In preparation for Earth Day, this week’s WonderWoman is Tamiko Helen Hargrove, President and CEO of Helen Julia New York. Tamiko created Helen Julia New York nearly six years ago with the goal of making her clients feel good. After spending years in corporate America, she knew the feelings of being stressed, overworked and burnt out all too well.
Tamiko’s own personal experience led her to create a line that can literally take you away from the hectic world. If you cannot physically get to a spa, you can at least feel the relaxation of a spa treatment at home when burning any of Helen Julia’s collection of hand-poured scented soy candles. Lighting these deliciously fragrant soy based candles will dramatically improve your mood, and quite possibly turn up the heat for you and your special someone…who says eco can’t be sexy! Here’s how she did it…
When did you decide that you had to get out of corporate America and into your own business? Was the Helen Julia line your first idea for making the break?
While working in Corporate America I have learned so much and have worked with the best of the best in the fashion and beauty industry. I quickly became inspired working with brands such as Stila Cosmetics, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Lancome to name a few. Being a creative person myself, I always wanted to put a new “spin” on a project I was working on. However, in Corporate America, there isn’t much room to let your creativity take over. Working long hours and putting so much “creative” energy into working for someone else, I thought of a better way to utilize my valuable time and energy. And thus, Helen Julia was born. This was my ticket out of the corporate world and into my own creative heaven!
How did you get Helen Julia started?
Well, it all started with a thought… “What will be the first product to launch under the Helen Julia umbrella.” I have always been a HUGE fan of scented candles. Before the candle business turned into a multi-billion dollar business with so many luxury boutique candles, there weren’t a lot of beautifully packaged and amazing scents to choose from when I started my collection. I would find myself purchasing candles that smelled amazing while in their container but once lit, there was not a good scent throw. I’m all about presentation so packaging is very important to me. It was hard to find a good candle in nice packaging all in one. So, I had my “Aha” moment to create a candle collection that would be presentable as a beautiful gift while having the amazing scent that will fill up your room without the candle being lit. Helen Julia’s fragrances are potent in beautiful subtle scents.
I know you got your business name, as well as your fashion sense from your grandmother’s on both sides, tell us a bit more about that and the brooch logo.
Helen and Julia are my grandmothers and I thought what is the best way to say “thank you” to them; after all, without them I would not exist. My grandmother Julia Annette has a keen sense when it comes to fashion and style. So it was no surprise that I had developed that same passion. The brooch in my logo represents my grandmother, Julia. The brooch is located above her name. Julia Annette loves her brooch (and there is more than one in her collection). My grandmothers, Helen and Julia are both very classy and savvy women who keeps their family grounded and close. My slogan mark “When you receive love, you give love” is something my grandmothers would always instill in me (in their own unique way) to remind me that what you are taught is what you will inevitably give back.
What is your inspiration for the yummy fragrances you create?
The inspiration behind my fragrances are scents to subliminally take you back to something special. Some of our fragrances are playful or romantic to remind you of your childhood or wedding day. For example our Pink Diamond candle scented in Cotton Candy reminds us of visiting the amusement park as children and our “I Do” candle scented in Rose Bouquet to remind us of our first corsage we received on prom night or our wedding day. Our fragrances and fragrance names are fun and relatable. Helen Julia is about the experience when you purchase our products. It takes you to a comfort place.
You made a conscious choice to craft your candles from soy products, was that a bit of a barrier when you first started? What benefits do soy based candles offer over traditional wax candles?
When Helen Julia was first launched our candles were made of Paraffin wax vs. Soy wax. We quickly changed our wax to Soy when we realized the world is going “Green” and more eco friendly. Soy wax is a cleaner burn and does not pollute the air as paraffin wax does. You will notice when burning a soy candle, your candle burns evenly down without much wax residue left on the glass.
What is a typical day like for you Tamiko?
This is a fun question as my days are never the same! I am always trying to find new ways to expose and expand Helen Julia. I utilize social media networking quite often like Facebook and Twitter. I love “Mommy” social networking sites as they are a great support group for moms and “mompreneurs”. Since we do offer custom packaging for personalized projects, I am always targeting new brides or mothers to introduce Helen Julia for their bridal and baby showers. Looking for new fragrances to add to the collection is always on my “to do” list. We currently have 11 scents in our collection and I am looking to expand that to 20 scents. I want a fragrance for everyone to enjoy!
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed Helen Julia? What’s your best marketing tip?
The best way to market your business these days is social media networking (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc). Personally, I find it a convenient way that’s FREE to get your product or service in front of millions of people. Now, it can be overwhelming with so many other businesses doing the same thing. However, that is when your creativity is put to the test to get your information noticed and remembered. I love a challenge and I find new ways to market myself that will be cost effective for business without breaking the bank to get noticed. There are many blogs and groups that are willing to support your business if you support theirs. It’s definitely worth the “help me and I’ll help you” strategy to get your business in front of potential new clients daily.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else starting their own business?
To be honest with you, I would not change anything looking back when I first started my business. Starting a business is a learning curve and you have to fall and pick yourself up over and over again. You will learn from your first mistake when you have lost money from that mistake. Taking baby steps is key when you are starting a business. Look at your business as your child. You have to nurture and feed it so it grows to what you want it to be. It’s not easy. There will be obstacles along the way as some things are just beyond our control. If you had a heads up on all the challenges you’ll have to face, you would probably have second thoughts with moving forward. So embrace the challenges, learn from them and keep trucking along. You’ll be fine and end up stronger than you can ever imagine!
What goals do you have for Helen Julia this year?
Some goals I have set for this year are adding new scents to the collection in addition to some new products other than candles. Helen Julia will launch room sprays and eau de toilette’s in our best selling candle scents. We have an exciting year ahead of us. We hope you’ll enjoy our new additions and we welcome your feedback.
What have you learned on your business journey that you’d like to share with other business owners?
Patience, Patience, Patience! I cannot express that enough. I have finally learned and understand what patience means. Running a business has its high and low moments. Not everything goes according to plan when you expect them to. This goes back to some of the obstacles that will confront you when you least expect it and it’s beyond your control. All you can do is be patient, find your way and slowly but surely the tides will turn. Giving up is not an option. When you have chosen to give up, you have accepted failure! The best of the best has fallen and have got back up to achieve the success they’ve claimed. You can do it too! Good luck and congratulations on starting a new career!