Blindness can’t stop entrepreneur
Published 10:52 am Friday, August 28, 2015
After an acquaintance convinced Kim Prather to hold a candle party more than eight years ago, she began making what have become Kimmie’s Highly Scented Candles.
The company was built on her sense of smell — she lost her sight completely as her candle passion turned into a commercial enterprise.
“Of course I’ve always loved candles and loved my house to smell good, and wanted more candles but lost touch with her,” Prather said. “So my husband kind of gave me the idea, we kind of agreed, he said ‘why don’t we start making your own candles?’ It would save me money and I could have all the candles I wanted for my house.”
Prather said when she first started making candles it was mainly for herself, then as people wanted to buy her products she ventured out into selling them. Prather said it started with the ladies she goes to Heritage Family Church with, who keep her busy with orders. Prather said once her candles began selling as gifts she would get calls from all over — most recently she shipped an order to Idaho.
Using the most aromatic wax, paraffin, and grade-A fragrance oils, Prather creates candles with aromas that fill an entire house. More orders means buying more supplies and researching new fragrances, which is one of the most difficult aspects of Prather’s passion since she lost her sight completely about eight years ago.
“I lost it through a disease called von Hippel-Lindau,” Prather said.
Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome (VHL) is a hereditary condition associated with blood vessel tumors of the brain, spinal cord and eye, according to cancer.net. People with VHL also have an increased risk of developing clear cell renal cell carcinoma, which is a specific type of kidney cancer, and pheochromocytoma, which is a tumor of the adrenal gland.
It is estimated that about one in 30,000 people has VHL, and the risk of kidney cancer in families with VHL is estimated to be about 40 percent.
“My mom has it and my sister has it also,” Prather said. “It’s tumors that run in the eyes, the brain, the kidneys, the spine, the pancreas. I lost sight in one eye when I was 14 and then just eight years ago lost sight in the other. I just went through brain surgery two years ago from brain tumors and last September, to the date of my brain surgery, I had kidney cancer and […] I go to MD Anderson for that. I went through surgery for that and of course I go every six months for my checkups over to Houston.”
MD Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas is a specialized center that sees more patients with VHL than most physicians in the nation.
Prather said since she was 14 she has been coming to terms with her condition. “I guess you get used to it,” she said. Thankfully, the tenacious Prather said she is doing well right now.
Prather does all of her candle research on her iPhone through the help of Siri, who reads out search results from the screen that Prather can drag her finger down, a clicking noise with each one. Often she calls the companies and explains her situation and they will help her in research, and she also gets help from her daughter Ashtan, 17.
Kimmie’s Candles is also somewhat of a family affair. Prather said because of her sight loss there’s no way she could it without her family’s assistance, her son, daughter and husband. Prather also creates room sprays and sachets for drawers, cars or closets. She says her prices are below average for the quality and size, 16 oz. being $16 and 10 oz. candles for $12. Prather said though her costs have gone up almost three times since she started, raising prices is something she is reluctant to do.
Prather’s preferred scents are the fruity, warm and sweet smells reminiscent of a popular “bird of paradise” fragrance and then seasonal fall and Christmas scents that are warmer and have more spice. Sometimes she keeps the original names of the oils, and sometimes she renames them —she renamed one to “birthday suit,” though the fragrance is the same intoxicating smell the fell in love with. Her most popular scents include vanilla and fresh berries, crème brulee, kumquat, pomegranate, girly curls, cranberry chutney, Christmas memories and the year-round favorite fall scent maple pumpkin. Other scents include baby powder, honeysuckle, apple cobbler, birthday suit, leather, holiday cider, sparkling snow, downy, bird of paradise, blueberry blitz and kudzu.
“To me, a house is just more inviting when you can walk in someone’s home and you smell the aroma of candles,” she said. “It’s just like a family walks in to a home-cooked meal or they can smell bread in the oven baking or something really good cooking. You know it’s ‘oh what is that you’re cookin’, whatcha cookin’?’ It’s kind of the same way with candles. When you walk in it’s just inviting.”
Prather said her family likes to come in and smell fragrance, and one thing she really likes about candle making is making people happy.
“I like […] that it makes other people happy,” she said. “I guess just knowing that other people are pleased with the product.”
For more information about Kimmie’s Highly Scented Candles or to place an order, contact Prather at 601-757-9752.