This 15-Year-Old Created A Vegan Candle Company In Anacostia Mahogany Young sells the homemade candles at MahoganyBooks, the Good Hope Road SE bookstore owned by her parent248s.
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NPR logo This 15-Year-Old Created A Vegan Candle Company In Anacostia

This 15-Year-Old Created A Vegan Candle Company In Anacostia

Fifteen-year-old Mahogany Young decided to start a handmade, eco-friendly candle business called The Green Things because she wanted to reimagine the product being vegan. Courtesy of/Mahogany Young hide caption

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Courtesy of/Mahogany Young

An eco-friendly product hit the shelves of MahoganyBooks in March, courtesy of Mahogany Young, the daughter of bookstore owners Ramunda and Derrick Young.

Fifteen-year-old Young decided to start a handmade, eco-friendly candle business called The Green Things because she wanted to reimagine a product that her and her family love without additives or animal products like beeswax.

"I wanted to make some [candles] that are vegan because I'm vegan," says Young. She decided to become vegan two years ago, after learning from documentaries about inhumane farming practices and environmental efforts to lower carbon emissions.

"Since becoming environmentally conscious, some of my friends have become vegetarian or try to eat less meat and dairy. My parents eat a little more vegan food ... and recycle a lot more," says Young. (Ramunda and Derrick Young have an omnivorous diet.)

Young says she wanted to make a candle line that makes "others think about their actions and what impact they have on our earth."

The candle line products are eco-friendly through and through.

"They're made out of natural soy wax, so there's not any additives, which is good for the air in your home," she says. "They're made out of cotton wicks. Cotton is biodegradable and plant-based. The jars are made from at least 30% pre-consumer glass. The fragrance oils are all natural, and the labels are made from recycled materials."

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Young says the candles "aren't hard to make," which allows her to balance school work and being an entrepreneur.

This isn't Young's first entrepreneurial venture. When she was 7-years-old, she began designing hair clips, bobby pins and jewelry. Ramunda Young, her mother, says Mahogany sold the products at different author events that her parents would host.

Mahogany says it's helpful to have parents who are business owners, as she leans on them for suggestions and ideas, as well as for encouragement.

Ramunda Young says that "we've helped her with some of the strategy, marketing ... [and] understanding profit margins," as well as encouraging Mahogany to build a creative product. "We really allowed her to be creative in how she packaged the product and sourced it," she says.

She paid for the first few batches of candle materials by working at the bookshop on Good Hope Road SE. After earning a couple hundred dollars, she began the business in her home kitchen, using tutorials from Youtube.

She says there's been little to no trial and error. At first pour, the product "came out pretty perfectly, and I was very proud," says Young.

Each batch, usually four candles at a time, takes about one hour to make. Young usually makes about 12 per week, but says recently business has picked up since her parents posted a shoutout on the bookstore's social media. Since that post, Young sold 30 candles in a week, compared to 70 candles sold this past year.

Now that sales have increased exponentially, she plans to increase the batch amount. "Like this week, I'm probably going to be making 70 candles," says Young about the 10-ounce product.

The scent options include Amber Driftwood, Cashmere and Plum and Mahogany and Teakwood. After reading about the fragrances online, testing free samples and asking for her parents' opinions, she decided on scents that felt most "relaxing" and "calming."

Young creates the wax itself and she designs the labels using Canva software. The labels have intricate designs of leaves and flowers that Young found while searching Pinterest.

Earlier in the year, some labels were inspired by social justice initiatives such as one label that read "Freedom Never Smelled So Good." Derrick Young suggested this label to his daughter in support of Juneteenth.

In addition to designing the labels, Young made all of the marketing materials, including promotional photos, videos and a website, skills learned from a sixth grade photography and cinematography class. (After graduating high school, Young hopes to pursue her goals of becoming filmmaker and paramedic.)

Mahogany says this is just the beginning and there are more products to come. In December, she plans to launch greeting cards with her original designs.

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