Small business owner Tenisha Dotstry often has one simple request of her in-person customers: “Please share one positive memory from your time in the military.”
That focus on gratitude is a major part of Fair Winds Candle Company, the military-centric business she founded in 2020. Dotstry wants people to not only smell something pleasant but be transported to a certain military location or experience. She calls it “capturing the essence of military life.”
“It’s important to bring my military experience into my business because the Navy made me the adult that I am,” said Dotstry, a former nuclear electronics technician. “I always tell people that joining the Navy was the best decision 18-year-old me could have made. It’s been a part of my life for so long that it would be a shame not to acknowledge and share that with others.”
Fair Winds Candle Company lives out of Dotstry’s small Maryland basement. She and her husband — also a former sailor — make every candle, wax melt and room spray themselves, using quality coconut wax, custom fragrance oils and clean ingredients free of phthalates and parabens.
Dotstry has her sister to thank for that last part — and perhaps Fair Winds’ entire existence.
“My sister is allergic to everything, like soy and fragrances, so I was making candles for her in 2020,” Dotstry said. “It gave me something to do, plus I had had this idea for a candle company already, so I thought why not see what happens and pursue that?”
The name of her candle company, of course, refers to the Navy, as do the names of the 45 scents coming in four product options (two sizes of candles, plus wax melts and room sprays). In the last three years, Fair Winds has sold to customers in 49 states — “For some reason, people in Mississippi don’t want to buy from me,” she laughed) — and sales have doubled in the last 18 months. Retail stores have also begun carrying Fair Winds products.
“We’re looking into a commercial space to completely move out of the house,” Dotstry shared. “Things are growing quickly with Fair Winds Candle Company, but the house is not!”
This Christmas season, Dotstry will be trying out roll-on perfumes and car air fresheners at holiday markets. People had been saying, “I want to wear this candle!” for a while, so she listened.
Her current favorite scent is called South Coast, a blend that evokes the smells and colors of Southern California — one of her favorite assignments.
It’s the little details like that that Dotstry most loves about Fair Winds.
“These candles are a good way to remember the positive aspects of anyone’s time in the military,” she said. “And I get to meet a lot of cool military-affiliated people who all have a good story to tell.”