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Keep the Fire Burning with Detroit-Inspired Firebrand Candles

Quinn Hamilton is one of those native Detroiters we should be talking more about. Westside-raised, Renaissance High School and Yale University pedigree, and a front-row seat at the city's burgeoning start-up scene.

That's probably why it's no accident that her candle-making company is called Firebrand – someone that takes charge, is feisty, is passionate. Like many businesses in Detroit, it started as a side project or a hobby that has morphed into a secondary source of income. Not quite a full-time job yet, but Hamilton wouldn’t mind if that happened.

"I said, OK, people believe in me, so I really need to get this started," Hamilton says. She was looking for unique, one-off handmade gifts to give to friends and family, so she experimented with candle-making. That turned into more requests for candles; "Are you going to do this as a business?" people asked.

With an assist from the Build Institute, a business resource developer, Hamilton developed branding, marketing and packaging for Firebrand Candle, establishing a website and selling the candles at various pop-up events around the city, as well as claiming a space at Eastern Market on Sundays.

The inspiration behind the candles and their scents is the city of Detroit. "In 2013, we were still going through a lot of issues," Hamilton says. That was the year the city filed bankruptcy. "I wanted to talk a little bit more about the good parts of Detroit. Even in the most dire straits, there are still cool things about Detroit."

Each candle is named after a Detroit street or place. There's Eight Mile Road, a patchouli-based scent; Park Avenue, a "cute-couples, date-night" scent with vanilla, jasmine and lavender; Jefferson Avenue, a "masculine" scent rooted in tobacco, amber and musk. There’s also Beaubien Street, Cadillac Square, Joy Road, Fenkell Avenue, Harper, Michigan Avenue, State Street, Outer Drive – where Renaissance High School is located, by the way --  and a new collaboration with the Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation, In the Library.

"There’s a lot of intimacy between Detroiters," Hamilton says. "When people think of certain streets, instant memories come to mind."

All the candles are soy-based with cotton wicks, and set in black glasses. Whereas most candles are in clear glass with pastel-colored wax, Hamilton imagined a candle that a man wouldn't be embarrassed to pick up and burn – or something a woman could buy for a man. And it's worked, since the candles are in demand among both men and women.

Another thing that makes Firebrand stand out: It’s a home-décor company fronted by a black woman.

"I grew up watching people like B. Smith," Hamilton says, referring to the model-turned-design maven. "You could have your home smell fabulous, look fabulous on a budget -- and do all these things yourself."

Order them at FirebrandCandle.com.

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