For Grecia Alfaro ('16), creativity has always been rooted within her.
One trip to the thrift store sparked an idea to create handmade candles inspired by the beauty of Mexico.
"I found these containers that were not made in Mexico, but reminded me of it," Alfaro says. "It instantly connected me to my childhood, and I decided to turn them into candles."
During the pandemic, she learned how to make candles through online tutorials. When she wasn't working remotely at her nonprofit job, she was mixing and pouring candles. She started with 10 candles total, the vessels ranging from thrift store to flea market finds.
Alfaro launched her company, Luz y Tierra, in 2020 after the candles became popular on social media. It began with crafting aromas inspired by nostalgic scents of Hispanic culture. Arroz con Leche, a sweet blend of cinnamon, spice and vanilla; Casa Limpia, reminiscent of the famous household cleaner; and Horchata,which smells like a soft blend of vanilla, cinnamon and spices, are some of the scents that can be found within the traditional Mexican pottery containers.
From her office in Mesquite, Alfaro hopes to open storefronts in Texas and Mexico City, where she can sell her products in person and host candle-making workshops. For now, she launches new candle collections monthly and continues to expand her product line and social media presence.
Alfaro grew up in Irving in a traditional Mexican household. Her parents immigrated from Mexico to Texas before she was born. Growing up, she would often visit Mexico, immersing herself in the culture. Her favorite parts of the visits were the people she met and the bonds that were created.
In 2021, she visited again for the first time in 10 years. Now, it was to meet with artisans -- the people who she hoped would craft her containers.
"We have dinners together and they share how they got started," she says, adding that their great-grandmothers showed them how to make the pottery and it goes down the lineage. "It's really the story and memories created that are the best."
Alfaro's path has been filled with unexpected turns, but her motivation to connect with people has always guided her. She initially wanted to become a bilingual teacher, but during her senior year at UNT, she decided to study human development and family science.
She landed in public service after graduation, working at the Dallas Bar Association, which assists Dallas locals in securing pro bono legal representation.
"I was there for five years, but I always wanted to create and sell something," she says. "Just letting my creativity flow and following that is what led me to this moment in time, to create candles and tie it in with my cultural background, my heritage."
The thread of determination she followed is something she relates back to her college experience, when she came to UNT in 2012 as a first-generation, Mexican American student. Alfaro had to navigate the college experience on her own. She says it shaped her perspective on life and owning a business.
"You're in an open playing field where you're just figuring things out on your own and seeking out resources or answers to questions."
In addition to being the first in her family to pursue higher education, Alfaro's also the first to own a business.
"My college experience has tremendously helped, even if I didn't major in business," she says. "When you go to UNT, you're exposed to many different cultures and experiences."
Now, her goal is to represent Latinos and the beautiful heritage that so many people grew up with.
"The candles are for anyone that wants to connect to a culture that is rich, vibrant and that has many traditions," she says. "I want to show people the handmade, slower process of things."