The global hookah tobacco market was valued at USD 421.22 million in 2023. It’s expected reach to USD 697.11 million by 2031, according to Skyquest. Despite these numbers, there are rarely any minority owners producing the product for distribution.

According to Essence, when Cardell “Blakk Tatted” Bradley learned from his cousin that the typical tobacco used for hookah is way worse than smoking cigarettes. Black and brown people utilize hookah at higher rates than their counterparts, according to the National Library of Medicine.

“A close family friend passed away from smoking cigarettes,” he told Esssence. “My cousin made a point that smoking hookah was the equivalent of smoking a pack a day. I had to find a way around it.”

This fact sparked his interest in entering the industry and creating something healthier for users to consume — which led to him conducting an extensive amount of research on other tobacco options that could be sourced. He came across the fruit-based shisha; the main ingredient is molasses, which helps alleviate the use of chemicals that make artificial flavors, colors and more.

After finding a solution to the harmful tobacco that normally causes side effects like lightheadedness, Blakk Tatted launched Blakk Smoke in 2020. His alternative brand is made with 100% fruit juices and contains zero nicotine and tobacco, making it the healthiest hookah shisha on the market per the business’ website. Since its retail debut, his company has been seeing a great return on its investment in fruit-based products because he made $2 million in under 25 minutes during its Black Friday sale in 2023.

“But it wasn’t luck — it was the culmination of years of relentless work, unwavering faith, and the courage to dream big,” he said. “My book Behind the Smoke is my blueprint to success, an invitation to anyone who dares to dream, showing that with the right mindset and focused strategies, achieving the unthinkable is possible.”

Blakk Tatted’s business has grown some much that he even has gotten endorsements from celebrities like Lil Bow Bow, Yung Miami and Trina Braxton and influencers like Mrs. Netta and Charles, Ari Fletcher and Donovan Weatherspoon. Consumers can purchase hookahs with insulated acrylic bases and LED light-changing technology, hoses, candy tips, coconut charcoal, coal pots, foil and a multitude of hookah pens with flavors, including caramel, pink lemonade, mint and sour apple.

He wrote his first book Behind the Smoke to share his climb to building a successful business in an industry he was originally unfamiliar with, which is set to hit bookshelves and online shopping spaces sometime this year.

“I know people that started out just like I did,” he explained to Essence. “We don’t have blueprints. A lot of us come from different situations. The only thing we know is struggle. The only thing we can see is struggle. The only thing we can identify is a struggle. But we also need hope to see that there’s light at the end of the struggle sometimes. We also need those reminders to show us that I can come out of this. I’m not always a product of my environment. And I’m like a living testament that you don’t have to be a product of your environment. I wasn’t supposed to make it, but I did. And you can too.”