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Meet Niambi Ingram: Creator of Vegan Candles That Offer Healing and Relaxation

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Customers can find more than 50 scents on Niambi Ingram’s website including Happiness, Mahogany, Stress-Relief, Namaste and many others. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

By: Javacia Harris Bowser

For The Birmingham Times

Niambi Ingram’s mission for her small business is simple: “I want to make candles that don’t kill you,” she said. The owner of She Is Candles said it with a chuckle, but she’s serious.

When she found out that many of her favorite candles were produced with toxic chemicals, she had to find a new flame.

Ingram researched vegan and organic companies to find waxes and oils that would be safer to burn and bought kits so she could make her own candles. Friends would come over, get one whiff of her creations, and soon started asking her to make candles for them – for their own homes and to give as gifts.

Eventually one of her friends encouraged Ingram to take her love for candle making to the next level and start a business. In January of 2020, She Is Candles was born.

On the She Is Candles website, customers can find more than 50 scents. Some of Ingram’s best sellers are Happiness (scents of green apple, rose, lily and soft musk), Mahagony (a woodsy mix of coconut, sandalwood, vanilla, and oakmoss), Stress-Relief (eucalyptus and spearmint), and Namaste (which embodies an incense aroma of earthy tones with hints of vanilla, amber and musk).

Currently in her own home, Ingram is burning Postivi-Tea (a freesia, white tea scent) and Maui (a champagne-inspired strawberry orange scent). But don’t ask her to choose a favorite.

“The bad thing about being in love with creating new scents is that they are all my favorites,” Ingram said.

“Multifaceted”

Ingram was an entrepreneur long before she started her candle company.

“I’m multifaceted, so I do a lot of different things,” said Ingram, a native of the Birmingham area.

Ingram owns a production company She Is Productions and she’s an award-winning filmmaker. While living in Los Angeles, two of her films won audience favorite at the Los Angeles 48-Hour Film Festival in 2021 and 2022.

The comedy horror Halloween Re-Treat imagines what would happen if spooky characters such as Blacula, Pennywise, Freddy Krueger, and Jason were all on a retreat together.

The film Pendulum centers on a workaholic father who’s grappling with everything from an inner struggle to the repercussions of global warming.

This year her film Faultless screened at the Sidewalk Film Festival. This piece follows a concerned woman who investigates an issue with her credit card bill and discovers an appalling surprise she never could’ve imagined.

Customers can find more than 50 scents on Niambi Ingram’s website including Happiness, Mahogany, Stress-Relief, Namaste and many others. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

Ingram, who returned to the Birmingham area two years ago, is currently helping with a documentary about one of the victims of the 2015 Charleston church massacre.

She has also worked in radio. Before being laid off due to downsizing, she worked for Cumulus Media in Nashville and later started her own radio show for which she interviewed stars from reality television shows such as Love & Hip-Hop.

During the pandemic in 2020, Ingram started a podcast titled “Dating Woes”, that was all about her dating adventures in Los Angeles.

“It was fun just to talk about and it was very therapeutic too,” Ingram said. “I went through a lot of craziness out there and just like being able to tell a lot of females signs to look for and the crazy stories that I went through but I’m still surviving.”

On the surface, Ingram’s production company and candle company may seem to have nothing in common. But in addition to hard work, the key to success for both has proven to be the same: networking.

Ingram, 38, often participates in pop-up markets in cities across the Southeast including Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville. Huntsville, Mobile, Decatur, Montgomery and Birmingham. She was a recent vendor at Birmingham Vegan Fest.

At these events, Ingram not only sells her candles, but she builds relationships with other entrepreneurs. That’s how she landed the opportunity to create thousands of candles for a company that was participating in last year’s Art Basel Miami. That’s also how she landed the chance to design shoe-shaped candles for an event in Atlanta last year celebrating a special release of the Air Jordan 11 sneakers.

“The cool thing about networking is once they find out that I just don’t make candles, I’m able to network with other things too, with my film work and with my production company, too,” Ingram said.

For her, networking is the gift that keeps giving.

A Dream Deferred

For Ingram, college was a learning experience beyond academics. She attended Tennessee State University, where she studied Speech Communications with emphasis in TV& Radio and a minor in English and History.

“My family, including my dad, aunts, uncles, and both my sisters all graduated from TSU, and I always dreamed of following in their footsteps,” Ingram shared. “However, my path through college wasn’t smooth.”

Ingram admits she was distracted throughout college and was in a toxic relationship. Soon her grades slipped.

“Despite these challenges, I completed all the necessary hours and even participated in the graduation ceremony, with over forty family members cheering me on,” she said. “However, I later discovered that I wouldn’t receive my diploma because my GPA was just two points short. This was a devastating blow.”

She confessed that she’s kept this a secret from even her closest friends, but recently during prayer at The Rock City church, she felt encouraged to open up about her struggles.

Ingram went on to receive a bachelor’s from the University of Maryland Global Campus and is currently completing a master’s certificate in Strategic Communications.

This experience gave her the perseverance necessary to work in film and be a small business owner.

And for Ingram, She Is Candles isn’t just a business. It’s her passion.

“I specialize in candle making, which for me, is more than just pouring wax into a vessel,” she said. “It’s a way to offer healing and relaxation in a chaotic world. The simple act of lighting a candle and taking a bath can be incredibly therapeutic.”

The Family Business

Ingram considers She Is Candles a family business. Her younger sister Adia, who is currently a dental student at Tufts University in the Greater Boston area, encouraged her to name her company She Is Candles as a nod to her production company. Her sister, who has a master’s in biology, also helps Ingram create the formulas for her candles.

“I didn’t understand the science of it — because candle making is definitely a science — so she helped me with a lot of it,” Ingram said.

Once she moved back to the Birmingham area in 2021, the Minor High School graduate could involve her family even more. In fact, they were involved before she or they knew.

Asked how long she’s been fascinated with fragrances, Ingram said, “Since I was a little girl stealing my mom’s perfumes and my grandma’s perfumes” so, it’s no surprise she wanted to fill her home with inviting scents by burning candles all day long.

Today, her parents, mother Bessine and her father Ezzard “Rick” Ingram, have been very instrumental in helping her grow the company. They often help her at pop-up shops and other events, she said.

When Ingram was asked to produce nearly 3,000 candles for an event at Art Basel 2022 in Miami, her parents rolled up their sleeves and tried their hand at candle making to help their daughter make a splash at the star-studded art fair. “I had even my baby cousins helping out!” Ingram said with a laugh.

More Than Candles

Ingram is looking forward to growing her business in 2024. She hopes that her recent participation in a BeyGood small business impact luncheon will be a catalyst for continued success. The program, funded by Beyonce’s 501 c3 dedicated to economic equity, strives to build up business owners of color.

In addition to her vegan, hand-poured candles, Ingram also sells wax melts, bath salts, beard oil, pillow sprays, room mists, and much more. But Ingram’s goal with She Is Candles has always been to not only create candles, but to create experiences too. Lately, she’s been doing exactly that with the help of Kamisha Huffin of Eye Catch’n Day Spa in South Avondale.

Together Ingram and Huffin host the Eye Candle Experience. These events mix candle making with food and drinks for a fun girls night, date night, corporate party, or community event.

Ingram and Huffin met about a year ago at a pop-up shop event Huffin was hosting at her day spa and became fast friends.

“We bonded over both having lived in California prior to returning home to Birmingham and being Black women-owned businesses, working hard to stay in the fight,” Huffin said.

Eager to utilize the event space housed in her spa in a unique way, Huffin teamed up with Ingram to create Eye Candle Experience.

“Our goal was to bring something really cool to Birmingham since we both agreed that the large majority of the city believes that you have to travel away to have fun,” Huffin said.

They’ve hosted events for church groups, sororities, businesses, community groups, and the Girl Scouts.

“I like working with Niambi because she is a very positive and innovative person,” Huffin said of Ingram. “Our paths crossed when I was going through a really stressful season in my life, and she became a great friend that helped me through it. She is an amazing woman with a gift for creativity and I hope that our partnership continues grow as our friendship has.”

While Ingram hopes to add more products to her She Is Candles line, such as CBD infused candles, she especially hopes to grow the demand for the Eye Candle Experience.

“The Eye Candle Experience is something that I’m very happy about,” she said, “because I get a chance to share what I like to do and teach other people about it.”

Learn more about She Is Candles at sheiscandles.com and book an Eye Candle Experience at eyecandleexperience.com.