We sat down with Prosperity Candle's founder Ted Barber to hear the inspiring story of how Prosperity Candle ventures where few social enterprises go to bring hope beyond the borders of conflict zones. You can find their Amber & Orchid Candle in our Mother's Day Gift Box.
How did Prosperity Candle get its start, and what makes your way of doing business unique?
Amber Chand and I had both been working with artisans around the world, focused on helping them to escape poverty through access to global markets. In 2008 we got together in a cafe in Northampton to talk through an idea... investing in women entrepreneurs in places of conflict to promote peace and prosperity, and support women's leadership in the world. At that time, candles weren't on on the horizon at all. We only knew we wanted to create a business model that would prioritize social impact over profit, yet still be entirely market-driven. It would succeed or fail based on its ability to sell products made by the women we worked with, not grants or donations. Because the marketplace represents tremendous potential to effect positive and lasting change, we believe the best way to leverage that resource is to be part of it and compete with other products that aren't made to further social and environmental good. It's very challenging, but worth the effort. So we are atypical in that way, plus Prosperity Candle is a Low-Profit LLC, which is a business prioritizing a social benefit over all else. And we're B-Corp certified for social and environmental sustainability. But perhaps the most unique aspect is training and working with widows in Baghdad. As far as I know, we're the only consumer product business willing and able to go there. If you want to hear more about how we started including the several missteps, or find out why we chose candles, you can visit Our Story and FAQs.
Any funny stories to share from your early startup days?
So many it's hard to recount them all... this is my 3rd business and there are always blunders, misconceptions and moments of silliness that help diffuse stressful times. Recently we were asked by Lauren Conrad's The Little Market to create a birthday cake candle with sprinkles in it. It was easy to add them to the top as the wax was cooling, but then we realized they wanted them all through the candle. We tried endless ways to layer colorful pieces of sugar in 150F wax, but they just ended up a goopy mess... like mixing too many colors into frosting. By the end we were cracking up at how miserably we were failing at what had seemed so simple. We finally figured it out and the candles are cool, but only after making a lot of hideous-looking ones.
What's one fun fact about you personally that we might not know?
Secretly I want to be a graphic designer, master chef, and cafe barista capable of never-before-seen crema art. I am none of these.
What's your personal self care routine?
Still working on that... Prosperity Candle and two young kids keep shredding plans for healthier living, though yoga and maybe meditation are in my future. Right now, it's long bike rides that end at a vineyard.
Tell us a bit about the candles you're including in our Mother's Day Box and what makes them a perfect gift for mom?
They contain one of our most loved fragrances, Amber & Orchid, and include a quote from Malala Yousafzai, the Afghan girl who nearly lost her life standing up for her right to an education. She's an incredible inspiration, and I think her words are perfect for Mother's Day: "Let us make our dreams tomorrow's reality." Most wonderful of all, the candles in True Moringa's Mother's Day Box are handmade by women refugees who are all mothers themselves, working to create a brighter future for their children here in the U.S. after much loss and hardship. It's a beautiful connection from one mother to another.
What do you love most about your job?
The people. Because of our mission, I get to work side by side with incredible individuals who are dedicating their lives to the common good and helping to make the world a better place. From the refugees we employ here in our studio, to the Iraqi widows and Haitian women we've trained in candle-making, they are the reason Prosperity Candle exists.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The world is chock-full of naysayers. Well-meaning and intending to be helpful, but it can be frustrating and tiresome. You have to have passion to make your vision a reality. That sounds trite, but it's incredibly true.
What's the next big thing for Prosperity Candle?
We are about to convert our entire website to custom-poured candles... every design will be available in any fragrance, and customers can even choose how strong they want the scent to be. Each candle will be individually made by hand, exactly as you desire. As far as we know, we are the only candle-maker offering this level of customization. Also, we are expanding our private label work as stores increasingly seek ethically made products with their own branding. This is a great trend that encourages us to expand and develop new capabilities, which is fun and challenging.