Jessica is a thirty-something charming young woman with developmental disabilities that keep her perpetually a little kid in heart and mind. As delightful and filled with love as Jessica is, the drawback is that she requires someone by her side almost all the time. However, she, like other individuals with special needs, has the desire and capability to excel at things she is involved in. The ScentsAbility story is about how her mom, Bonnie Schmidt, came up with the idea for a candle making company that could employ Jessica and other individuals like her.
The answer came unexpectedly, one holiday season. Jessica wanted to give her us a present and said she wanted to get us candles – knowing how much we loved them. Jessica also loved candles; they made the house smell wonderful and looked so pretty when they were lit. Watching Jessica stare at the candles every night we thought about teaching her to make candles. We bought a kit and she loved the entire experience. We started to think about candles as a business; Jessica and her friends could make their own beautiful candles, add scents, colors and packaging, and sell them. We built a small workshop in the spare room and wrote a business plan and presented it to Vocational Rehabilitation Services of Broward County. Her counselor loved the idea and submitted the application for a small micro-business grant.. and we were approved! We had a plan! We would sell at craft fairs and try to sell our candles to small stores. Jessica started inviting her friends to make candles and before long we had a business. Unknowingly, Jessica’s present turned out to be a real gift for her and others with developmental disabilities – it gave life to ScentsAbility.
Several years later the company is still going strong; but instead of making candles in the house, they have a factory and a small store. ScentsAbility was approved as a nonprofit organization in 2013 and they have almost 20 young adults in their program. The company was recently awarded the Platinum Business Award from CareerSource Broward, given a local and state tribute and received a United States Congressional Proclamation that they have proudly framed in their store. ScentsAbility has also been featured on local broadcast station WPLG’s Heart of South Florida segment. Most recently Bonnie Schmidt and ScentsAbility received “The Designer of Reality” Award for creating a vehicle to positively transform lives and provide a path to a satisfying and happy future for those associated with the company.
From the beginning, Jessica took her commitment very seriously. She tirelessly worked with us to test different waxes, pourers, wicks, scents, labels and other materials to determine the most effective process to enable Jessica to work independently, efficiently and safely. Jessica quickly mastered the techniques of pouring and wicking, using the modified equipment, and each day we became more comfortable and skilled in color matching and applying proper amounts and types of scents. We were ready to start selling. Jessica’s stepdad designed and built a small kiosk resembling an old peddler’s cart with a sign reading “Jessica’s Candle Shoppe”. When Jessica saw the kiosk filled with her homemade candles, she proudly announced, “This is my candle shop”!
Here are some more thoughts from Bonnie: “With Jessica’s success, we realized the potential for ScentsAbility to help other families. We began with Jessica’s friends, and are now working on expanding our program to include other schools and organizations that assist those with developmental disabilities. ScentsAbility is not simply a business that sells candles – it is an opportunity to make a difference.”
“We hope that someday ScentsAbility will be the vehicle that helps hundreds, even thousands of individuals with developmental disabilities become more active, independent, develop discipline, and productive – and be proud of what they can achieve. We are so proud of Jessica and the entire ScentsAbility Team and we are well on our way to fulfilling our mission to “light the path to independence…one candle at a time:”

You can visit “Jessica’s Candle Shoppe” and ScentsAbility at Thank you Bonnie Schmidt for being such a positively wonderful “Designer of Reality”.

THANK YOU: Jessica, Kortni, Michael, Khari, Kelly, Kim, Alicia, James, Jamie, Drew, Leslie, Ryan, Billy, Thomas, Carmen and everyone at ScentsAbility Candles.