We had the good fortune of connecting with Coco and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Coco, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and always been the “ideas guy” for different businesses or ways to market things, etc. I had just been stuck in the rat race of working for other people. But I knew I was going to build a better candle a few years ago when I had a cough for four straight months that would *not* go away. We discovered it couldn’t be medicated, and finally my doctor said “I don’t hear infection when I listen to your lungs. I hear asthma. I think we should try a steroid.” Sure enough, the steroid worked, and I officially had asthma. Any time you have a new diagnosis, you also receive education about the ways your habits have to change. The doctor said to avoid things like spray deodorants, certain perfumes, even certain flowers, keep my seasonal allergies in check, yada, yada. Then candles and other home fragrances were listed and that’s where I drew the line. I could switch deodorants from spray to solid, but I am always 100% in control of the smell of my home! I started to wonder why all these things would trigger asthma, and some of them were pretty obvious. VOCs, and other chemical fumes, we know are bad, but candles? A tiny little flame? I wasn’t convinced. So I did my research and it turns out that most of your mass produced candles, and, yes, even the super expensive ones with fancy names, are all made of some really trash materials that you don’t want burning and polluting the air in your home. Our business became a legal entity in 2018, and I spent that time researching, developing a cleaner candle recipe which then spiraled into clean and chemical free mists, soaps, body butters and scrubs. Then I found my suppliers and manufacturers who shared the same mission of providing cleaner products. Like so many others, the pandemic accelerated things when we weren’t leaving our homes, and we were lucky enough to launch on August 7, 2020, what would have been my grandmother’s 91st birthday.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Most entrepreneurs start a business because they have a product or service that solves a problem or need. Establo Blanco is a justice-based enterprise. The problems and needs we try to solve or fulfill are social justice problems. We want our clientele to shop with us, have a clean conscience and feel good about their purchase. So when you purchase a candle from us, you have helped to support women and minority owned businesses, because we intentionally seek out those suppliers, and you’ve also supported American manufacturing. All of our materials come from North America. Our wax is made in Arizona, our wooden wicks are made IN FSC certified mills, and are enrolled in a reforestation program to ensure against over harvesting, and also replant trees to replenish what’s been used. All of our vessels are selected to be ‘too cute to throw away’ to encourage reuse or you can send it back to us and we’ll refill it at a discount. Our fragrance oils contain no toxins and are phthalate free. Our soaps, butters and mists are gluten free, contain no preservatives, artificial dyes, parabens or sulfates. We also know that our clientele like to support charities that share their values. This is why we developed our charity line of candles. In the past, we’ve created candles that supported Black Lives Matter and the family of Vanessa Guillen, as we believe that black lives, do, indeed, matter, full stop. We also believe that the US Army needs to be held accountable for the way our nations most dedicated, and sometimes most vulnerable, are treated when parents relinquish their children’s future into the care of the military. Our permanent charity candle is the most dear to our hearts, and it’s our Como La Flor candle. It literally smells like a flower, hence the name, and it helps to end gun violence in honor of Selena, who is very special to us, as we’re from the same hometown. In short, Establo Blanco isn’t here to compete with others in the home goods/fragrance market. We’re here to expand the market, to bring something different. We’re not here just creating and selling products, we’re finding our people in a vast retail market and bonding over aesthetics and justice.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, as a vegan, I’m all about food and new and innovative ways to prepare it, so my friend would leave a few lbs heavier from eating our way through Houston! Saturday morning brunch would have to be Korny Vibes, hands down the best all vegan brunch! Spanish Village for some great vegan Tex-Mex. For a little nightlife fun, I’d say Pour Behavior for sure, for some really great vegan pizza, burgers and cocktails, and of course, a trip to Bad News Bar downtown. For a fancy, upscale dining experience, it would have to be BCN in Montrose. It’s Spanish cuisine with the best gin and tonics around, and they have quite possibly the best vegan fine dining menu. For every day casual dining, we’d have to do to Local Foods or the new LFM in Rice Village. They have such a great menu and so many vegan options and the best French 75 in town! And of course you can’t leave Houston without catching an Astros game!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My grandmother, hands down. We put her name on our logo, and that’s our reminder that we can’t fail. She is the sole inspiration for what we do. She was the hardest working person you’d ever meet. My mother is the youngest of her five children, and I’m lucky enough to be the only grandchild to live in the same town with her. I had breakfast and dinner with her every day, and in the summers, I was her shadow and got to see her hustle. As soon as my mom graduated high school, my grandmother got her real estate license and made the city her playground. She was the highest producing agent for several years, president of a few professional organizations, and I got to watch her do it all., show every house, pull comps on entire neighborhoods, attend closings, and build success. I don’t have a business background at all (I actually have a Masters in Women and Gender Studies, if you can believe it!), she’s the only example or mentor I have. Even though she’s been gone a little over a year, I know for a fact that all our business decisions are guided by her and that she is responsible for every windfall and successful deal or partnership we’ve made.