We had the good fortune of connecting with Zakiya Esper and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Zakiya, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Petals + Prayers was birthed from my own remembrance of a spiritual practice that I’m certain my ancestors took part in for generations. In 2018, I unknowingly began a deep journey of self discovery and what some would even call a spiritual awakening. I unpacked and learned so much about myself during that process and seemingly small and innocuous details led to huge “A-ha” moments and revelations for me. During my journey to self awareness and peace one of the activities I was led to do was Mirror Work. Mirror Work can look many different ways but an element of the practice for me was to be intentional about my daily routine and to question why I do what I do. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m an avid coffee lover. I mean, obsessed! I have my coffee every morning once my kids are settled and before I begin my work. I had to ask myself, “why do I love coffee so much?”. And the more I thought about why the more troubled I became because I had no idea. It was truly just a habit. The more I acknowledged that I didn’t know why I was drinking it the less I liked it.

It started to taste more and more bitter to me as the days went by. So I went on a quest to replace the coffee ritual with something more meaningful and intentional. Tea. I started drinking tea every morning. And I loved the process of brewing a cup, smelling the aroma of the herbs and the centering feeling I felt as I drank it. I fell in love with tea. A friend of mine noticed the shift in my morning beverage and asked what it was all about. I explained to her that I was suddenly obsessed with tea and that I feel so energized and centered when I drink it.

I went as far as to say, “I wish that I could get it all over me”. She informed me that there are in fact self care products called “tea baths”. I went immediately to purchase my first “tea bath” which is basically a large satchel of herbs selected specifically to help you find your center, be energized, relax or even to help you release toxins. I fell in love with “tea baths” and started using them regularly in my self care practice. After doing the pre-made baths for a while I became curious about how they were curated. I did some research into the spiritual properties of herbs and began creating my own herbal baths for myself and pairing them with very specific intentions and even aligning them with my prayers. Writing my prayers and pairing the spiritual properties of the herbs with the intentions of the prayers came very naturally to me. This is why I believe that this practice is ancestral and that my engagement with it is a remembrance and much more than a hobby. I began to see the fruits of the practice as my prayers were being answered and intentions were being manifested. My loved ones began asking for baths of their own and I have done countless baths and seen the beauty of dreams and goals realized. I elevated my practice of making spiritual baths and began making oils to accompany the intentions set forth in the baths. Baths are amazing and oils are a great way to sustain the intentions daily that we set during our prayer baths. I also make a tea that is great for respiratory health.

What should our readers know about your business?
My process in curating these baths, oils and teas is definitely a creative process. I take the time to create a space that is clear of distractions and stale energy. I am purposeful about inviting in energies that are conducive to the intentions that myself and the recipients of the tools are manifesting. This process in itself is individualized and creative. I use sage, palo Santo, Florida water, incense and I recite mantras, prayers and affirmations while I create the space to make the tools. Writing the prayers is also creative. I find myself very engaged in the wording of the prayers and affirmations that I use to bless the baths, teas and oils. Once I’ve written the intentions I choose herbs that are aligned with the intention of the prayers to make a beautiful herbal blend. They are both beautiful to look at and (sometimes) beautiful to smell. The creative process is sometimes very fluid and easy for me but depending on the intentions of the bath it can be emotionally draining. I have gotten to where I am professionally by taking risks and being willing to fail. I trust the vision that I have for where my business is going and I’m not afraid to make a wrong turn along the way. I fail fast by trying new things and moving on when they don’t work instead of getting stuck in analysis paralysis and trying to make everything perfect. I know that we will only get better with time, practice and implementation.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My favorite spots in Columbia, SC are Mr. Seafood and A Peace of Soul Vegan Cafe. I also love going downtown to Pearlz for oysters and drinks and to the Riverfront park for a nice walk. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many people! Faith was at the cornerstone of my upbringing and my spiritual practice is rooted in my belief in God and our ability to manifest the lives that we desire and deserve. Forever grateful to my parents for raising me to believe that all things are possible with faith and work. The EveryBlackGirl, Inc. Legends and Leaders programs were integral to my self awareness and self discovery process. The prompts and support provided while I unpacked things that I have long suppressed was invaluable. Forever grateful to Vivian Anderson (ED) and Vallori Thomas (Facilitator) for their contributions to the world but more specifically for holding space for me. Dr. Kari Claudia-Allen a friend and a huge supporter in 2018 as I went on this journey of self discovery and awakening. Dr. Kari walked me through mirror work and introduced me to some of the ideas that helped me rediscover and unlock truths that have been invaluable to my process. My therapist who I started seeing since 2019 has been a wealth of knowledge and a soft place to land as I’ve been on this journey. She was there when I started to realize that these baths were much more than a self care hobby and is still here encouraging me to share my gifts with the world and stand in my truth as a Healer. Finally, I’d like to thank my best friend Ashlei who has been on this journey with me since day one. We unpack, process, share resources, question and discover things together. Comforting to know that we get to keep doing this life thing together. I am surrounded by black women who hold space for me and never let me forget all that I deserve. Grateful for my village.

Dr. Kari walked me through mirror work and introduced me to some of the ideas that helped me rediscover and unlock truths that have been invaluable to my process. My therapist who I started seeing since 2019 has been a wealth of knowledge and a soft place to land as I’ve been on this journey. She was there when I started to realize that these baths were much more than a self care hobby and is still here encouraging me to share my gifts with the world and stand in my truth as a Healer. Finally, I’d like to thank my best friend Ashlei who has been on this journey with me since day one. We unpack, process, share resources, question and discover things together. Comforting to know that we get to keep doing this life thing together.

Website: petalsandprayers.square.site/

Instagram: @lovepetalsandprayers

Facebook: Petals + Prayers

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