BBQ & A: Ardour Sisterz Brings BIPOC Business Ownership to Light
United Way works to create racially just communities where all people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable. As part of this commitment, we make it our priority to support BIPOC businesses and hold events in diverse communities. That is why we are throwing the first Annual Community BBQ in South King County, a location that is known for its historically Black neighborhoods and diversity. The Annual Community BBQ, in partnership with former Seahawk Doug Baldwin, will be held on June 18 at Renton Memorial Stadium from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. for people of all ages!
Ardour Sisterz Candle Co. is one of several BIPOC businesses scheduled to participate in the BBQ, and there will be an opportunity to win one of Ardour Sisterz’s hand-crafted candles from United Way’s Emerging Leaders 365 table. United Way recently sat down with Iris Oppong, the creator of Ardour Sisterz, to understand the barriers she’s faced and how her business is thriving.
United Way: When did you first open your business?
Iris Oppong: Ardour Sisterz became an official business on May 15, 2021. We recently celebrated our one-year anniversary this year.
United Way: What products or services does your business offer?
Iris Oppong: Soy-based candles, bath bombs, room sprays, air diffusers, wax melts, salts, and cultural additions like African clothing and beads.
United Way: How do you come up with your unique scents?
Iris Oppong: There is a story behind each scent—I don’t buy off the shelf. Instead, I’m spontaneous. I have a methodology where, depending on how I feel that day, I go into the garage, pick four different scents and make a mixture. Then a week later I go and try it out. It’s therapy for me. I’ve used aromatherapy for more than four years, so I connect how I feel to the scents that I pick. Honey Bourbon, one of my best-selling scents, is my late father’s scent.
He said, “trust me everyone likes whiskey.” I said, no, I like clear liquor. I never thought in a million years that bourbon is something that people would really like. I’m happy for listening!
United Way: Why do you feel that it is important to support Black-owned businesses?
Iris Oppong: I support all businesses, but when you are labeled as a minority it is difficult to excel and be great in anything that you do.
We find that by being put into a box people think that we are less than, or that we provide an inferior product, but no, we are providing quality products just as great as any other person and should be given the same opportunities.
When I first started going to markets, some of them didn’t accept or value Black business. I have been declined from participating in certain arenas. There are a few markets where I reached out to the organizers and demanded a tangible reason for declining my application. I met all the guidelines, acquired the correct licensor and insurance. I was one of the first people to submit the application, so I wanted to know why I wasn’t selected. The goal should be to give as many folks as you can the opportunity to succeed, and their response was very disheartening. They said: “We already have enough Black makers.”
It is a very competitive market in candle making and how I overcome as a Black woman is by making sure that I provide a quality product, excellent customer service and that I stay grounded. I just received a Facebook message the other day from a friend saying: “I’ll keep coming back to your candles.” It’s all about being true to yourself, your product and believing in what you are putting out.
United Way: Why is it important for you to give back to the community, especially in becoming an Emerging Leaders 365 donor with United Way?
Iris Oppong: It’s always great to give back. My philosophy is that you give when you have abundance, and it comes back to you three to four times over. My neighbors will tell you that I will make a bowl of mac and cheese and then call around and ask: who needs a meal? It’s a sense of fulfillment for me and it makes me very happy. I’d heard of the United Way back when I worked at Swiss [Chocolate Company] so when they reached out to place an order, it made sense for me to support their mission and lend a hand wherever I could.
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