Meet Melissa Gallardo of Bonita Fierce Candles

woman, Melissa Gallardo, holding a Bonita Fierce candle

Where Sustainability and Latinx Identity Meet

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.

Women in Texas at the National Women's March, rallying against deadly abortion restrictions.
Lucy Flores

The landscape of abortion rights in the United States has become more restrictive than ever in recent history, particularly in Arizona and Florida, where recent developments represent a major setback for women’s reproductive rights. On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in a 4-to-2 decision to uphold an 1864 law banning abortion from the moment of conception. The only exception is saving the mother’s life, but there are no exceptions for rape or incest under this law.

Just a few days earlier, on April 1, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled in favor of upholding a 6-week abortion ban, which will take effect on May 1. This further reduced the legal threshold for abortions in Florida, which used to be 24 weeks of pregnancy before Republicans passed a law in 2022 banning abortions after 15 weeks. Both of these rulings have sparked intense debate and outrage about their impact on women’s rights.

Overview of the Near-Total Abortion Ban in Arizona

The Arizona Supreme Court voted to uphold an 1864 law, a law passed even before the state officially was a part of the United States of America, that makes all types of abortion illegal, including medication abortion, from the moment of conception. Though there are exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the ban makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and imposes severe penalties, including imprisonment, on medical professionals performing abortions.

Medical professionals have spoken out about how dire the situation will become for women with this near-total abortion ban. Dr. Jill Gibson, chief medical director of Planned Parenthood in Arizona, told CNN that this ruling will have “absolutely unbelievable consequences for the patients in our community.” She continued by saying, “Providers need to be able to take care of their patients without fear of legal repercussions and criminalization.”

Representatives from Arizona and other states across the country have also spoken up against this near-total abortion ban.

Video by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramVideo by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Image by Rub\u00e9n Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Until this Arizona Supreme Court decision, abortion had been legal in the state up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. The right to abortion via Roe v. Wade prevented the enforcement of the near-total abortion ban, but since a majority vote in the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe, those opposed to abortion rights had been fighting to enforce the 160-year-old 1864 law.

This new abortion ban in Arizona is not effective immediately as the court has paused its ruling for 14 days until additional arguments are heard in a lower court about how constitutional the law is. However, the law will likely come into effect in May, a few weeks from now. Planned Parenthood Arizona, the largest abortion provider in the state, will continue serving the community until the ban is enforced.

An Overview of Florida's Six-Week Abortion Ban

The landscape of abortion in Florida has also undergone a significant change with the enforcement of a 6-week abortion ban, replacing the previous 15-week limit. This ban, similar to Arizona's, severely restricts access to abortion care and poses a significant challenge to reproductive rights in the state. Providers are bracing for a public health crisis due to the increased demand for abortion and limited options for patients.

Practically speaking, a 6-week abortion ban is a near-total abortion ban because pregnant people often don’t even realize they could be pregnant by this early stage. Combined with Florida’s strict abortion requirements, which include mandatory in-person doctor visits with a 24-hour waiting period, it’s nearly impossible for those who may want an abortion to be able to access it before 6 weeks. Not to mention that fulfilling the requirements is particularly challenging for low-income individuals.

Video by theluncheonlawyer on InstagramVideo by theluncheonlawyer on Instagram

Moreover, this Florida law also restricts telemedicine for abortion and requires that medication be provided in person, effectively eliminating mail-order options for abortion pills. While exceptions for rape and incest exist in Florida, the requirements are also strict, asking victims to provide police records or medical records. For victims who don’t always report sexual violence for many different reasons, these exceptions don’t make a difference.

The consequences of Florida’s ban extend to neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws. For instance, residents of Alabama, facing a total ban on abortion, and Georgia, with its own 6-week abortion ban, have relied on Florida for abortion services. That will no longer be an option, further limiting care alternatives.

The Road Ahead

These recent abortion bans in Arizona and Florida are a major setback for women's rights, particularly impacting Latina women who already face barriers to accessing quality healthcare. These bans not only restrict women’s reproductive freedom but also endanger their lives.

Efforts to challenge these bans through legal means and ballot measures are ongoing, but the road ahead is uncertain. While there’s hope for overturning these abortion bans, the challenges of conservative laws and legal battles are formidable. The November ballot in both states will be crucial in determining the future of abortion rights and access for all.

graphic design highlighting Dolores Huerta 94 birthday, the iconic civil rights activist and labor leader.

Today, Dolores Huerta, one of the most important Latino icons within civil rights, is turning 94 years old. This occasion is the perfect opportunity to celebrate not only her robust life but also her immense contributions as a social justice champion. Huerta is a living legend whose tireless efforts have helped transform the landscape of civil rights, feminism, labor rights, farmworkers’ rights, and even environmental justice.

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