When we connected with Leona Wong, the owner of JIĀ Home Co. it was like seeing our own company’s story reflected back to us. JIĀ is a woman-owned small business bringing Asian culture to a mass market, to create connection and community. When our co-founders, sisters Renee and Tiffany Tam, brought their floral kimono robe collection to life with KIM+ONO, they were on a similar mission. They wove their family’s Asian heritage into every silk kimono robe from the hand sketched design to the handcrafted nature of the production process. Heritage and family have always been important to us, just like the JIĀ Home Co. team.
In fact, our signature maxi kimono wrap is actually named the Jia Kimono Wrap as well! That’s because the word represents home, family, and sisterhood. It’s the design gracing the back mural in our San Francisco kimono store, reminding all who enter that they’re welcome here and they’re a part of our family. With so many shared values and a common mission, we were thrilled to sit down with Leona and learn more about her beautiful, handcrafted Jia candle company.
The interview is below, but a quick note before you read on! We’re hosting a giveaway with JIĀ Home Co. 11/1/23 through 11/4/23. You can simply add your email address to be entered into a giveaway of our Jia Kimono Wrap and a $175 gift certificate to JIĀ Home Co.
Creating our candles is deeply personal and creative for me. It's a journey that starts with nostalgia, the foundation for the candle making process, where I draw inspiration from my own experiences and upbringing.
For instance, one of our core candles, Tea Talk is inspired from tea poured during dim sum. The scent has delicate notes of jasmine, floral violets and sweet honeysuckle - similar to the aromas of a freshly brewed pot of tea from a dim sum restaurant. The name "Tea Talk" not only represents the aromatic essence of the tea served but also the idea of gossip and conversation at the table during dim sum.
The act of pouring candles has evolved into a meditative experience for me. From the beginning of choosing a scent to pouring the wax, letting it cool, watching it take shape - it's a real journey that allows me to clear my mind and immerse myself in the present moment of a single task.
The name JIĀ is rooted by the concept of home and family. The word JIĀ translates to "home/family" in Chinese and is a reflection of the scents and experiences I had growing up in an Asian household. As a first-generation Chinese American, my home was filled with aromas that aren't typical in Western households such as vanilla, cupcake, strawberry and chocolate. Instead, I was surrounded with aromas like dried herbs, incense, and spices that were fundamental to my cultural background. The name JIĀ is a nod to the unique and meaningful scents that are associated with the home and family of my life.
Suggesting scents to our customers is a highly subjective process. We start by understanding personal preferences. We ask questions like, "what kind of scents do you naturally gravitate towards?" This helps us get an idea of whether they prefer florals, wood, earth, fruit or gourmand fragrances.
Additionally, we explore the customer's mood and/or vibe they're trying to create in their space. Are they looking for something calming like lavender and sandalwood to promote a sense of tranquility? Or are they seeking a more uplifting and invigorating scent, like yuzu and ginger to energize their surroundings? By understanding their scent preference and the ambiance they want to achieve we can offer suggestions that resonate with their goals.
My mission for the brand has always been to fill the gap of Asian scents missing from the mass market, but additionally I also hope that each of our candles brings a sense of joy and happiness. I want our customers to not only appreciate the cultural significance and uniqueness of the scents but to thoroughly enjoy and find comfort in our candles.
One of the most surprising and rewarding aspects of creating JIĀ has been the genuine and heartfelt connections that we see amongst our customers. When JIĀ was built, I had a vision of sharing my love for Asian scented candles, but I really didn't anticipate the extent to which our customers would also resonate with as a community.
JIĀ has had an online presence since 2021, and recently opened a workshop studio in Berkeley where guests are encouraged to create scents that are reminiscent of their own upbringing. It's been inspiring to hear and learn about our customers' stories and experiences through scent.Thank you so much to Leona for letting us peek in on her handcrafted creative process. We love celebrating other women-owned businesses, sharing AAPI stories, and uplifting the creative vision of friends in San Francisco and beyond. We hope you’ll enter the giveaway, running until November 4, 2023. And if you’re in the Bay Area, stop by JIĀ and KIM+ONO to say hello!