To cheer her up, she set up a lab in her home kitchen in the fall of 2019 and created a candle using only natural ingredients like soy, coconut wax and essential oils. (The chemicals in her old candles caused headaches.) He named his first product Jurassic Orange, which resembled a fruit in color and scent.
“The first one really needs improvement,” he said. “At least it got rid of the fishy smell.”
Jurassic Orange was so popular with his mom that his headaches were gone. But Alejandro wasn’t done with the experiment. Within a few months, he had about half a dozen scents, including chunky sweaters and comfy socks (later renamed Under the Northern Lights), that smelled like fruit smoothies mixed in a pine forest.
In September 2020, he put his first candle collection on Etsy, an online marketplace specializing in handmade products. He also sells candles at seasonal markets, such as the one where Vice President Kamala Harris bought holiday gifts last year in downtown Washington.
“The Secret Service has rules,” Alejandro said. “It was so exciting to see her. My mom was jumping up and down.”
He recommended two candles to the vice president: Sakura, because of her ties to Washington, and Gentleman, because her husband was the second gentleman. She took some of his advice, but not all: She bought the gentleman’s candle, but instead of cherry blossoms, she opted for cinnamon buns. “It makes sense,” he said, “because she loves baking.”
Jesse Benitez, general manager of the Tysons Corner Center, said Alejandro’s fame “has skyrocketed” with the vice president’s visit. A senior manager contacted Alejandro and asked him to rent one of 12 retail carts at the mall. On September 1, Love Incense Candle opened on the second floor of the shopping center. Alejandro is the youngest owner of the mall.
“He’s an impressive young man,” said Benitez, who bought a pink candy candle for his wife.
Inside the mall, Alejandro turned a large room into his production facility, where he and his staff make 600 to 700 candles a week. This process takes several hours. First, the wax is melted and poured into a pitcher, to which the team adds aromatic oils and dyes. Next, they pour the liquid into a glass jar or tin and poke a wick in the middle, like a small flagpole. After a few hours, the wax has hardened and the candle is ready to join the other 25 scents on the shelf, including Donut Kill My Vibe and Alexa, Clean the House.
“We come up with the name first,” he said, “and if the smell doesn’t match the name, we’ll try again.”
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On a recent fall afternoon, Alejandro was making his dessert candle with a dollop of wax that looked like whipped cream on a sundae. He’s also adjusting the scent for a black candle with shimmer, which he plans to call the Galaxy.
When asked what was the hardest part of the job, he said paying taxes. (His mom helps with the calculations.) The best part? “Meet people, especially Kamala Harris,” he said. “Maybe I’ll meet Martians later.”
If aliens do land in Northern Virginia, Alejandro is ready to recommend with a candle: Galaxy and Jurassic Orange because, he says, “they’ve never seen dinosaurs.”