woman, Melissa Gallardo, holding a Bonita Fierce candle

We’re all looking for ways to relax these days and what better way to do so than by lighting up an amazing smelling candle? Bonita Fierce Candles combine amazing scents with cultura to bring you nostalgic memories that take you to simpler, happier moments. There’s something about walking into a room and having the scent of a candle stimulate your senses that captivates you and takes you to a memory that you just can’t recall until you dig deep and there it is. You find the memory and you smile with your entire body. That’s the captivating effect of Bonita Fierce Candles.

This week we’re highlighting Melissa Gallardo, owner of Bonita Fierce Candles to tell us about her small business journey as she builds it, one hand poured candle at a time.

The following Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

Melissa, tell us about yourself and your business journey.

My name is Melissa Gallardo and I’m the founder and maker of Bonita Fierce Candles, a candle brand that celebrates heritage and home by promoting visibility and inclusivity for the next generation of Latinas. I’m a media professional by day and a graduate student/entrepreneur by night! I’m a proud 1st generation American, Salvadoreña, and New Yorker.

The challenges of starting and building a business are no joke. How did you get started on your business venture and what inspired you?

I founded Bonita Fierce Candles because I learned to embrace my Latinx heritage with a newfound passion for candle making. Over the last several years I’ve been paving my way through school, making mistakes, and figuring out how to navigate life as a brown, non-Spanish speaking Latina.

Truth be told, I didn’t know what being Latina meant. The largest obstacle for me was language. I was “Americanized” because it was just easier to be accepted in my community and that brought on some lifelong insecurities. However, I gradually started to extinguish my fears of not being authentic enough because no matter what, I’m Latina enough.

I’m enjoying music, culture, and language in a way that feels right for me. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I started my first quarantine activity – candle making! After successfully overcoming self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and finding my passion project, I decided to launch Bonita Fierce Candles.

We’ve seen the candle making industry grow and we’d love to know what makes your brand stand out. Tell us more about your products and your ingredients.

Instead of using lids, each candle comes with a wildflower seed paper dust cover that can be planted. We also focus on eco-friendly shipping with biodegradable materials and carbon neutral shipments. Since I started by business in 2020, I’ve found new ways to improve upon sustainability, and I’m committed to researching the ways I can reduce my waste and carbon footprint as a small business.

Bonita Fierce Candles are made from vegan coconut soy wax that are gluten free, toxin free, paragon free, phthalate free, and come from renewable sources. The wooden wicks are FSC-certified, hand-crafted and made in the USA. The fragrance oils are free from carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins, organ toxins, and acute toxins.

The life of an entrepreneur is no joke! Tell us how you do self-care and give us some ideas (we can all use them these days).

I always take breaks. I make sure that I sit down away from my computer to eat meals, and spend time with loved ones after work. Also, time blocking is my best friend! It ensures I am held accountable for my daily goals, weekly, and monthly goals. I’m also an avid reader so I spend the last hour of my day reading.

If you could only offer one piece of advice to our readers, what would it be?

There is no such thing as perfection. Being an entrepreneur means that you’re always learning and nothing you do will be absolutely perfect. Make your dream a reality and just start!

Tell us where we can follow you and your business adventures!

You can visit my website, and find all my social platforms @bonitafiercecandles.

This interview is part of the Luz Collective’s Alpha Latina: Small Business Saturday series. This series highlights the accomplishments of Alpha Latinas making a difference in their communities through their small businesses. Interested in being featured? Email us.

In The Community


Conservative Wing of Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

Safe + Legal Abortion = Pro-Life

After 50 years of precedent protecting the constitutional right to abortion, Roe v. Wade has now been overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States. This news comes after a leaked document made its way through the news cycle just this past May which showcased the SCOTUS’ potential to overturn the case, spurring the fear of abortion rights being lost entirely or heavily restricted in many states across the country.

Roe v. Wade was passed on January 22nd, 1973, in a 7-2 decision by the Court. The ruling upheld the right to abortion within the first two trimesters of pregnancy. The case took place after “Jane Roe” (later identified as Norma McCorvey) didn’t have the means to travel outside of her native Texas to get an abortion. This led to her suing the state for the right to have access to safe, legal abortion.

Roe v. Wade has been challenged a number of times throughout the years, primarily by “pro-life” activist groups that maintain the narrative that abortion is neither healthcare nor a right. This ruling has already enabled “triggered laws” heavily restricting or banning abortion that have already passed in 13 states, with other states preparing for similar rulings to take place.

Conservative Republicans celebrated the reversal of the ruling via social media:

While prominent Democrats shared their opinions:

And the internet as a whole reacted:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi previously promised to pass legislation codifying Roe, making it protected under law.

The general consensus seems to indicate that there may be higher stakes at risk with the reversal of Roe, including additional concerns for other rulings to be overturned by the conservative-majority court are also being present:

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was previously cited as the main reason Roe v. Wade protected abortion rights, and, as evidenced by Justice Clarence Thomas’ comments where he opined “any substantive due process decision is 'demonstrably erroneous,” it doesn’t seem that due process will work anymore to protect these rights as well. Thomas has also gone on record after the ruling to state that previous due process precedents such as Obergefell (gay marriage), Lawrence (access to contraceptives), and Griswold (marital privacy) should all be reconsidered.

President Biden delivered his remarks on the ruling at 12:30pm EST today.

This story is evolving and the impact isn't fully known. Check back for more.

Woman writing sentences in Spanish on an ipad

If you’re anything like me, you consider yourself “byelingual” you speak English, you speak Spanish, but you occasionally fumble through anything from words and phrases to feminine/masculine terms in both languages. Normally this occurs simply because I’m constantly changing the language I speak on a daily basis. As someone born in Puerto Rico but raised primarily in the U.S., I was fortunate enough to have parents who steadily enforced the rule of speaking strictly Spanish at home since my mom reasoned that schools would teach me English anyways. Because of this, I was spared from being put in the “no sabo” camp. Fast forward to life now, I’m grateful mami always took the initiative to enable me to be bilingual, since having the ability to speak Spanish has made all the difference in my life.

This, however, isn’t true for many Latinos living in the United States. The number of children that speak another language at home has risen since the ‘90s and though that number was much lower than it is today, during the time that many families immigrated to the U.S. (the ‘80s to the late ‘90s), it wasn’t common to maintain your native language. In fact, bilingual numbers saw a drastic jump between 1995 and 2000, then we saw a steady increase that continues through today.

This period of migration that took place during the ‘80s and late ‘90s also normalized the pressure to assimilate into American culture at the time. With a conservative Republican president at the helm of immigration reform that resulted in the legalization of an estimated 3 million undocumented immigrants, the push to learn English and learn it well was alive and true.

The country was also just coming out of highly charged and overtly racist times having just gone through the Civil Rights era of the 60’s and 70’s.

Thus, the natural byproduct of these turbulent times was to not pass down Spanish language skills to your children. Some parents did this in order to spare their children from racism while also working to give them a leg up with improved English skills. First-generation immigrants at this time also justified the decision to not teach their kids Spanish-language skills based on their own lived experiences due to being judged for their accents and ridiculed for struggling academically, a direct result of dual language learning not yet being implemented into the education system.

Years later, we’re seeing the effects of this choice.

Though a selfless act from our parents in theory, many first and second-generation kids raised without learning Spanish are constantly mocked for not knowing the language. This is especially cruel knowing that most times it wasn’t their fault, yet they are looked down upon for a choice their parents made - a choice that was made with the best of intentions. It’s common to see these adult children trying to learn Spanish and often feeling rejected by their community for not speaking Spanish, leaving them alienated from their Latinx heritage.

In part, Urban Dictionary defines “no sabo,” as a term “used for people of Hispanic/Latino descent that don’t know, or barely speak Spanish.” From the way the term is used in social media, it’s clear that the label is meant to be derogatory. This begs the very simple question: why would any fellow Latino slam the door shut in spaces that we could instead be using to welcome and educate people who were ostracized from their heritage and culture?

The Latinx community requires a massive reckoning with the diversity that exists across U.S.-based Latinos who share many cultural practices but don’t have a unifying identity. As we grapple with the broad spectrum of “Latinidad,” just as white and white-presenting Latinos don’t appreciate being called “gringa,” or any Latino regardless of skin color appreciates being accused of “talking white,” we can’t declare non-Spanish or poorly-speaking Spanish-speakers as less than simply because they lack or haven’t mastered the Spanish language.

Given that many Latinx icons didn’t speak Spanish or barely spoke Spanish (Selena Quintanilla is just one example), this is a testament to how bilingual skills shouldn’t act as the sole unifying factor that many in the Latinx community use to define themselves. In fact, it’s refreshing to see how many in the Latinx community are leaning into their non-bilingual status while also confidently living in their Latinx identity.

Latino and Latinx identity is complicated, but instead of making it a point to exclude or criticize those who struggle with Spanish, we need to continue to reevaluate what we believe makes us Latinx. There are many other factors to consider including things like culture, lifestyle, traditions, race, and various languages (contrary to popular belief, many other languages are spoken in Latin America including Mayan, Portuguese, and Quechua), and all of these things will overlap to various degrees.

While we may still have plenty of work ahead to further define and understand what it means to be Latinx, what’s abundantly clear is that “no sabo” needs to be promptly retired from casual conversations and recategorized as the slur that it is.

two women posing

I grew up being told, “you can’t do that because you’re a girl” or “your brother can because he’s a boy” and I hated hearing that. It’s been something that has tormented me my entire life.

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