Timing and persistence are what gave this Black-owned business a fighting chance.
Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, Sharie Hendricks, founder of Laguna Candles, decided to pave her own lane. However, it was in unfamiliar territory as she had no prior experience in candle making.
Hendricks’ journey all started in her kitchen, where she received support from her husband, Clarence. The goal was to create a clean-burning product made from sustainable ingredients.
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“I decided to just experiment with what it would be like to research clean-burning candles,” Sharie told AfroTech. “Ultimately what we would do is when I started the company, we would purchase candles from other companies who would give us an opportunity to brand them and to put our private label on them. Then, eventually, we realized that we were going to have to make our own candles.”
After trial and error and learning the ropes, the Hendricks family has been running its luxury candle company for 20 years. While the small business has reached great success over the years, there was once a point in time when they were uncertain whether they could stay afloat.
Nearly a decade ago, Laguna Candles faced the misfortune of a big-name company blocking them from trademarking their brand’s name. In their first attempt to defend their brand, they were unsuccessful.
“It was daunting,” Sharie shared about the trademark battle. “At times you feel as if you just have to push through. I have three daughters, and so we had to set a good example for them. I couldn’t just allow it to break me. We couldn’t allow it to break us as a family because we knew the truth. We knew we had the name first, and we knew that we started this company with good intentions because of the passion of wanting to start a candle business.”
Clarence chimed in, “When you look back on the willful intent of this large business, this entity that wanted to stop us from using the name when we already had the name, it was something that we had to pull from places of strength and courage. Obviously it came from just generations of people before us.”
However, with the support of new attorneys, the Hendricks were able to weather the storm and won in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. A significant contributor to the business owners coming out even more victorious was the backing of Amazon. The Hendricks were able to fill out a form through the retail giant that helped take the opposing company’s products down. The aftermath made what was once a setback a monumental win.
Additionally, Amazon’s support encouraged them to send “take down letters” to big-name retailers where the competing company was selling their products.
“We’ve since sent take down letters to those types of retailers and some of those have contributed as well and taken down the infringing product from their website,” Clarence said.
Sharie added, “And I think the timing couldn’t be better because there are retailers now, they actually see us now, and they do want to work with Black-owned business.”
The Hendricks’ triumph is far from in vain. Sharie said that one of the main purposes of building out the company is so that her three daughters have the choice to take on the business.
What’s more, as a successful Black-owned business located in Laguna Beach, CA, the family still has enduring ties to their previous community in Lynwood, which is near Compton.
“We maintained the relationships with our community there as well,” Sharie said. “If you look at our followers, we never really had this perception that we’re here and this is where we’re going to. We made sure that we continue to invite our relatives and friends. And that was very important to me and to our kids that we continue to not lose sight of where we came from.”