The fragrance of home in Ysabel Potenciano-Cottrell’s candles

Her dream is to become CEO of her own company.

Her dream is to become CEO of her own company.

By Cristina DC Pastor

She lived in Forbes Park, was chauffeured to and from Assumption with her Shih-Tzu and bodyguard. Until one day, a suspicious fire razed the family’s transportation business. Everything went up in flames – wealth, security, status, and over time, relationships.

Ysabel Potenciano-Cottrell, who was 13 then, remembered distinctly how her family went from riches to challenging times. Her family owned the BLTB (Batangas Laguna Tayabas) Bus Co., whose crowded terminal was some kind of a Pasay City milepost. Her family struggled, in spite of it all, and survived through hard work and the kindness of relatives. “We moved from house to house,” she recalled in an interview with The FilAm. A painful memory, but she dubbed it as one of the most teachable times of her life. The most important lesson I learned was “knowing what remained after all the chaos; family and close friends.”

She followed her dream to study in the U.S., but also struggled financially. There was a time when she thought she may not even be able to finish her degree. “I was a broke college student,” she chuckled.

A foundation called House of Friendship heard about her story through her mother, and offered to help her finish college. She finished Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and is currently undergoing her Master’s in Business Administration, with a focus on Legal Studies. Currently, she is transitioning as the Acting Director of Purchasing at Deringer-Ney, Inc. in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

Candles to make memories of Philippine visits last

Candles to make memories of Philippine visits last

From that harrowing tragedy, it became her life’s dream to become a CEO of her own company, a workplace where compassion is the core principle, and where workers are treated like family. She recently opened her candle-making online business called Messages from Home, whose soy candles have distinct Philippine scents, such as ube, sampaguita, pastillas de leche, etc.

“I want to be able to create a culture where people feel invested in and valued by their place of work; where they cannot be replaced at the drop of a hat and they do not feel obligated to come to work every day,” said this 28-year-old entrepreneur, non-profit volunteer, the average girl-next-door with determination and ambition.

The idea behind MFH was inspired by a recent visit to the Philippines. With her boyfriend, Ryan LeBlanc, they started brainstorming the concept and came up with the plan.

She said, “The Philippines is where my roots are planted. I wanted to be able to recreate the experiences through the stimulation of scents. I want to be able to take them with me wherever I go. So I created scents that are unique — mangoes, ube, sampaguita, yema, etc.”

She partnered with a perfumery in Manhattan, where the essential oils are mixed to create the perfect scent. Ube, or purple yam, for example, is “not just one scent but a combination of different scents.” The pouring, molding, wicking, and packing she does at her Norwich home. She vowed all her candles are eco-friendly, soy based, and “made with love.”

Messages from Home is in its early stages. In the future, one of Ysa’s plans is to open a kiosk at the airport. This way visitors leaving the country can take the fragrance of the Philippines with them, and enjoy the rich, redolent smell of Filipino food or flowers wherever their next destination is.

“I’ve made a lot of places home and I end up missing it after I leave. It could be a home where you moved out of, or a foreign country,” said Ysa. She is hoping through her candles you can recreate and make the memories last.

© The FilAm 2018

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