For over 50 years, Washingtonians have witnessed the enterprising spirit and love for the Black community as expressed by Dr. Calvin W. Rolark Sr., an activist and the founder of both The Washington Informer and the United Black Fund in Southeast.
That commitment to excellence in all forms has since been embraced by Dr. Rolark’s daughter, Denise Rolark Barnes, who currently serves as the publisher of the Black-owned newspaper which will mark its 60th anniversary in a few short years.
But Barnes, along with her husband Lafayette, have apparently passed on the desire for achieving entrepreneurial excellence to their youngest son, Desmond Barnes. In the coming days, Desmond will launch his own business, Heart Of The City Candles, with his product available for purchase at five locations of the District’s Yes! Organic Market.
The events that led to Desmond’s pending success remain the kind of story that will undoubtedly inspire others. The Washington Informer spoke with the young native Washingtonian about his life, his plans for the present and his hopes and dreams for the future.
Washington Informer: We know you’re in the music industry but tell us more about your career and future aspirations.
Desmond Barnes: I am an artist, songwriter and producer who has written for and been featured with artists like Chris Brown, Future, Tory Lanez, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and more. I was a co–writer on the platinum song “La La Land” performed by the artist Bryce Vine. I wrote and co–wrote seven songs on the Fox TV series “Empire” and also created music for the NFL Network and LG. I am working on releasing new music with new features and content as an artist.
WI: What is the name of your new business, from where did the idea come, how long did it take you to develop it, who is your target audience and what is the product?
DB: The name of my business is Heart Of The City Candles. The idea came from me being an avid candle user when I’m in the recording studio to help create a vibe for the music I make. I kept searching for a scent that I would really connect with after settling for whatever was on the shelf. Finally, I decided to make my own candle one day and it really lit up the room. Other artists enjoyed the smell as well so I decided to make it available to them. Their friends and families began to show interest and as the word got out, I started to get more and more orders. My target audience are those 18-55, Generation X and millennials.
WI: More Black youth are venturing out as business owners. Do you feel there’s a community of like-minded men and women of color? What have been your barriers to success?
DB: I see a lot more people venturing out and doing business for themselves. Maybe it’s just easier to see what people are doing because they have platforms that will put their services or products in the palm of my hand. Everything is changing because people are being exposed to a lot more and faster than ever. You can look at your phone and see so many opportunities. I thought my biggest obstacle we be creating a brand that could be taken seriously in an overcrowded industry. But I don’t make candles for the scent I make them for the feeling and experience. Luckily, I was able to find a great business partner in Derrell Simpson who also has an entrepreneurial mindset and we’ve been able to move things forward together.
WI: Have you been able to take advantage of any public/private grants, loans, etc.? How did you secure your start-up costs?
DB: I am doing my research to see if I can take advantage of some of the resources out there to help me grow as a business and I am working on a few of them. But so far, every dollar that has been investedhas come from myself or close friends and family who believe in the brand.
WI: Who would you list as your mentors and/or inspirations for going into this enterprise and why?
DB: I was mentored mostly in the music industry by producers with whom I’ve worked and looked up to like Scott Storch and Rodney Jerkins who helped me get started on some of my early projects. But being around people who are successful and who bet on themselves helps a lot when you’re working on building self-confidence. I feel I have a gift to make a good product and I don’t intend to let it go to waste. I’d like everyone to feel how I felt when I first lit a Heart Of The City Candle.
WI: What do you do for fun and where would you go for your dream vacation?
DB: I like to paint, make music, go out to eat with my friends and travel to different places. My dream vacation would be somewhere in the mountains with a big jacuzzi and unlimited food. I want to look out and see as far as my eyes can see. My favorite food is tacos because they’re simple to make and always taste great. As for music, I listen to everything, from Stevie Wonder and No Doubt, to Young Dolph and Sebastian Bach or TCB.
WI: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
DB: I see myself running a few businesses and creating opportunities for the youth in the city where I grew up and across the world. I see myself in a position where I am living well and giving back to people for all the support I received. Hopefully, by then I will have started my own family and can begin to teach my own children how to be entrepreneurs.
Editor’s Note: To purchase Desmond’s candles, visit a Yes! Organic Market in the District or write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.