Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in candle-making but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Epiphanie Yohou, Founder, and CEO of Ayoka Essentials, located in Clarksburg, MD, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Ayoka Essentials provides the best home fragrance products that are plant-based, vegan-friendly, and environmentally sustainable. When I launched Ayoka in 2018, the mission was not only to honor where I came from but to help improve lives around the world through our give-back gratitude program and commitment to philanthropy. All while ensuring our customers who love clean, luxurious, long-lasting, and affordable scents enjoy toxin-free, plant-based home products without compromising.

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa, where I spent most of my childhood before immigrating to Hyattsville, Maryland, a suburb in the DMV area. Ayoka [ah-YO-kah] means 'thank you or gratitude' in my native language Bhete. So naming my business Ayoka Essentials is a celebration of the spirit of generosity, joyfulness, and gratitude I experienced growing up with my grandparents in their small tropical village. During my time there, I learned that showing gratitude does not have to be a grand gesture; you can find it in the smallest and simplest products we infuse into our lifestyle, such as a scented candle.

As a scent enthusiast from an early age, I spent a significant part of my young adult life crafting and curating proprietary scents blends using essential oils with mood-elevating, relaxation, and anti-asthmatic properties. In 2016, I was inspired to begin making candles in my garage initially as holiday gifts to friends, family, and co‐workers. Fast forward a couple of years, what started as a passion project to share my gratitude to those closest to me, soon blossomed into a business.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I enjoy being creative, so the most rewarding part of being a business owner is seeing the impact and benefit of my business on the lives of our customers who gift or use any of our products because every gift helps to share the story and mission behind Ayoka.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Being a business owner means wearing many different hats and consistently making difficult decisions to help grow your business. Although I enjoy testing and smelling new scents as part of my job, I must also take time to review our numbers weekly and monthly to ensure we stay in good standing as a business.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

My top 3 tips are to have faith, enjoy the small wins no matter how difficult it gets, and find yourself an amazing group of people who are willing to go on the journey with you. It takes teamwork, and I have been blessed with an incredible group of strong and smart Ayoka family who push me daily.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

As a Christian entrepreneur, my faith has carried me through the business's wins and failures. But I've always found comfort in this verse from Romans 8:28 - "And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, those who are called according to his purpose."So keep reminding yourself why you started and find a way to always give back to others, especially during times of trial.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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