To gear up for our Summit21 Conference this year in Atlanta, 21Ninety has scored exclusive interviews with some of this year's participants.

Brookai was founded on the mission to inspire consistent healthy self-care practices among people of color, according to owner Kari Jekai.

Each one of their candles is hand-poured in small batches in Long Beach, CA, and uses only natural soy wax, cotton wicks, and toxin free fragrances in each product.

Read 21Ninety's exclusive interview below: 

Photo: Brookai

21Ninety: Can you give us a little of your background? What inspired you to create Brookai products? What was the vision behind the name?

Kari Jekai: As a child, I wanted to grow up, attend an HBCU, and become an Anesthesiologist. After High School, I began my journey to do just that. I attended Prairie View A&M University as a Biology major. The summer following freshmen year, I ended up pregnant with my daughter Brooklynn and moved back home to Long Beach, CA. Fast forward to today, I’ve completed my degree in Africana Studies: Socio-Psychological Behaviors, while working full time with the Department of Homeland Security & raising my daughter.

It might be just me, but it seemed like every time after we lit candles that were purchased at the store; my throat would become itchy and I’d have a funny feeling physically. Mind you; we LOVE coming home after a long day, a lighting a candle, so I didn’t want to stop our little routine. We decided to do some research behind what big corporations put into their products and from there we started to make candles on our own. We started making candles together as a hobby, with materials that were eco-friendly and healthier for our bodies both mentally and physically.

There is honestly no deep story behind the name Brookai. It’s a combination of mine and my daughter’s names, her first name and my middle name.

21N: How long have you been creating these home/décor and wellness products?

KJ: We’ve been researching and making our candles since 2017. We officially launched Brookai in February 2019.

Photo: Brookai

21N: What kind of work goes into the process of creating them? What ingredients/materials are used?

KJ: When we start the candle making process, playing music is a must. It varies depending on our moods. Mostly old school vibes though, some Isley Brothers, Al Green, and Maze Ft. Frankie Beverly. Other times vibe to some Nipsey, Dom K, and J. Cole. We clean our space, wash our jars/containers, and layout our materials in the order they will be used. We are both very particular about having a relaxing, positive vibe while creating with intention. The materials we use are Soy wax, cotton wicks, and non-toxic, phthalate free fragrance oils, and essential oils.

Photo: Brookai

21N: Which ones were the most fun to create? Any customer favorites?

KJ: All of our candles are fun to create. Brook’s favorite part is mixing the different scents & developing fragrance recipes for our various candles. Our current best seller is Unapologetic, with our signature take on Grapefruit Mimosa.

21N: What do you think makes your business/platform unique over others like it?

KJ: I feel like right now; we’re still just enjoying the process of creating and sharing our journey with our small following. It’s an experience, especially the business side of things. It can be extremely intimidating, but we learn as we go. 

What I appreciate the most about Brook and me is that while we are building this brand promoting mindfulness and positivity, we both are very truthful about how much it’s a work in process for us as we go. Most times, people think that as a creator of products/ art that promotes mindfulness and a positive mental outlook at work- that we have it all together. As I create and heal my wounds, I further break the cycle of passing hurt onto my daughter subconsciously.  To us, part of creating a successful brand is to live our truths and be real with the things that would be easy for others to hide.

Photo: Brookai

21N: What do you hope to gain from Summit21 this year?

KJ: I want to soak in ALL the knowledge from the many interactions with other creators, and from the individuals that will be speaking at this event! I tend to be super nervous when it comes to networking, so I want to hop out my comfort zone and get to work! I’m so excited, and grateful for this opportunity, especially so early on, to make new connections, and learn different ways to build our brand. Lastly, I enjoy learning from new experiences because I am then able to share with Brook the knowledge I acquire, whether good bad or indifferent.  

21N: Is there anything you wish to teach/inform the Summit21 audience about?

KJ: Be more fearless! Everything we want is on the other side of our fear, most times WE are the ones who stand in the way of everything we want.

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