Yvette Davis Gayle has traveled the world for work and pleasure. But it was a trip to Ethiopia that inspired the Brooklyn-born, L.A.-based veteran entertainment publicist to venture into her own business–a line of luxury scented candles called The Sitota Collection. Fragrances include Coco Noir, Blue Nile, Havana, and Aigyiptos.
TNJ.com: What inspired The Sitota Collection?
Yvette Davis Gayle: My husband and I have been fortunate enough to travel the world with our careers and through personal vacations. In 2010, we adopted our daughter, Sitota, from Ethiopia. Our son, then six years old, had the idea to turn my candle-making hobby into a business. Our well-traveled and insightful son pictured us selling my candles all over the world. From that moment on, I worked tirelessly to make our dream come true. We both decided that naming the line after his sister was perfect. Sitota means “gift” and she is the most precious gift of all. I like to say each candle is hand-poured with love. Each unique fragrance is fashioned after a particular culture we have explored and each comes with an amazing personal story.
TNJ.com: When did you launch and how did you fund the startup?
YDG: We launched this past December and I used my own personal funds.
TNJ.com: How do you juggle your full-time position as vice president of publicity at Interscope Records and your startup business?
YDG: It’s very challenging. As you know, my full-time job as a publicist is very demanding. However, this is a family venture so I get a lot of help and support from my husband, brother-in-law, my best friends who are publicists and marketing professionals. I’m truly blessed to have an amazing team. I wake up at the crack of dawn to work before I get the kids up. Especially leading up to the launch, all-nighters were very common.
TNJ.com: How do you attract customers?
YDG: Fortunately, we have a vast network of contacts and literally started by word-of-mouth. I’ve been in the music business for 20 years so I ceded a lot to clients and colleagues to spread the word. My social media team is effective and growing daily. We have done several high-profile events and have been so well-received. I put a lot of effort into finding the right fragrances and I use traditional artisanal techniques of blending the wax and fragrance by hand. So, I feel incredibly blessed that people love my candles. We recently secured our first international boutique in Lagos, Nigeria. It’s just been amazing.
TNJ.com: What are your goals for 2014?
YDG: My goal is to find distribution so that my candles are available in stores so that people can walk up and smell them. It takes a lot of effort and work to sell direct to consumers online.
TNJ.com: Your long-term goals?
YDG: My long term goal is to give back to my daughter’s country. We make sure that even at three, she understands her history and where she is from. I plan to partner with an organization where a portion of the proceeds from The Sitota Collection will go to benefit children in Ethiopia. But it’s more than just sending funds. I want us, as a family, to have boots on the ground and really try to be effective. Paying it forward is paramount.
TNJ.com: What has been the biggest business lesson?
YDG: To embrace and learn from my mistakes. Running a business is completely new to me. Thankfully, my husband has been an entrepreneur all his life and has a wealth of knowledge.
TNJ: Business advice you would pass on?
YDG: If you’re passionate about doing something, then throw yourself into it and make your dreams come true. I’m not sure I actually knew at the start that The Sitota Collection would be what it is today. But I had a dream, my son had a dream and family is absolutely the most important thing to me and I love sharing them with the world.