Meet Isabel Alvarez: The Jefa Behind Albisa Candles and the Cuban-Bread Scent You Never Knew You Needed
Tapping into emotions and memories from the past is a big part of embracing your culture. However, experiencing different aromas can do more than just celebrate that culture. It can instantly transport you to another time and place.
Latina entrepreneur Isabel Alvarez, founder of Albisa Candles, has witnessed the power of scent first-hand. She and her husband, Albert Rubalcaba, created Albisa Candles to celebrate their Latino heritage and the nostalgia of Cuban culture. Isabel is the “isa” and her husband the “alb” of Albisa. This brand was brought to life by their shared mission of keeping Cuban culture alive by sharing memories through scent.
This couple can successfully run a company working side-by-side (as if marriage isn’t hard enough), with Alvarez setting the brand’s creative direction.
“I’m responsible for setting the creative direction. This includes selecting and designing our candle fragrances and packaging to align with our brand’s mission, ensuring that each candle captures the essence of our Cuban culture and heritage,” she told FIERCE. It’s a big job, and it is the reason that each candle truly tells a story.
Launching its most famous product, a Cuban-bread-scented candle, catapulted the brand to success. Can’t you just smell the freshly baked bite from heaven?
“I wanted to capture the memories and scents of our Cuban heritage. [I wanted it to] resonate with people and bring a piece of nostalgia and culture into their homes,” Alvarez shared. “The famous Cuban bread-scented candle, for instance, emerged from my childhood memories of having warm Cuban bread with my grandparents on Saturday morning. I knew the scent of warm, buttery fresh, baked Cuban bread would be truly unique and iconic within our community. It would revive memories and conversations.”
Bringing Latino heritage to life in modern experiences
Their hand-poured, soy, premium candles were inspired by a desire to bring Latino heritage to life every day. It would also be a way to infuse those scents into your modern routine. The goal was always to honor Latino traditions. To honor the cultural experiences that Alvarez grew up with as a Cuban American. But it’s more than that. Albisa blends the genuine aromas of Latinidad into the world of home fragrance, highlighting the rich cultural experiences in each scent.
It’s a unique challenge, trying to bring to life traditional experiences in a fresh, 21st-century way. Imagine the vast differences between generations of Latinas, who all experience cultural traditions in unique ways.
“One of the foremost obstacles I encountered at the beginning of this project was the delicate balance between tradition and modernness,” Alvarez explained. “Crafting authentic scents that resonate with our community while remaining relevant and appealing across generations requires thoughtful consideration. It involved bridging the gap between different age groups within our audience. And ensuring that our products could touch the hearts of both those deeply rooted in tradition and those embracing contemporary lifestyles.”
And they nailed it.
Their most recent candle, “Cultura y Tradiciones,” was launched in partnership with Fanesha Fabre, a Dominican-born multi-media artist, to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Fusing art with fragrance, this candle is a celebration of the diversity and unity that exists within the Latino community.
It is this awareness of the differences and the commonalities among Latinos that Alvarez credits as a huge part of her success and her unique perspective as a Latina entrepreneur.
“I have found that my Latino culture has equipped me with a unique perspective to navigate cultural stereotypes and a heightened awareness of cultural diversity, enabling me to approach the market with sensitivity and inclusivity,” she explained.
Considering just how many misconceptions there are about Latinos, the ability to address these notions head-on has empowered Alvarez to honor her Cuban culture. This also allowed her to use her platform and her brand to celebrate that “Latinos are a unique and diverse culture.”
Albisa Candles’ success starts with passion and purpose
Looking back on her own path to success, Alvarez is eager to share the steps that helped her achieve her dreams.
“Start by diving into a niche that genuinely ignites your passion,” she offers to aspiring Latina entrepreneurs. “I love candles and am passionate about my culture, so I found a way to develop something that enveloped both. Find an area in the market that not only excites you but also addresses a real need.”
She also recommends always keeping sight of what matters to you and what makes you who you are. “Staying true to your vision and values is key; authenticity has a remarkable way of resonating with people. It’s not just a business strategy; it’s the foundation of success,” she adds.
And when in doubt, don’t let fear control your actions, Alvarez urges
“I understand that taking the first step can be overwhelming, but remember, it all starts with your passion. From there, you can begin creating your own unique path forward.” Trust that you are not alone in this journey and that everything happens for a reason.
“One of my favorite quotes is ‘Lo que está pa’ ti, nadie te lo quita,’ which means ‘What is meant for you, no one can take away,’” she shares. “This phrase finds its inspiration in the song ‘Lo Que Esta Pa’ Ti’ by Willy Chirino, a famed Cuban salsa artist. It carries profound wisdom, reminding us that destiny and opportunities uniquely crafted for us cannot be stolen or obstructed by external forces. It’s a message of empowerment and encouragement, urging us to pursue our individual paths in life with unwavering confidence.”
And with that unwavering confidence, Alvarez continues to drive her business and her brand forward, always focusing on gratitude and celebrating her Cuban heritage with each candle, scent, and opportunity to grow.