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.

name tags with the identity labels: latino, hispanic, latine, latina, latinx, and a last one that says i dont really care anymore

Identity labels (which are socially constructed) continually evolve as they shift through generations and as people grapple with predefined categories. As individuals redefine and express themselves, these labels are bound to transform, especially within intricate and often misinterpreted communities like Latinos whose racial backgrounds range from Indigenous to Black to white, to the ever elusive but not formerly recognized, “Brown.”