Monique Brown: Shines a light on injustice
Looking to turn a kitchen-table project into a business with a bright future? Affirmation Culture founder, Monique Brown lights the way with candles with a conscience.
Monique Brown believes in the power of positive affirmations and, crucially, that actions speak louder. Her wellness brand Affirmation Culture delivers clean candles which smell divine and are feelgood in a real sense. They come with a positive affirmation card and include High Vibes and Morning Gratitude editions.
Monique and the brand are London-based and her career includes working in the US, and in movie production on two Bond films and Wonder Woman. She is a woman who walks the talk that’s part of her wellness brand. And now that’s all about the new video for her Call for Justice campaign.
Give light and people will find the way Ella Baker
Monique chose February to launch this campaign video as it ties in with Black History month in the US, which has been officially marked since 1976. (October is the UK’s month.) In May 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Monique took action. She added the Call for Justice candle to the Affirmation Culture collection to signal the start of her campaign to support racial equality.
Monique’s candles all include affirmations but with this special edition the card comes with a quote from history’s black activists including Ella Baker, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. Its scent is Good Vibes, with citrus for a fresh start and plenty of patchouli.
Now Monique’s mission takes the next step as 12 of today’s advocates for the campaign show up for The Call video, aiming to raise awareness and support charities committed to change. The advocates include AOC initiative founder Tariq Frimpong and celebrity hairstylist Zateesha Barbour.
Monique’s own frame in the video sees her holding Ella Baker’s inspirational call: “Give light and people will find the way.”
Of the Black Lives Matter global protest after 25 May 2020, Monique says: “At that time, my mental health had really suffered and racism has always put a strain on people of colour, it just hasn't been acknowledged.” She channelled her anxiety into action with her Call for Justice candle which then raised over $1,300 in charity donations.
What’s your start-up story?
I founded Affirmation Culture in 2018 in my time living in New York. I had taken time out of my fast-paced film industry career to have a year to focus on my wellbeing. I was feeling extremely burnt out and I knew I needed real change
As part of my self-care routine, I would use affirmations multiple times in my day and during my meditations. The act of lighting a candle to create a sense of stillness and repeating an affirmation became a powerful wellbeing tool for me which I wanted to share with others.
What’s in a name?
The name Affirmation Culture was born out of wanting to create a movement where people find a space to practice self-care every day which includes self-acceptance. When we know we are truly enough just as we are, this is extremely beneficial to our mental wellbeing.
Share your mission statement
My goal is to encourage people to look after their minds everyday like they look after their bodies Monique Brown
I have always been a passionate advocate for mental health and I wanted to create a brand that approaches self-care in a holistic way but also gives back to mental health charities and organisations. I had studied mindfulness and CBT, and it was clear that stress and anxiety are linked to our thoughts. We often treat the physical aspects of stress but when our minds are calm, our body follows. My goal is to encourage people to look after their minds everyday like they look after their bodies.
Why is Call for Justice a career high?
Being a black-owned business owner, it is important to me to help raise awareness and support organisations working for equality and humanity. Ten per cent of profit from these candles is donated to NAACP and Grassroots Law.
The Call For Justice candle has since been supported by international businesses, which I’m really proud of. Donating is a huge part of our intention with this campaign as we try and live in the words of Nelson Mandela: 'What counts in life is not the mere fact we have lived. It is what difference to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.
What are your business highs and lows?
The most heart-warming feedback is always when people tell me about their experiences with the affirmations. I had one person tell me they were still using an affirmation six months after they first received it. That really makes me feel like I’m doing something good.
There are many lows as an independent business owner, times that I wondered if my company would survive, especially at the start of the pandemic as so many events were cancelled. I often wondered if I should carry on, but I’m glad I did.
The advice I would give myself starting up is ‘keep going’. Not everyone can see your vision at first and won’t understand what you are trying to achieve. But that’s because it’s not their vision, it’s yours! Don’t be put off by other peoples’ options. Trust yourself and your intuition.
Is there a mentor worth a mention?
During my time in New York, on my own journey finding holistic wellbeing, I would often read books by and listen to people like Berné Brown, Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert and Oprah Winfrey. I always remember Oprah talking about finding fulfilment in our life and that the formula is to have a passion and purpose. She’d ask: ‘What is our intention?’ That really stuck with me.
What’s the forecast for 2021?
It has been amazing to see how we have grown since the beginning: From making the candles on my own by hand in my kitchen, to now having international stockists and a fantastic team of four. For 2021 our goal is to carry on creating a community and a safe space to discuss and encourage mental wellbeing. We also have some new self-care candles in the making, too, which I’m really excited about.
Who’s on your wellness speed-dial?
I believe wellness to be threefold: Mind, body and spirit. The person who has been impactful in my life recently is Jay Shetty. I love his recent book Think Like A Monk and outlook on life. I also love the Black Women’s Yoga Collective who are doing amazing work at bringing diversity to the wellness sector.
I believe the future of wellness really is a holistic approach to our lives. Many people’s mental health has been affected by the pandemic as well as other events in 2020. For many years there has been so much emphasis on physical fitness but our mental fitness is just as important.
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