Mahogany chatted with Valerie Wray, owner and creator of The 125 Collection, to find out what motivates her, who empowers her, and how she celebrates her Blackness.
What was your inspiration for starting this brand?
Over the years I’d seen luxury candle brands but felt they didn’t see me, so I combined urban culture with a candle and lifestyle brand into something that felt inclusive, luxurious, and accessible. As an introvert, self-expression was easier for me through nonverbal communication. How I decorated my space was the ultimate form of self-expression. It was important that my space elevated my senses and my mood, and I did that by creating candles with quotes that empowered, inspired, and entertained. Ultimately, I married fine fragrance with self-expression to create a retable luxury candle. The 125 Collection was started in my Harlem apartment in NYC and was named after 125th Street which runs through the heart of the Harlem community.
What do you hope Black women will experience when they use the 125 Collection?
I want Black women to feel empowered and inspired when they light the candles. I want them to experience a luxury product that they can truly relate to knowing that it was created for them to feel seen and heard.
How does it feel to receive support and encouragement from our community?
I would always buy Mahogany cards for my family because we all could identify with the faces and the words on the card. It’s an honor to get support from a brand that I have fondly identified with for years. I always felt that the Mahogany brand “understood me” and I want my customers to feel the same.
Who in your life encourages and empowers you the most?
My family encourages and empowers me the most. As an entrepreneur, I always have ideas and am constantly seeking feedback, and they are always there for me and have been since day one.
What advice would you give to a sister who wants to start her own business?
Do it sis! Do as much research as you can before you start and utilize the free services of small business organizations in your area. They can offer many free tools and resources that are so valuable as you start up. Lastly, be flexible and open to change as you will hit some bumps along the way, but what is most important is to keep moving forward.
Here at Mahogany, we’re motivated by purpose, faith, and community, to celebrate Blackness 24/7. How do you celebrate yours?
As a business, I celebrate by uplifting my community and by helping at-risk Black youth with basic necessities—in hopes to empower them to feel confident every day. Personally, I celebrate by spending some good ol’ Black-girl-magic time with my circle of friends, treating everyday dinners and outings as special occasions to just enjoy life.