“Everything just fell into place,” Johnson told Inc. “I was encouraged by friends and family who had received my candles. I was making the candles in Harlem, and I loved the Harlem Renaissance. My goal became to put Harlem on the map with a beautiful, luxurious fragrance.”
Convincing her parents she wouldn’t get married anymore, she redirected the funds toward inventory.
Since then, Harlem Candle Company, initially selling $50 luxury candles, has grown into a business with $2 million in annual sales.
Johnson’s luxury candles, paying homage to the Harlem Renaissance, are now available in 134 stores, including major retailers like Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s. Johnson has also ventured into corporate gifting, securing clients such as JP Morgan Chase, Google, and Meta.
What sets her candles apart is the storytelling aspect, with each fragrance and packaging telling the tales of Black luminaries such as Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, and Langston Hughes, among others.
One of her creations, “Purple Love,” a floral-accented candle inspired by James Baldwin, earned a spot on Oprah’s Favorite Things list in 2023.
Beyond candles, Johnson expands her creative endeavors with the Harlem Design Company, set to launch journals celebrating the Harlem Renaissance.
“With me being a Black woman, having a business based here, and celebrating Black culture that celebrates Black excellence and Black history, I felt a very strong responsibility to be a part of it,” she said.