Episode 8: Meet the artist combining business with selfcare
Introducing Jelisa Ferguson, founder of FO:MME - a home decor brand providing people with chic, statement, feminine candles. Inspired by the simplicity of nordic design, powered by the attitude of a woman, FO:MME uses words, smells and realistic body shapes to bring us empowering, self care.
With a desire to always help people, Jelisa decided to use her interest in 3D modeling to create a new image and representation of feminine strength. Having come from a background in media and communications, and fueled by her own experiences of injustice within the workspace, Jelisa decided to build her own business and push against the oppressive nature of discriminatory industries.
Tune into the podcast and hear our host Bx Sassy talk with Jelisa about the importance of high self-esteem, and the multiple ways she is encouraging a more empowered mindset. Jelisa tells us about the highs and lows of her career, as well as the role social mobility plays in her future dreams and ambitions.
Growing up, Jelisa was born into an environment where entrepreneurship and building social support were part of her everyday livelihood. With her father running a business helping house young people in the care system, Jelisa recognizes how, "looking back, it was the best experience to inspire me to run my own business...I feel so lucky that I got to work with him from 17 - 22, understanding how things work from the bottom up." Jelisa's role was to help with admin assistance before becoming her father and his partner's personal assistant. Since then, Jelisa has been a PA for multiple companies, high-net-worth individuals, and start-ups, getting her hands dirty at every level. "A lot of people don't understand the importance of admin, they kind of look down on that role a little bit and think it's just for the girls or you just make tea. But without them, the business would crumble."
You have to put yourself first, and putting yourself first is self-care
Having spent years working to climb the career ladder, Jelisa found she was continually being refused opportunities to develop in her role. “In past jobs, I'd try to speak up in meetings, I’d ask for a promotion or a pay review, and I was hearing no all the time. It was making my self-esteem really low”. Then Jelisa started seeing statistics in mainstream news about females being paid less and treated less than others, “and obviously I'm a Black woman and Black women aren't seen in management roles”. With this accumulation of inequality and lack of representation around her, Jelisa decided to put herself first and find a job that respected her skills, growth, and expertise.
Unfortunately, it was at this point when Jelisa had job interviews lined up, that the pandemic hit. One by one the interviews dropped off and, finding herself without work, Jelisa decided to combine her skills within media and communications, and her interest in 3D modeling to create her own brand - FO:MME and work with wax. It was in response to seeing a trend of body candles becoming popular that Jelisa noticed how the designs all portrayed an unrealistic body shape.
When it comes to being a feminist, it's about not listening to the no, having the self-confidence to make a change and be an example for other females who've been told no
Wanting to create a different type of body, Jelisa decided to ask her friends which bodily features they felt bad about. She then built a mold depicting and celebrating these physical insecurities. including her own shyness of having scoliosis (curved spine). The result is a figure that is gorgeously formed and friendly of all shapes and sizes. Jelisa tells us how "It is FO:MME's best-selling candle which shows you people want to see something real, that they can relate to in a shape of a form that is beautiful."
The articulate and confident woman we see running FO:MME today is not the person Jelisa says she was growing up. Having been diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, Jelisa continually felt like she couldn't write or express herself properly. This led her to be extremely quiet around others and socially anxious. In an attempt to shake off this shy girl attitude, Jelisa explains how FO:MME is the embodiment of her stepping into her Sassy confidence. Alongside her body and bum candles, FO:MME is also known for their collection of Empowerment Candles adorned with descriptions titled Rich Auntie, Boss Girl, Self Love, and Mumpreneur. Each phrase is full of poetic sass and sensual descriptions written by Jelisa to lift the spirit and encourage a feeling of strength and kick-ass-ability.
When writing the text for each candle, Jelisa tells us how good it felt to call on the support of friends to proofread her work. In this way, Jelisa reminds us of the comfort people can bring when helping us on our journey to actualising a dream, and to "not be shy when struggling with words because its just a question away to get the right answer". This mindset to improve self confidence is something Jelisa now hopes to inspire in others today. She explains how “I want to help coach and teach people to overcome their anxieties; what they've been told are shortcomings.”
Unfortunately, society has told us that we all need to fix something, that we have to consume something to get to this end goal of an ideal. But instead of buy something, we should just embrace ourselves and that's what I want to instill into people
With a drive to always try and help people in some way, Jelisa's good intensions span further than FO:MME and coaching. She is also in the process of becoming a property manager which, she explains, is “similar to what my dad did; so you buy cheap properties and give them to companies that help house asylum seekers as this is a real problem in the UK.”. This work that Jelisa is doing to continually find ways to help mobilise society and aid those who are often unsupported is something that inspires us endlessly. With the best intentions and most creative, unlimited approach, we look forward to seeing the way Jelisa will continue to shine goodness into this world.
Jelisa's Quickfire Round
When do u feel most confident?
After I go to the gym, when I feel strong and I can take on the whole world.
What key experience has shaped you positively?
Working for my dad in the family business. I didn't really enjoy it at the time but looking back it's invaluable, I've learned determination, and that it's not generally a 9-5 that can make you money.
One dream that's come true?
Being able to create every day from my own studio. It's something I worked hard to get and have always had in the back of my mind - to call myself an artist.
One cause that's close to your heart?
One charity is Stoke, they promote disability equality throughout the UK, offer talking therapy over the phone and channels into how to get work through 'access to work'.
Best thing about being you?
My resilience. I always seem to find a positive in every situation. It's my coping mechanisms. Finding a solution to any problem.
Name your Sassy tracklist?
Of Ghosts and Other Forms - In Your Skin
Prince - The Most Beautiful Girl in The World
ENNY (feat Amia Brave) - Peng Black Girls
Destiny's Child - Survivor
Summer Walker - Insane
Interview and portraits by Bethany Burgoyne
Podcast Edit by Vanta Collective