The Woman Behind Bonita Fierce Candles: Meet Melissa Gallardo

bonita fierce candle owner melissa gallardo holding her cafecito con leche candle

In today's fast-paced world, we're all hunting for chill-out tricks, and what beats the cozy vibe of a fragrant candle? These candles are the real deal - mixing amazing smells with a dash of culture to whisk you back to sweet, simpler times. Ever stepped into a room and been caught off guard by the scent of a candle that takes you back in time? Suddenly, a forgotten memory pops up, and you're grinning ear-to-ear. That's the magic of Bonita Fierce Candles.

This week, we're hanging out with Melissa Gallardo, the badass Latina behind Bonita Fierce Candles. She's gonna share her ride of running her own small business, pouring love and care into each handmade candle.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.

LM: Hi Melissa! We're so excited to hear your story. Tell us about yourself and your business journey.

MG: 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.

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

MG: 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, and imposter syndrome, and finding my passion project, I decided to launch Bonita Fierce Candles.

LM: 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.

MG: 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 my 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 is gluten-free, toxin-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, and comes 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.

LM: 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).

MG: 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.

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

​MG: 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!

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

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

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