BATON ROUGE, La. — On the heels of winning an international People’s Choice Award for her aromatherapy pillow business, Condoleezza Semien, 13, shared a poem during a Baton Rouge African American Museum’s Juneteenth celebration, earlier this month.
The poem, “Not Charity, Lord, But a Chance,” is a petition for fair opportunities in America. Its message is timely and symbolic for this middle-schooler whose business has won two pitch competition within three months.
“Blacks demanded a fair chance and were brilliant and excellent in what they did. That’s my goal,” said Semien.
She was invited to read the poem at the event and was recognized as an “inventor" by museum curator Sadie Roberts-Joseph. Semien created Beluga Bliss™, pillows infused with specialty blends of essential oils. For seven months, she participated in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Baton Rouge. As she worked through weekly assignments, she saw the need to create a product that could help people who are living with mental health conditions and incurable chronic illnesses.
Then, she won the YEA pitch competition at LSU to receive the YEA Saunders Scholarship and seed funds for her business. On May 4, the eighth grader traveled to the YEA-USA competition in Rochester, NY, vying for the top award against 60 teen entrepreneurs from across the USA, China, and India. Semien was the sole competitor from Louisiana.
Fellow YEA-BR teen entrepreneurs and her classmates at Westdale Middle School cheered her on at the semi-final competition. More than 37,000 viewers watched the live stream and more than 300 viewers were in the audience at the Rochester Institute of Technology as she pitched Beluga Bliss.
“You have a great stage presence,” one judge commented and another expressed how her aromatherapy blends and pillows were well developed.
“You were above average and it shows… the smell was very pleasant,” said Lenin and Gian from California. “We could smell them where we sat!"
At the end of each round of pitches, all viewers were able to text-to-vote on their favorite business. Back home in Baton Rouge, the class bell was held for Westdale students to cast their votes. “We are so excited and proud of Condi,” said Aliah James, advanced art teacher. Hours later it was announced that Beluga Bliss™ won the People’s Choice Award.
“Winning People’s Choice is an assurance to me. To know that people who didn’t even know me thought that I had a very good product without even smelling my scents. It was an eye-opener. I’m proud of myself and grateful for the support I got from everyone. It feels good to know people around the world think that I had a great product.”
“There have been so many requests for pillow packs that we have to open our online preorders June 1 instead of this fall,” she said.
This summer, she and her family are creating pillows, bottles of a specialty blended essential oils, and car fresheners.
Semien is also conducting a BlissTour where she visits summer programs and events to motivate youth to apply to YEA-BR, move on their dreams, and do everything that makes them happy.
Reach her at www.belugabliss.com for the first opportunity to receive pillows before the official launch. Guests can download custom color sheets, playlists, and bliss tips. Beluga Bliss is also on Instagram @Beluga_Bliss.