Shavaun Christian: “You don’t have to know everything to do one thing”

You don’t have to know everything to do one thing. I spent more time at networking conferences than I should have. Looking for that one panel or speaker who would reveal the secrets to their success. When ultimately the action is the accelerant to success. Doing the ‘thing,’ not just thinking about the ‘thing,’ or hearing […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

You don’t have to know everything to do one thing.

I spent more time at networking conferences than I should have. Looking for that one panel or speaker who would reveal the secrets to their success. When ultimately the action is the accelerant to success. Doing the ‘thing,’ not just thinking about the ‘thing,’ or hearing about the ‘thing’ from another keynote speaker is what will help you achieve, learn and experience more faster.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shavaun Christian.

Shavaun Christian was an advertising creative for over a decade, where she executed award-winning creative campaigns across traditional and digital media for global brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Pepperidge Farm, United Airlines, GSK, and many others. In 2016, Shavaun started her own creative agency, essy & jo, where she focused on brand development, design and digital media directly with small businesses and global brands across the US, Middle East and Asia, overseeing on-site creative productions in Singapore, Belgium and Montreal for clients like Cigna and NYC Department of Education. To help combat overwhelming work stress, Shavaun returned to her childhood, craft-making roots and took up candle making as a sense of escape and a practice of restorative self-care. The candles she lit in her home felt passive and impersonal which led her to want more, inspiring her to create Spoken Flames and reimagine candles as a more immersive experience with a bespoke scent, scene and sound with positive and affirming messages for each candle.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When life got crazy, I lit candles. This was three years ago during the growth of my creative agency, essy & jo. I lead brand development and creative production for startups and brands across the US, Middle East and Asia. The growth (on paper) was great, but my entrepreneurial endeavors left me feeling overwhelmed. Candles became an important part of my restorative self-care practice. Lighting a candle cued ‘me time,’ but most candles on the market felt self-serving, passive and impersonal. So I started Spoken Flames to reimagine candles as a more personal, engaging and immersive candle experience. With that experiential candle concept in mind, I sought to understand the production and science behind candle making. I took courses, sourced raw goods from around the globe, and refined my proprietary, shimmering and all-natural coconut wax formula for over 18 months until I got it just right! This commitment to high-quality craftsmanship remains a priority for each Spoken Flames candle.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I faced hurdles early in the product development stage of the business. I use wooden wicks for Spoken Flames, which — I learned the hard way — are a delicate & difficult component to get just right for specific candle waxes, in a specific candle vessel, and with a specific fragrance oil ratio. Wooden wicks produce a soft-crackle (like a mini campfire!) and have a unique horizontal-shaped flame. These features added to the immersive candle experience I was committed to creating for customers, so eliminating wooden wicks was a non-negotiable, although I came pretty close to defaulting to the standard cotton wicks that most candle brands use. I spent a lot of time and money testing, blending and failing during the product development phase. As a bootstrapped business, it pushed my financial and emotional limits in getting the wooden wick candle just right. You don’t really know patience until you’ve ordered hundreds of dollars in candle supplies, waited weeks for said goods to arrive, spent nights making multiple test samplers (with the oh-so slightest differences in ratios), only to realize that none of the samplers were just right, and you’d have to reset and respend — all while other candlemakers you follow online are touting their earnings and highlight reels.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Belief in my product and the resiliency of other successful entrepreneurs fueled my drive to continue through my early fails. Everyone has a journey, and I have yet to see one successful founder or entrepreneur whose story involved pure ease and zero obstacles. I’ve come to understand that the hard parts are not only part of the journey, but are a necessary balance to our experiences so we can truly appreciate the good parts. The hard parts also push my creativity, ingenuity and problem-solving skills, which ultimately make me a better business owner, critical thinker and human being. So the hard parts are fuel for my drive & growth, just as much as the good.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going great today. Spoken Flames has officially launched! I’m incredibly proud of the design, craftsmanship and complementary augmented reality experience that we have created for each Spoken Flames candle because it’s unlike anything on the candle market. Our commitment to creating an experience that truly encourages and enriches downtime & self-care is important now more than ever. I hope our motivating and multisensory candles help people feel more present and inspired. The grit and resilience pushed me through the late, and sometimes sleepless, nights to bring a unique product and experience to market.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The very first candles I ever made were at a candle making workshop in 2017. I actually never lit those candles! It’s where I first learned about the science of candle making, the importance of cure times and flashpoints. Even under proper candle making guidance, I was so afraid that my first batch of candles would start a fire, so I never lit them and they’re still tucked in my kitchen cabinet — indefinitely curing. The two lessons I learned from that: buy a fire extinguisher and just go for it. I’ve since become comfortable with my knowledge of the raw ingredients, ideal temperatures at which to pour & blend, and I’ve also started ZERO fires!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Spoken Flames is the only candle brand that offers a multisensory candle experience that transcends reality. We merge high-quality candle craftsmanship with augmented reality experiences through Instagram filters that enable a unique scent, sound and scene for each of our motivational candle messages. It’s a fully immersive candle experience meant to motivate, inspire and activate your moment of self-care. We’ve reimagined a self-care staple (candles) as an active and more engaging product experience and are committed to our philosophy that ‘me time’ should be a time to immerse yourself in all the parts of you. From your fingers to your toes, to the corners of your mind; focus on your whole being. Our immersive approach to self-care informs the craft of our multisensory candles, and the future of Spoken Flames.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

To thrive, pursue what you’re passionate about. The resilience needed to push past obstacles is only effective if you’re pushing for something you truly care for. To avoid burnout, take mental and physical breaks. Yes, there is a difference. Spend some time not thinking about your effort and, if possible, literally remove yourself from the space of your work or ideation. There are some days (and nights) I simply can’t turn off my brain about Spoken Flames. I’m thinking about ideas, operations, marketing — the list goes on. So I personally take a night and watch a new show or documentary — with a scented candle, of course. It’s to get my mind off of work. I also am intentional about the positioning of my furniture. You’d be surprised by how sitting on the same chair that’s placed in a new position, can change how you experience a room. The light hits differently, the air flows differently, your view is different. The flow is just different. It’s a new perspective that can reset the monotony of our home experience.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Before launching Spoken Flames, I worked for over a decade in the advertising industry. I shared success as an Art Director through mentorship, helping affirm, guide and inspire young, creative professionals through my learnings at every step of my career. In my youth and even as a young professional, I remember how important and impactful it was to speak with or shadow someone who did what I aspired to do. So as I embark on my first product-based, direct-to-consumer endeavor with Spoken Flames, I look forward to learning a lot more, and ultimately sharing and engaging other young creators, makers and entrepreneurs who are interested in pursuing a similar path. My knowledge is your knowledge.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. You don’t have to know everything to do one thing.

I spent more time at networking conferences than I should have. Looking for that one panel or speaker who would reveal the secrets to their success. When ultimately the action is the accelerant to success. Doing the ‘thing,’ not just thinking about the ‘thing,’ or hearing about the ‘thing’ from another keynote speaker is what will help you achieve, learn and experience more faster.

2. People management is key.

Not everyone will share your level of risk, commitment or enthusiasm. And that’s okay. Understand people’s strengths, weaknesses and value do the bigger picture when help improve communication and expectations toward the growth & success of a company.

3. Luck is a factor in success.

As hard as we all work, and as smart as we all are, we cannot plan, predict, or time the future. We can definitely prepare for the best and act in the best interests of ourselves and the business, but sometimes it takes a little luck to truly propel you forward. But you can’t orchestrate luck either. Just work hard and trust your vision. The unexplainable magic will happen.

4. Unplug from your vision.

So you’ve found something you’ve passionate about — great! But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Taking a mental break from your passion will help keep that passion alive.

5. Things might not work out, but have fun anyway!

I have an idea in my head of how I envision Spoken Flames existing in 5 years, but I’m also open to that it may be greater than I could have ever imagined, or not work out at all. The spectrum of possibilities is sometimes out of our control. This is why it’s so important that regardless of what happens, you have fun along the way!

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would start a self-awareness movement. As in, encourage the practice of being with yourself: mind, body and spirit — be aware of how you feel, and why you feel. Simply sitting in silence is all you’d need to practice self-awareness — honor your thoughts and emotions. Self-awareness is key to understanding yourself, your triggers, your desires and goals. Which will ultimately inform actions you take in relationships with family, friends, your community and the world. We often get caught up in the information being fed to us, without grounding ourselves in ourselves. Practicing self-awareness can help us transcend the noise.

You might also like...


Connie Steele On How We Need To Adjust To The Future Of Work

by Karen Mangia

Dr. Alan Patterson On Redefining Success

by Karen Mangia

Mariska Fissette On How We Need To Adjust To The Future Of Work

by Karen Mangia
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.