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Remove that mask if you can, y’all, and follow your nose to Stacy Ahua’s fragrant soy candles. Her now burgeoning candle biz, Usu Company—the name a nod to the Tiv Tribe in Nigeria (usu is the tribal word for fire), of which Ahua is a member—was born out of a single flame. The candle that sparked it all? One she made in lockdown (prior to losing her job) and sent to her mom and other nurses on the front lines.
Ahua says curiosity, and a need to connect people, was part of the “passion and thought behind the candles and the stories.” Oft called a connector for her ability to bring different people together, Ahua previously worked for nonprofits and in politics, and is known for her ability to find—er, sniff out—the commonality between different races, classes, candidates and voters.
With Usu, when people connect to the scents or the stories behind each of the candles, she says, “it opens the door to so much more than selling a candle. … That ability to connect with people in that way from very different backgrounds is really powerful to me.” Scent too, in its innate ability to evoke emotions and recall memories, helps connect people as well, she adds.
Ahua’s culture and the people who shaped her life serve as the main inspo for her candles—summoning, for example, the scents of an orange tree on her granddad’s farm in Nigeria that he planted for her and her sisters before he died (Grandad’s Farm, with notes of mandarin, coconut and peach, plus sugar to please the senses).
Fiya, a yet-to-be-released candle (warm spices, leather, jasmine and tonka bean), is named in honor of her father, to whom, whenever he sped through his Nigerian village on his motorcycle, the children would yell “fire!” And No Dey Carry Last (orchid, sea salt, wood and jasmine) is named after a Nigerian mantra that calls people to strive for greatness. Even Ahua’s business tagline “Blaze On” is partially inspired by her father’s fiery spirit—a courageousness and rebelliousness she sees in herself.
A recent deviation, Golden (saffron, ginger, lemon peel, amber and vetiver) is a fragrant scent Ahua made specifically for the North Carolina Museum of Art’s current Golden Mummies of Egypt exhibit. And upping the feel-good factor, a portion of proceeds for her Guardian Angel candle (grapefruit, basil, agave, sandalwood and oakmoss) partly benefits the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which provides resources to health care and essential workers, patient care, and research.
But while her flame burns on, one thing that will never change? Ahua staying true to herself—something she advises any entrepreneur to do—no matter what risks she’ll have to take to grow her business. As St. Francis of Assisi says, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” usucompany.com
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