-Cardamom and Clove
The first time Chelsea Stevenson encountered henna designs was at a Six Flags amusement park when she was 13 years old.
“I got my name in Chinese on my wrist—at least that is what my trusted Chinese exchange-student friend told me,” she laughs. “I just fell in love with it.”
The child of a military family, Stevenson, who was raised mostly in Odenton and Woodridge, Virginia, moved around before eventually settling in rural Nebraska where she did nonprofit work until she was unexpectedly laid off. Stevenson was a single mom at the time and the only Muslim woman in her community, which made finding another job challenging.
⇓ Article continues below ⇓
“I put some henna on because I was just really stressed, and I’d gone to the store to buy groceries with legit the last money I had,” Stevenson recalls. “I got to the register and I just remember the young lady at the register complimenting my henna and asking me to do it for her and offering to pay me. She changed my life.”
Stevenson borrowed money from a friend, printed business cards, and Cardamom and Clove was born. Her business, named after the smell of her signature henna paste that she concocts with the titular ingredients as well as tea brewed with—you guessed it—cardamom and cloves, started slowly but eventually grew to where Stevenson was spending her free time driving to clients and events.
In 2016, Stevenson moved back to Glen Burnie and has been filling up her schedule with private events, individual sessions, and festivals ever since. Stevenson’s goal is to empower women to start their own businesses and offer them a space and time to talk during her henna sessions.
“It’s freedom for them to be themselves, celebrate beauty, and celebrate being a woman,” she says.