RALEIGH, N.C. — August is National Black Business Month, a time to acknowledge and appreciate Black business owners and what they bring to their communities.

What You Need To Know

  • National Black Business Month is recognized in August 

  •  It's a time to celebrate Black business owners and their accomplishments

  • USU Company Candles is a business in Raleigh that specializes in scent design and candle making

According to Downtown Raleigh Alliance, since July 1 of last year, 55 new storefront businesses have opened in Downtown Raleigh. Of those new businesses, 18 businesses identify as 50% or more minority-owned, and 26 businesses identify as 50% or more women-owned.

Stacy Ahua, owner of a Raleigh business called USU Company Candles, moved to North Carolina in 2019 for a new job, but ended up losing it during the pandemic. She then started making candles as a way to keep herself busy.

This turned into a passion and eventually into a business in 2020. For Ahua, it’s not just about making candles - there’s a bigger meaning behind it all.

“I’ve had exposure to things. I’ve traveled, I’ve done all the things, and this is genuinely the most important thing I’ve ever done,” Ahua said.

All the candles Ahua makes are inspired by her family, her memories and her Nigerian culture. For each candle, she writes a story that comes on a card. The scents of the candles mimic those stories.

She said one of her family members who really inspired her was her dad. He moved to the United States to take an academic scholarship, having to leave his family and Nigeria. Ahua said he did this to take a chance on creating a life here.

“I really thought back to that conversation with my dad and I was like, OK, if he can leave all those things and take a risk on a place he’s literally never even seen before, surely I can try to make a candle and put it on the internet and see if somebody wants one. Like it’s not going to be that big of a risk,” Ahua said.

The business owner said her scents and candle making classes allow her to connect with the community. She also said that by sharing her experiences, she wants to encourage others to do the same.

“There’s so much more that you can put into the effort that you make here, into the scent that you make, into everyday things that you carry with you that are important and just the acknowledgment of why you do what you do,” Ahua said.

Ahua said it’s empowering to be a Black business owner in Raleigh. She said there’s a sense of community where they can connect on all levels, whether that be their success or failures.

The Downtown Raleigh Alliance conducted an ownership survey of downtown storefront businesses in 2021, and continue to update sampling of over 500 storefront businesses. They said 57.5% of those participating businesses identify as 51% or more minority or women-owned.

Specifically, 27.4% of participating storefront businesses identify as 51% or more minority-owned, and 46.6% of participating storefront businesses identify as 51% or more women-owned. These statistics exclude nonprofit and institutional ownership entities.