Divina Casila’s personal experience with mental health issues led to the creation of her company, Depress Me Not Candles. The Renton, Washington-based entrepreneur is passionate about the candles she makes – she labels each one with affirmations and concots soothing scents, hoping the combination will provide the consumer with a reminder to take a few moments for themselves, especially if they are having a hard day. During the depths of her own struggles, “candles were there for me,” Casila says, like “a little flickering light in the darkness – I had to share their power.” Share she did. Today Casila continues to give back by donating a portion of each sale to National Alliance of Mental Illness and Vision House shelter in her hometown.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about why you started your business.
Depress Me Not Candles was created to serve as a reminder for individuals who are going through tough times that they are not alone and it’s okay to take care of yourself. As a survivor of domestic abuse and depression, I know the feeling of being trapped and powerless.
There are many candle companies. How is your business different?
Our hand-poured candles have uplifting scents, empowering affirmations, and whimsical artwork all meant to boost your mood and encourage self-care. Every time you light one of my candles, take a moment for yourself to do something that brings you joy. I want to spread positivity during difficult moments.
Tell us about your biggest success so far.
From the start, my business has been all about using resources and profits to spread mental health awareness and support individuals who are struggling. The response to this mission has been overwhelming. As the business continues to grow, I am eager to expand our reach and make an even bigger impact on mental health advocacy. I am grateful for the support that has allowed Depress Me Not Candles to thrive and make a positive difference in the world.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Establishing a strong online presence. When I first started my business, I relied heavily on in-person sales and word-of-mouth marketing. However, as the pandemic hit, I needed to quickly pivot to an e-commerce model. This was a daunting task for me, as I had little experience in creating and managing an online store. However, with plenty of trial and error, I was able to successfully launch my website and regularly update social media accounts. Venturing into the digital realm has expanded my customer base and helped grow my business.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
As a first-time entrepreneur, I quickly found out that my business’s success was not solely in my hands. I wish I had known the importance of networking and building connections early on. When Depress Me Not Candles first started, I tried to go at it alone, thinking that I could handle everything. But as time went on, I realized how valuable building relationships with fellow business owners and potential customers could be. Not only does networking give you access to new customers and resources, but it also allows for collaborations and support within the community. So, my biggest advice to other entrepreneurs is to network and build connections from day one. It truly has made all the difference for me.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
My candles can provide the spark I need, but also taking a break from social media, spending time outdoors, and practicing self-care activities such as exercise or journaling. Above all, remembering that I am strong and capable of weathering any storm. This too shall pass, and brighter days are ahead.
What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days?
“Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. The lyrics remind me to keep pushing forward and never give up on my dreams. My favorite line is “Like a small boat on the ocean, sending big waves into motion.” It reminds me that even though my business may be small, I can still make a big impact.
Who is your most important role model?
My husband has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, and he’s been a constant source of inspiration and motivation. Initially, I was hesitant about starting my own candle company. But my husband encouraged me to follow my passion. His advice and support have been crucial to my success. He’s even helped with some of the heavy lifting, literally carrying boxes of candles to local markets and events. His perseverance as a successful small business owner drives me to keep pushing forward despite any challenges that may arise. I am grateful every day for his guidance and belief in me.◼