replicated.

Nautica Thompson and Tianna Robinson, co-founders and creative masterminds behind Nautana Co., want you to luxuriate in the lifelong process of self-discovery — but without breaking the bank. A portmanteau of their first names, Nautana is a Toronto-based environmental wellness brand selling eco-friendly coco-soy candles with scent profiles inspired by nature. Each candle has a unique personality, often named after things in life that are worth celebrating. 

“Our mission is to provide others the resources to allow them to reconnect with themselves through a holistic approach,” the website stated.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Nautana

Thompson, 24, is a photographer and creative director by trade. She is also a health and wellness enthusiast, having graduated from Humber College’s Fitness & Health Promotion program. Art and wellness have always been major elements of her life as Thompson uses gardening and photography as modes of meditation and creative self-expression. 

“I love to learn about the healing elements of nature,” she told INN24.

Nautica Thompson, co-founder of Nautana Co. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Nautica Thompson on Instagram) 

Likewise, Robinson, 24, kindles a passion for holistic practices in wellness and self-care. She has a special interest in aromatherapy and how it can be incorporated into a regular routine of looking after physical and emotional health. Robinson studied at the Marca College Hair and Esthetics and now works as a professional hairstylist, a position that allows her to flex her artistic muscles. 

“I find joy in creatively transforming hair into art,” Robinson said, “and ensuring clients are using the right tools to assist in healthy hair care.”

Tianna Robinson, co-founder of Nautana Co. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Tianna Robinson)

With their unique talents, the two young women banded together to create products that they are proud of, tools to facilitate the process of self-care and self-discovery for others. Thompson and Robinson started by looking inward, ruminating on how they cultivate self-love.

“Growing up, candles and aromatherapy were always a staple in our self-care practices,” Thompson and Robinson said. 

“After finding out about the toxic components of major candle companies, we wanted to find cleaner ways to still incorporate candles into our lives.”

We sat down with these two exemplars of Black excellence to find out more.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Nautana Co.

INN24: What motivated you to launch Nautana Co.?

NT & TR: We grew up in an Afro-Caribbean family. Our grandparents and community elders taught us the importance of honouring ourselves and nature. This idea was imparted through cooking, gardening, and creative forms of self-expression. Learning the importance of holistic living was a great privilege and a vital practice in self-care. We learned that we owe it to ourselves. 

For years, we planned and discussed creating something together, but the pandemic was what pushed us to finally launch. Life, especially now, can be chaotic and overwhelming. So, for us, candles have served as reminders to take a moment to pause. Due to all the benefits we have gained, we wanted to share what we learned with everyone else. 

INN24: What's your creative process when developing each candle?

NT & TR: The creative process for scent profiles is different for each collection. We reflect on the purpose and use, elements of nature and memories, for inspiration. Moods are our muses. Scents tied to memorable experiences can be healing. We wanted to create fragrances that would impact our clients by aligning good vibes to memorable experiences.

INN24: Atmosphere and personality are key components of Nautana Co. What inspires you?

NT & TR: Honestly, it’s the nature, colours and culture of Island life. The islands are all about good vibes and seeing positivity, even in the hardest times.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Nautana Co.

INN24: Part of your company's mission is helping customers reacquaint themselves with their own bodies and minds. Can you tell us more about that?

NT & TR: Sometimes we don’t even realize that our daily habits and thoughts can show up in other aspects of our health. We learned the seven dimensions of health in school: physical, spiritual, social, emotional, intellectual, environmental, and occupational. We believe that all pillars synergize for optimal wellbeing. For example, if one aspect is out of line, aliments can appear in other areas. 

Our scents and candle names hope to provide those affirmations and remind you to take time to check-in with yourself.

INN24: Can you share with us your journey of self-discovery?

NT & TR: As youths, we were always encouraged to explore our abilities. We were able to connect with and express ourselves through art, hairstyling, journaling, and gardening. We were fortunate to be able to find a support system through our community, and that camaraderie pushes us to grow. 

For us, self-discovery isn’t always so concrete because we are always in flux. We believe that self-discovery is constant and always unique to the individual, but it starts with becoming in tune with your body mentally, physically, and emotionally.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Nautana Co.

INN24: Your products are environmentally sustainable. Can you tell us more about your eco-conscious business ethos?

NT & TR: Our elders have always emphasized the importance of respecting our environment. Without our ecosystem, life cannot thrive. Since we are constantly using the earth’s natural resources, we feel it is our duty to replenish what has been taken. We realized that the topic of sustainability can be overwhelming and discouraging for those who aren’t as informed. We hope that our platform and products serve as a guide for others as they incorporate sustainable practices into their daily lives. 

Our homes are our temples. We spend most of our time at home — especially during the pandemic — so we thought, why not influence others to incorporate eco-consciousness into their living spaces? It is better for our health.

INN24: What were some challenges you faced when you first started your business? How did you overcome them?

NT & TR: We encountered hurdles from ideation to fruition to execution. Starting a business during the pandemic was challenging because we sourced locally-produced materials. Shortages caused our product development to take longer than we anticipated.

However, we learned to always have a contingency plan: mapping out all the possible obstacles that may arise during any stage of the customer journey. That way, we can be prepared and maintain composure when under pressure.

INN24: What advice would you offer to an aspiring entrepreneur?

NT & TR:

  1. Contingency planning and funding are key! 
  2. Network and never be afraid to ask questions. Platforms like Facebook, Clubhouse, Reddit, and Twitter are great places to find communities within your niche. 
  3. Invest in a planner and notebook! These tools are great for organizing your thoughts and enforcing time management. 
  4. Entrepreneurship can be gritty, hard, and lonesome. Even if it is once a month, schedule in a day that you can incorporate some form of self-care. 

INN24: Nautana Co. also curates Spotify playlists. Can you tell us more about them?

NT & TR: Nautana Playlists help us to evoke certain emotions and atmosphere for the listener. We know that our customers also love music, which can be a great way to fill in the empty space that we may be reluctant to embrace. We also want to show appreciation and use our platform as a tool for others to discover underground artists. 

We noticed that sound can influence our scent formulation process and vice versa. As musicians use sound as a form of self-expression, so can you. 

INN24: A big part of your brand is self-care. What does it mean to #indulgeinselfcare?

NT & TR: #indulgeinselfcare is a reminder to honour yourself. We want people to pay closer attention to their bodies and take the time to maintain healthy relationships with themselves. We hope that our products become staples in their self-care routines.

INN24: What are some self-care tips you can offer our readers?

NT & TR:

  1. Drink a glass of water when you first wake up. Your digestive organs will love you for it!  
  2. Gratitude exercises: In times of distress or even first thing in the morning, list a few things in your life that you are grateful for. Remember, small accomplishments are still accomplishments. 
  3. Try not to compare your self-care practice styles to others. For instance, if you meditate for only five minutes as opposed to your friend who can do it for an hour, hone in on the five minutes you do have.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Nautana Co.

INN24: The last year has been characterized by lots of stress and uncertainty. What are some ways to unwind during such turbulent times?

NT & TR:

  • Listen to music
  • Go for a nature walk 
  • Deep breathing or meditation 
  • Soak in a warm bath 
  • Journal 

A tribute to the #BlackExcellence hashtag, Black Excellence is a special INN24 series honouring the talent, innovation, and ingenuity of Black trailblazers who are weaving the tapestry of Black history today.

Wiki Production Code: A0645

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