The expansive windows showcase an envious view of Mount Tom. Two dogs wrestle for a toy on the hardwood floors. And in the candle studio just a few feet away, two women—both refugees who have settled in the Pioneer Valley—hand-pour candles and fill orders.
The vibe is peaceful, yet business is booming for Prosperity Candle, a candle company with a social mission to create economic opportunities for female refugees locally and abroad.
Recently, celebrity personality Lauren Conrad highlighted the company in her online marketplace, The Little Market, which promotes socially responsible shopping. And author Daniel Goldman mentioned Prosperity Candle in his book, A Force for Good.
“We’ve had the busiest summer in our entire company’s history,” Barber says, who founded the company in 2008. “It’s finally feeling like we’re gaining traction in the marketplace.”
Barber says the company focuses on helping women entrepreneurs from places of conflict excel in the marketplace.
“We started out with this crazy idea and we proved a model of lifting families out of poverty,” he says. “We’re a business. We have a non-profit mission, but we strongly believe that to have a lasting impact we need a model that is financially sustainable, and we’re leveraging the marketplace to do that.”
A fair-trade certified company, Barber and his staff fulfill orders for consumers and for companies as corporate gifts, and they ship their products wholesale to other outlets. A feature on their website allows people to design their own candle, choosing the fragrance, the strength and the “vessel”—such as a hand-blown glass bowl or a striped earthen pot. Attached to every candle is a picture and a bio of the woman who made it.
“People are coming to us because of our social impact,” Barber says. “You can get another high quality candle, but what people are looking for is this incredible impact story.”
The company’s focus this fall is to design and select their upcoming candle collections. Large, white sheets of paper are taped to a wall surrounding a conference table, with pictures and ideas from artists and designers. One collection in the running might highlight travel, while another will showcase individual designers on a limited basis.
The space in Eastworks—part office, part production studio, part dog haven—has been ideal for the growing company, which moved into the building four years ago.
“When we were looking for a space, we had nicknames for all the places,” Barber says. “The nickname for this place was ‘Wow.” It was a day like this and we walked in and we all said, ‘Wow.’”
Barber jumped at the opportunity to move into Eastworks, converting the large space to fit his many needs.
“I looked at the bike path,” he says. “I looked at the beauty of the space. I looked at the community in Eastworks and Easthampton. The whole place had the perfect ambiance and environment.”
An additional perk: the loading docks for shipping. “It just makes my life easier,” he says.
Facing a competitive marketplace, Barber welcomes anything that helps the company continue to thrive.
“I love that we’ve stuck our ground and kept the integrity of our original vision despite the pressures of running a business,” he says.