Jacinta Mercier-Fisher ordered only 50 candles when she decided to expand her interior design business and got the opportunity to talk about her new product on a TV news segment: She sold out in 24 hours.
The former marketing and public relations pro had been used to using her skills to build a new business, so she knew how to parlay the opportunity into an even greater one. After the segment, she hopped on Facebook and posted a video to take preorders. The only people who knew what she’d been up to, she says, was her husband and her two best friends.
“I used the news as like my push and marketed those two (videos) together,” Jacinta says. “And I mean, the outpour was amazing. I probably had like over 3,000 or 4,000 views on Facebook, and then, those became the inbox, and … that’s when the text messages started, that’s when the DMs began.”
But that wasn’t the first time Jacinta took a chance. She was just doing what he loved when she started doing interior design. People loved how she designed her own home, and requests for her to help others flew in. But, Jacinta says she wasn’t quite sure she had what she needed.
“I didn’t have — what I thought at first were — the tools to be a successful entrepreneur in interior design,” Jacinta says. “It’s something I had no real background in, but I had all the life lessons and examples from being in fashion and being in business and just incorporated it all into one.”
So she made the commitment to learn what she didn’t know. When she wanted to formally start her company, she looked at who was already making it happen in her field. She talked to those she knew in the business and studied people she looked up to like designer Nate Berkus, who the world first came to know from The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“I feel like nothing’s impossible,” Jacinta says. “And if one person doesn’t know and can’t teach me how to do it, there’s always someone else that can maybe help me. So I kind of took that model and made it my own almost.”
But now, Jacinta’s work can be seen throughout Chicago: Eleven Eleven Wine Bar in the West Loop, Pearl; Paint, Sip and Hip in Wicker Park; and Two Fish Crab Shack in Bronzeville.
She’s currently working on The Support Group Foundation inside the Lacuna Lofts and the restaurant and event space inside the K.L.E.O Community residence in Washington Park, all while working on several residential projects while waiting for her spring/summer projects to resume, including Reggie’s On the Beach at 63rd and Lakeshore Dr. in South Shore and Dipped Ice Cream Shop in the Chatham area.
She’s also teamed up with Ingrid Lavon, author of “Living After Divorce: 21 Ways to Heal and Move Forward,” in a “divorce by the design project” to help divorcees redesign their lives.
It was a big undertaking when Jacinta expanded her business to include candles: Switching from a service-only business to one that includes physical products can be challenging. But she wanted to be smart about it. It was her and her husband funding the product line, with no investors, so budgeting was key.
“It was me and my husband,” Jacinta says. “I just kind of knew what I could afford to do and I felt like I could develop a really great product and put it out there. … Once the preorders exceeded my actual my initial budget, I was able to afford to go ahead, and be smart about it, and just do increments that I thought I could afford to keep up with.”
And she continued to use her relationships. It got her pop-up store opportunities at west elm — one of her favorite stores. Someone from the store smelled her candle at her friend’s house and offered her the opportunity to sell her products in a New York store.
“Imagine me trying to like ship these candles to New York to go to a pop-up on Broadway — one of the biggest stores there — and set up the products,” Jacinta says. “So fortunately enough, they had someone in-house that was able to help me and assist me, and gave me all the tools I needed to be able to set up.”
That opportunity led to more pop-ups at west elm, at home in Chicago this time, and Jacinta says it all started with her own belief in herself.
“It was it just, initially, just stepping out on faith,” Jacinta says. “You just believe in yourself first and foremost, and once you see someone actually likes your product or your service, you just step out and you just do your best every time. … So when I leave a person’s house or when I sell a candle, I leave a business card, I leave a description, I leave how they can pass the word on and/or buy another one. So was just like you leave a piece of yourself with everybody when leave.’
And Jacinta’s money-making mantra?
“It is enough for everybody because no one is you,” Jacinta says. “What you get and what’s inside you, it’s only one you. It’s enough for everybody — just do you.”
This interview is part of a Black History Month series highlighting black business owners. You can find more here.
Top image: Arionne Nettles/Bizi