Ability Shines Bright

Jessica Schmidt photo

Coral Springs, FL "Would you like to check out my candles?" asks Jessica Schmidt, with excitement and eagerness. The business owner knows everything about her environmentally friendly soy candles, and she sells them passionately. Jessica is proud to hand out her business card representing ScentsAbility, a company that manufactures "special candles made by special people." Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) provided Jessica, a 26 year-old who has developmental disabilities, with both guidance and funding so she could expand her business.

Jessica met with VR Counselor Brenda Motter, who matched her abilities with the best possible employment opportunity. It turns out the best option for Jessica was to become a business owner. ScentsAbility began in 2008 when Jessica's parents created a business model involving Jessica in the manufacturing, shipping, and selling of a product. Brenda helped Jessica purchase supplies, and the business was profitable right away. "After looking into their business plan and all of the work that they had done, we agreed that it was very viable," says Brenda.

Jessica's mother, Bonnie Schmidt, says she is "beyond impressed with VR," and says Brenda helped change Jessica's life in many ways. "She was the best person I've ever had working with us, because she understood our dedication. Brenda understood that this was something that could happen," says Bonnie.

Jessica's independence and confidence have grown tremendously since she started ScentsAbility. She molds the candles and adds scents to them. "I put the wax in, and the color, and mix it, and then pour it with a teapot," she says. Jessica's language skills have also improved as a result of selling the candles at different events. "I can't even explain how much this means to her. It has changed our whole family. I can never pay back VR enough," says Bonnie.

ScentsAbility employs as many as 10 people with disabilities at a time. The employees help with molding, as well as shipping the candles. Each employee makes a commission when he or she sells the candles at events. Bonnie says the company is capable of so much more. She is considering franchising it out to people with disabilities all over the country. "We think big. Our goals are really grand," she says.

Florida's Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America's workforce. Our employer-focused website, FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 111 offices across Florida, and last year helped 3,874 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org.