Teri Johnson is bringing a piece of Harlem into homes across the globe

Teri Johnson has an ongoing love affair with native Harlem, New York...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Teri Johnson has an ongoing love affair with her native Harlem, New York.

So, after traveling across the globe, Johnson decided to pay homage to the one place that’s always had her heart.

Johnson created Harlem Candle Company, a luxury candle company inspired and transformed by the many scents she has experienced in her travels while also paying homage to her hometown. The line honors the old and new Harlem Renaissances and aims to take people on a ‘journey’ of the more than 55 countries Johnson has visited.

Johnson’s Harlem Candle Co. is the manifestation of her passion for trying new fragrances and obsession with travel. Each candle is specially handcrafted using top-grade soy blend wax and infused with one-of-a-kind fragrance oils designed by a team of globally-recognized expert perfumers.

Get to know Harlem Candle Company from Teri Johnson below:

What year were you founded?


What inspired you to launch your business?

I’ve been a fragrance-obsessed consumer of luxury candles for many years. In 2013, I decided to experiment with making my own candles using custom fragrances given to me by a friend who is a perfumer. My initial batch of 50 candles was such a hit among my friends and family that I decided to make more of them to sell at local artisan markets and pop up shops. Once I realized how positively my customers responded to the fragrances and the stories related to the names of the candles, I knew that the Harlem Candle Company had the potential to become a global brand.

What makes your brand/product unique?

I’ve created a luxury brand of candles inspired by the Harlem Renaissance. My candles honor jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker. They also celebrate iconic places like the Savoy Ballroom and the classy Harlem neighborhood of Sugar Hill. I tell stories of the Harlem Renaissance through my fragrances that are developed by a team of globally-recognized perfumers who have worked with the likes of brands like Givenchy, Jo Malone and Estée Lauder.

Why should everyone #buyblack this holiday season?

Now more than ever, small businesses are being created and run by people like me who are self starters, passionate and who have the experience and connections to create products that are perfectly suited for us. As a people, we love luxury goods. Scented candles are affordable luxuries that give our homes a level of exquisiteness and comfort that we desire. The Harlem Candle Co home fragrance collection is inspired, created and designed for us and by us.

How do you pay it forward within your community?

I offer summer internship programs for local Harlem students where I teach candle making and how to build a brand. I also speak at schools about my journey as an entrepreneur and world traveler with the hopes of inspiring youth to never give up on their dreams and to begin to practice visualization and meditation as a tool for success.

What is your business mantra?

“You got this!” I say this all the time.

Kimberly Wilson is a writer and social media director at theGrio. Follow her on Twitter.