Returning home from her evening classes, junior media arts and design major Cintia Samaha grabs a simple wine glass — her medium of choice — and begins painting an intricate tree with multicolored leaves stemming from the long branches.
After curing the paint in her oven, Samaha fills the glass with a handcrafted, cinnamon-scented candle to complete the design. The process takes about an hour and 15 minutes to create one glass and candle.
“I could spend all day and get lost in it,” Samaha said. “On Saturday, I actually painted from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. without even stopping.”
The inspiration for Sip n’ Scent Candle Company came in the form of a theoretical business plan for her high school entrepreneurship class. Samaha was tasked with developing a product with a financial plan and targeted demographics.
“We had to do presentations one day, and I was the only person that came in with an actual product, and people ate it up,” Samaha said. “My classmates started ordering them and I was shocked because I never really expected it to be that big of a deal.”
Samaha was promptly introduced to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), in which she had the opportunity to pitch her plan to investors and participate in a nationwide competition. She tied for second place in the state round.
Samaha says her business was extremely successful at the time, and she sold her creations in bulk. Her father, Ramzi Samaha, says he knew from the start that she had the potential for success.
“I’ve got paintings here [in my office] that people would go, ‘Wow, this is really nice. Who did this?’ and I would say, ‘Cintia, when she was three years old,’” Ramzi said. “She’s always been artistic. With this business here, we were pretty sure that it was going to take off — and it did.”
After graduating high school, Cintia lost the motivation to keep the business going until her junior year at JMU. She decided to return to the hobby and now sells her products for $20 each by commission as a way of making extra money. Frequent customer Sarah Bennett says she often commissions Cintia by sending her photos that serve as inspiration for the wine glasses.
“I had a friend who was leaving Washington [D.C.] after many years, and I wanted to give her a memento,” Bennett said. “I sent [Cintia] 24 pictures all around D.C., and she took those pictures and drew them on the wine glasses, and they were fabulous.”
Bennett praises Cintia for her unique interpretation of the images she references and for allowing customers to personalize their purchases rather than simply buying uniform, manufactured glassware. She says Cintia’s whimsical spin on the images set her above the rest in the business.
“The fun thing about Cintia is that she’s a college student, so she just does this on the side,” Bennett said. “To do it on the side and still be so creative and put so much time and effort into it is really a blessing. It has just made so many people so happy.”
While there are thoughts of turning her little business into a career in the future, Cintia says if she does decide to grow her business, it’ll remain a side job. For now, she’s happy with the way things are. She’s able to make the glassware in her free time and appreciates the relaxing work environment.
“It’s so corny, but there is that one quote that’s like, ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,’” Cintia said. “This isn’t a career, but it’s a hobby … and it’s really stress relieving, actually. I’ll come home with lots of anxiety and stress and I’ll sit and just paint, and everything kind of just goes away.”
Though her company’s future is unknown, Cintia’s current focus isn’t just on the money. She enjoys using this outlet to display her artistic talent and to bring joy and satisfaction to her customers.
“I love making people’s ideas come true,” Cintia said. “People will come to me with crazy ideas about things that they want made for their friends or for themselves … and even just people knowing that I can do that is a reward in itself.”
Contact Amy Needham at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.