Asta participated in the Kaleidoscope project to set up her scented candle business. In this testimony, she shares with us her dreams and goals.
At Elan Interculturel, we like to share the experiences of the migrant women entrepreneurs of the programme, as a source of inspiration for all those who are still reluctant to get involved.
“I am Asta, passionate about perfumes and business creation to develop my business of candles and scents from Africa.
From an early age, I was fascinated by interior fragrances. In my own home, my mother use to lit incense sticks called Thiouraye to neutralize the bad smells of food in the house. It is a natural incense grain made from water plants on the shores of Senegal, my motherland, and made from a mixture of traditional resins, plants, fragrant wood and essential oils. At the age of nine, I already stopped the burning of an incense grain to avoid the unpleasant smell that came out at the end. From that day on, my strong interest in perfumes came to the fore and I started to get closer into this subject. Thiouraye in the form of incense was no longer enough for me and I wanted to make several products from these extracts, whether it was body cream, perfumes or candles. I became the first woman of African descent to launch this idea.
My passion for perfumes remained a hobby and it only became my career after a long professional experience. I have a degree in specialized pedagogy, and I have been working as a social worker for several years. I was very happy about my job because helping and guiding people with physical and/or mental health issues was very important to me. However, I have fought all my career against everyday prejudices and discrimination, for the only reason that I wear a headscarf out of religious reasons. I felt restricted in my freedom. So I decided to turn my hobby into a vocation and dared to start my own business. It was a difficult decision to make because the criticism from my relatives was numerous and very demotivating. They told me that making a company out of cosmetic products and scented candles was a bad idea, and that it was not innovative enough, etc. But after a study of the existing market, I finally chose to highlight my migratory origins and multiculturalism to integrate traditional African flavours into the European environment, allowing the French to discover new fragrances. Furthermore, Senegalese and other French people with a migration background find a part of their homeland in my products, as they cannot be found in France. My goal is also to modernize the traditions a little bit, so that people buy a simple and already prepared product without having to mix the plants themselves. I also want my products to be made from plants and 100% natural.
Convinced of my own business idea, I finally decided to stick to my project and surrounded myself with people who have similar goals to mine or who have already fulfilled them. I consulted, took part in several training courses and networked with people of all interests. During one of my formations, I discovered that I had a particularly developed olfactory sense, this was a great motivation, because it was a proof for me that the perfume industry is my destiny. This talent has become one of the fundamentals of my brand, which I recently registered at the National Institute. It is called ” La perle Wussulan” – the name of the first grain of incense that enchanted me in the world of fragrances.
For the rest, I don’t want to give up my other passion for helping people with disabilities, but rather fulfill it in my next company project. Namely, I intend to establish an association in France and Senegal for children with autism. In Senegal this is still a very unskilled and underrated issue and I see this as a great opportunity to share my experiences as a social worker and entrepreneur for a good cause. Each experience feeds the next.”