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Meet Tatiana Pierre-Tilus

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tatiana Pierre-Tilus.

Hi Tatiana, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I am a first-generation daughter of Haitian immigrants born and raised in South Florida. I moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in 2018 to pursue graduate studies and just get the experience of being in a new environment.

How did it all start? I can’t pinpoint an exact moment where I had the idea to start a whole business. As a full-time middle school science teacher pursuing a graduate degree, I needed an escape. I remember my friend visiting pre-COVID, and we decided to take a candle-making workshop. It was so much fun and I thought, “that was relaxing.” Months later, we started hearing about COVID and knew that once my school district sent me an automatic fish feeder for my classroom fish tank, I wasn’t stepping back into my school building. Also, working with a scientist (Biochemist) as their research assistant gave me the heads up on what was to come and the reality of a pandemic, and our lab would have to shut down. I was devastated. Working in the lab brought me joy because I learned so much.

On the bright side of being in a pandemic, I think I was like, “yes! I don’t have to commute to and from work.” That was a luxury that I never got to experience in my career as a teacher. I was accustomed to working on a digital platform so the transition to virtual school wasn’t the worst, but being home 24/7 started to get to me and anyone would agree. I would take walks in my Mount Vernon neighborhood, but not seeing my students and hanging with friends was a weird adjustment. I caught myself up late at night on Canva, creating content and logos for fun. Then, I ordered a home candle-making kit. I guess that is when it started. I told myself that I spent hours getting the science down on making a candle, which required a lot of accurate measurements and testing. I was used to procedures and experimentation in the lab so this kind of brought the feeling of being a scientist in my own home. I would send hundreds of texts to my friends and family ideas just seeking their opinions. I finally found something to occupy myself with to avoid the anxiety of being at the start of a pandemic.

After months of researching and perfecting my “formula,” I had to decide on a name for this “business.” I honestly had no intention of actually launching this said “business,” it was all for fun. Anyways, I went back and forth with my name and it just didn’t feel right- “Pierre-Tilus Candle Co.” was not giving me what it needed to give (lol). I then decided to drop the Pierre and keep it at Tilus Candle Co. I didn’t love it. And one day, I just flipped the spelling to “Sulit” and was amazed! So I looked up the meaning (I did not want to be out here calling people sh*t heads in a different language). After a quick google search, I found out that it is a Tagalog word from the Philippines that means “worth it” or “good deal,” something worth the effort or money you pay for. My mind was blown by finding this out and knew this was meant to be.

Fast forward to five months into quarantine; I had a name, a formula, a website, social media accounts, a why, and all of the business aspects down for my candle business. I still grappled with the fact of actually going public with my business. So I started gifting my candles to co-workers, and they received it better than I thought. Being an introvert and it took me by surprise that they appreciated something I made with my hands. After talking to my therapist because the anxiety of doing something that I had no experience of doing was a lot and she gave me the tools to face a fear. I started believing in myself and knew I was capable of running my own business. So I set a date and announced it to friends and family. There was no going back. I have to say that I am extremely proud of myself and that is all that matters. People that I have met along this journey so far have been the plus. I wouldn’t take it back.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Coming from a family of just hard workers, I knew I had what it took. I didn’t have a business background but used my resources (Google and Youtube) and people I knew that did. It was all a learning curve, but that’s what made it even more enjoyable. Of course, I had sleepless nights but it is all worth it. Honestly, I still don’t know what I’m doing but I’m making it work for me.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I wanted to create something that reflected my vibrant personality. Also, I wanted it to remind me of home and my culture. The scents brought me back to that place, and I wanted everyone to have that same experience. Our memory of scents always reminds us of a story from our past. And who doesn’t love a good candle. Despite my anxieties about adding business owner to my list of titles (science teacher, researcher, daughter, friend – you get the picture), I pushed myself to a new level. The daughter of hardworking Haitian parents and a first-generation college graduate (pursuing her graduate degree), I knew was ready for another challenge. People definitely can relate to my story and that is what makes it worthwhile. Just being able to connect with people that suffer from anxiety or just don’t think they can pursue a dream. I am a living testimony to pushing yourself to another level by facing fears.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
A lesson that I have learned in this ongoing pandemic due to COVID-19 is not to let it be the excuse to why you couldn’t do something. I am the queen of excuses and I learned that despite any issues presented, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to make way by clearing the excuses from your purpose.


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Image Credits
Styling: Giulietta Pinna (Owner/Director of Limonata Creative) Photographer: Aphra Adkins Studio: Prop Up Shop in Baltimore

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