Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Mendez, Production Management ’10

Earth Day Profile

FIT is renowned for its sustainability initiatives, from implementing green projects throughout campus, to bringing sustainable design issues to curriculums, to raising awareness at its annual conference. No doubt, Sustainability at FIT inspires graduates to incorporate green practices in their personal and professional lives. Melissa Mendez (Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries ’10) is one alumna who is committed to producing an environmentally-friendly product with her soy candle artisanal business, The Bronx Naturals. Learn more about her work and how FIT has helped her in her endeavors.

Tell us about the ways The Bronx Naturals candles help the environment.
I love this question! My soy candles help the environment in many ways. The material that I use is 100% natural soy wax. Soy wax is a natural material and non-toxic, and the fragrances I use are also non-toxic and Phthalate Free, therefore soot and other harmful elements are not released because they are not there! This makes my candle family-friendly as well as a great alternative to anyone who may have asthma or other respiratory conditions. Soy burns cooler and longer, which makes the value better as well. The glass that I use can be reused as a drinking glass or pencil/pen holder after the candle is finished and there is minimal packaging–the possibilities are infinite. Soy is very green!

What inspires your fragrance concoctions?
Diversity! All of my candles are very different. I like to think that each type of candle could represent different personalities, and moods. I also create special fragrances for events such as bridal showers, weddings or any other special occasions, Scented or unscented are available. I really enjoy when a client sends an email and asks, “Can you blend Lavender and Pear? That scent has a sentimental meaning to me!” I enjoy the challenge of creativity!

Can you tell us about your choice to study at FIT and how it’s helped you in your business venture?
I chose to study at FIT because it was my dream college. FIT is a college that has a very focused curriculum and is very directional. I believe those characteristics fit my personality and work ethic. There are so many resources to take complete advantage of at FIT. The one that I especially loved is having professors who actually worked in the industry. I got the chance to ask very specific questions related to production, fashion, wages, work-life balance and was better able to understand if I could work in that industry and if it fell into place with my personal values and aspirations in life.

Is there a particular class that prepared you for your work?
Professor Mario Federici’s class, one of my favorites, has had a lasting impact on me. It allowed me to see that anything is possible and it helped me devise a business plan and marketing strategy for The Bronx Naturals. In this class, we had to create a company and source the supplies, create spreadsheets, production plans the works. The project was for apparel, but I have used many of the same principles to file my companies’ incorporation papers and to reach out to potential clients and businesses to carry my candles! Knowledge increased my courage.

What do you hope customers feel from the scents of your candles?
I hope that customers feel relaxed, energized, sensual and peaceful. Ultimately each candle is very different and will provide a different experience to each individual. My main goal is to Brighten up people’s day! I want my customers to feel great!

What advice would you like to share with peers and current students?
Work hard and have patience, ask the right questions. Don’t worry, you will be smarter if you do. No is not a ‘no’ forever. Ask again, try a different approach and every lesson is one to learn from. Never throw them away!

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