Skip to main

Kylah Chadwick ‘18

Kylah + Candles

Between her So Black Candle Company and her job as a crisis specialist, Kylah Chadwick ’18 is one busy young professional. But the Social Work major wouldn’t have it any other way.

Her work as a crisis specialist is tough but rewarding, and she’s grown to realize that social work is much more than helping people. It’s about “empowering people to be their best and helping them to reach their fullest potential,” she says.

A premise that’s also behind her So Black Candle Company. Consider her sweet-potato-pie scented Gramm’s Kitchen candle: “Our grandmothers are the pillars of our community. From the good food to the valuable life lessons, there’s no place like Gramm's Kitchen.”

And the citrus-scented Ready Set Dream: “This candle is inspired by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This citrus-scented candle will help you to relax and clear your mind, so that you too can go after your dreams.”

“And I’ve always had such a great love for my culture and people, so I thought ‘what if I could find a way to combine these two interests together and create my own business?’” she says. “I’ve always known I wanted to create something that celebrated Black culture, but the idea to do this with candles was something that was relatively new to me.”

And don’t forget the warm spices, vanilla, coconut, sandalwood and cocoa butter scent of Double Melanin: “Your Black is beautiful and do not let anyone tell you differently. Double the melanin means double the magic.”

Chadwick has nine candles in all, and every one has a story or inspiration to tell. The intro on her website hints at what’s inside: “Black is beautiful and our blackness matters. Our candles were created to celebrate our people. Each of our candles reflect an aspect of our culture. Whether it's from a TV show or a song; or our civil rights leaders and grandmothers.”

There’s Blacker Berry Sweeter Juice, Dear Mama, 90’s R&B (playlist included), and more. Ideas for scents usually happen when she least expects it – while watching a movie, reading a book, talking with family or friends and just about anything but thinking about candles. She even has an idea-dedicated notes section on her phone so ideas don’t escape her.

“I’m a bit of a perfectionist so this process can be drawn out sometimes, involving a lot of rough drafts but it is so worth it,” she says.

Although Chadwick went right from the Hill to graduate school at the University of Connecticut for Social Work, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur hasn’t been far from her consciousness since high school. She just didn’t know exactly what her business would be.

In high school she imagined creating a non-profit organization that combined her love for fashion with social service.

“I figured that going to McDaniel would give me the opportunity to get started on working towards the social service part of my dream and I could go to fashion school later,” Chadwick says. “Although I never went to fashion school, I don’t regret my choice of McDaniel because it aided in my growth as a young adult and allowed me to find my passion for other things such as event planning.”

That’s right, as juniors Chadwick and best friend, Khadijah Poston ’18, started “It’s a Curl Thing,” an intricately designed conference on natural hair that included YouTube bloggers in a panel discussion, vendors, hair stylists, natural product giveaways and dozens of tips and techniques for natural hair. Attendees were treated to a presentation on the historic, cultural, social, and psychological aspects of natural hair by Afiya Mbilishaka, a University of D.C. Psychology professor, clinical psychologist and psychohairapist, and the conference gave birth to CurlFriends, a club that continues on campus today.

“Our mentor for this event was Jose Moreno in the (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) office,” she says. “He was a great resource for us to bounce ideas off of and always encouraged us to look at things from different perspectives.

“An awesome person to have in our corner, Jose believed in us early on when other people wondered if we could pull off a successful natural hair conference on campus.”

Even before “It’s a Curl Thing,” Chadwick initiated another event in Connecticut called “Sister’s Keeper,” that gave young women the space to engage in fellowship and learn from one another. She relished courses that highlighted different cultures, African American Religious History and Buddhism.

Chadwick thrived in the communal environment her Social Work professors created and, although initially terrified at being away from family and friends, grew strong and independent within the McDaniel community despite its distance from her New London, Connecticut, hometown.

“Looking back, I can see I have a strong passion for being able to create something for people to truly enjoy,” she says. “This has definitely transferred over to what I’m doing now with my candles.”

Chadwick savored trips to Marshalls, Home Goods, and TJ Maxx for their lit candle sections since candles are among her favorite things.

“And I’ve always had such a great love for my culture and people, so I thought ‘what if I could find a way to combine these two interests together and create my own business?’” she says. “I’ve always known I wanted to create something that celebrated Black culture, but the idea to do this with candles was something that was relatively new to me.”

It may have been new but certainly not daunting. Chadwick ran with her idea and started the So Black Candle Company. Before she debuted the company she set up a candle lab in her apartment. She learned from trial and error – each fragrance can vary depending on the jar, wick size, fragrance load, and more.

It required extensive testing before she felt comfortable enough to launch the business. But launch she did on Sept. 21, 2020. She took a chance and hasn’t looked back.

“The advice I’d give a McDaniel student today would be that life isn’t a race and sometimes you’ll be revealed answers to your deepest questions when you least expect it,” she says. “So keep doing your best, keep growing, keep progressing, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

“Trust the process and be guided by your intuition, having confidence that everything will work out the way it is supposed to in the end.”

About Kylah

Career: Entrepreneur and Crisis Specialist

Class: 2018

Major: Social Work