Anyone who was alive in 2001 can tell you where they were on September 11. Shanquita Greggs, a native Houstonian and Air Force veteran, was working as a flight attendant when she first learned of the tragic terrorist attacks. As the airline industry adjusted with trepidation, Greggs was one of tens of thousands of airline workers to be laid off. When she wasn’t reckoning with the nation’s loss, she was strategizing how she’d get back on her feet.
While watching a candle-making tutorial on Martha Stewart’s show, Greggs tapped into her creative side and decided to make her family DIY candles for the upcoming holiday season while she was out of work. She took all $486 of her last paycheck as a flight attendant and invested it in her new venture. She sourced supplies, perfected her skill, and crafted new scents from her grandmother's kitchen.
To call Greggs’ resumé diverse is an understatement. The accomplished CEO has careened her way through distinguished titles within the Air Force, Postal Service, and even NASA. When her candle-making hobby grew in popularity, though, she didn’t think twice before starting her business Simply Scents Candle Co.
Greggs proudly opened her first storefront after four years selling candles from the trunk of her car. Today, she's a member of the Social Graces Social Club, and her company has grown beyond candles into aroma sprays, burning oils, and bath and body products. The shop even hosts candle-making parties for the aromatically inclined.
“Customers always come back and give candles as gifts,” Greggs says, acknowledging with pride that she's maintained much of the same clientele over the last 16 years. “I want [my customers] to be prideful in the brand and know it’s built on quality and is handcrafted with love for them.”
On starting her business:
"It started off as a fun gift giving thing, turned into a hobby, and quickly became a business. I made the candles and went around to beauty shops and barber shops to sell them for $5. I even gave some to my mom to take to work at the post office. I was really waiting for [my old job] to call me back to fly. They did call me back, so I started [making candles] on the weekends and on my days off. I got laid off one more time, and got to do candles full-time. Ever since then, there’s been no looking back!"
On her varied career experience:
"Being in the military was one of the best choices I’ve made ... I learned structure and discipline. It taught me people-skills and to be independent. My job at the post office taught me being on time and scheduling. Working at NASA taught me that everything is possible. Being a flight attendant allowed me to see new cultures and interact with different people. Every job led to me being able to have my own business."
On giving back to her community:
"I work with the disabled community, so two of my employees live with a disability and have been with me since day one. We work with Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) and special education students over at Jack Yates High School. They come in Tuesdays and we teach them work skills, life skills, and they help us out in the process. My dream is for these students to come work with me after they graduate. I want them to go into the workforce and feel comfortable and confident in knowing that they can do the job that's required of them."
On fundraising efforts:
"We have fundraising sample kits. You sell candles, sprays and all of our products and you actually get to keep 50 percent of the profit earned, and that is unheard of. We split the profit with you for your group or organization. It’s a great way to give back without [monetarily] giving back. A lot of times as a small business we can’t give back financially, but we can give back with fundraising efforts and ideas."
On her favorite place she’s visited as a flight attendant:
"Shanghai. I went over there and had a great time learning about the culture because it’s so different and the food is different. I just enjoy doing things I’ve never done before and meeting people I’ve never met."
On advice for small business owners:
"Just start. That’s the beginning of your journey. Don’t stop if it’s something you believe in and you’re passionate about. You can’t do it just for the money, because it’s going to take a long time. You don’t have to be a full-time entrepreneur. You can do it on the side, too. It’ll tell you when it’s time to quit your main job. Just have fun with it ... if you can dream it or think it, it’s definitely possible."
Simply Scents Candle Co. products can be purchased at the Museum District location at 5217 Almeda Road and online.