‘I feel like there’s so many life-changing moments along the way, but I am being empowered by my friends.’
Christine Brennen-Chanowsky, Bohemia
“I’m an elementary school teacher and will be retiring in 2025. I started making candles during the pandemic. At first, it was just a crafty hobby. Then my teacher friends started asking me to make candles for them. I started making it into a little bit of a business. But then in 2021, I had to have breast surgery, and I was really nervous. I started meditating just to calm myself from the anxiety of what was to come. I started putting affirmations onto the lids of the candles that I made at first just for myself, with words like ‘self-care.’ Then people started asking me for those for people they cared about, and that launched me forward just to get through that time. Stores started asking for them, and at one point I was in 11 stores where my candles with affirmations were sold. I would include crystals, and it was the whole candle-making process that was therapeutic for me. I guess it just started to touch other people as well.
I was happy being a teacher and with my life. But I saw how my candles helped soothe other people.
“My teacher friends were a huge part of this whole thing, pushing me forward to take it further and open a business. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their help because they were the ones that were behind me just rallying me. At no point before that did I ever feel like I wanted to open this business or be a small-business owner. I was happy being a teacher and with my life. But I saw how my candles helped soothe other people. I got advice from a woman in Texas who saw me on Facebook, who gave me ideas for opening a candle bar. She kept encouraging me and listed all the things that I would need to do, and she would be there to help me.
“My story might have started because of health challenges, but it’s turned into a woman’s empowerment story because that woman and my friends empowered me to give me the courage to do it and helped me through so many steps along the way. I was on my way to retirement, but all of a sudden I’ve taken on this new endeavor, and I opened Long Island’s first candle bar store Memorial Day weekend. I feel like there’s so many life-changing moments along the way, but I am being empowered by my friends. I have this tribe of women behind me, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
Interviewed by Liza Burby