When things go wrong, some people search for their favorite comfort food, others throw their hands up in defeat. For Brooklyn native, Yvette Gayle, lighting a candle does the trick. Gayle was 16-years-old when she made her first candle and realized there was true comfort in making them. But like many of us, Gayle put her hobby aside to chase the almighty dollar. She worked her way up to become one of the most powerful publicists in entertainment as the Vice President of Publicity at Interscope/Geffen A&M, and then realized it was time to launch her own business.
After two decades of guiding the careers of artists like 50 Cent and Mary J Blige, Gayle wanted to do more for herself and decided to turn her love for candles into a business venture. That’s when she created The Sitota Collection.
Sitota, which means gift, was named after her Ethiopian adopted daughter. Gayle’s candles were inspired by her extensive world travels and each of the candles have a robust, yet distinctive scent. But it was Gayle’s 7-year-old son, Mekhi who gave her the idea to turn her hobby into a business.
“I was in the kitchen one day making candles and my son came in and he said, ‘You know what mama, I think you ought to have a manufacturing plant for your candles.’ And I was like oh my goodness, you’re right!”
Gayle came up with Coco Noir, Aigyiptos, Havana and Blue Nile fragrances.
Coco Noir is the blend of coconut and Cassis, which triggers memories of vacationing in Thailand with her husband. Aigyiptos is inspired by Gayle’s extensive travel throughout Africa. The complex scent combines sandalwood, musk and vanilla. Havana–which has notes of teak wood, pepper and black tea–was an homage to her husband’s Jamaican roots and Blue Nile has an earthy aroma with traces of wild grass citrus and grapefruit.
Gayle admits to doing a lot of research in the beginning stages, which included visiting different fragrance houses, working with a perfumer and learning what scents and oils blend well together. But she was able to choose her scents through experimenting.
“A lot of it is just playing around. I just buy scents and oils and mix. Literally, the thousands and thousands of candles I’ve made simply happened because it was an experiment,” she said.
Unlike traditional candles, The Sitota Collection uses a soy wax, which leaves a smaller carbon footprint. Finding the time to create her candles has proven to be a challenge. But after a long day of work, and then tending to her children, Gayle admits making her candles have been therapeutic.
“It completely calms me down, ” she said. “I find that it relaxes me. When I’m stressed or when those people are having a bad day and making me have a bad day, I go light a candle.”
Gayle used her publicity knowledge and contacts to get her product to consumers. She was able to have her collection placed backstage at the 2014 Grammys, for example, and has also opened a store in Nigeria.
“I could’ve gone out and found a private label place, slapped my and my daughter’s name on it and gone from there, but that’s not my journey,” Gayle said. “This was all about my expression and love and gratitude to her. I’ve worked 20 years doing everyone else’s stuff. This is for me.”
Insert, “a diva is a female version of a hustler” joke.
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