Naples business Pepper Street Studio sells organic candles, soaps, diffusers and the like. But for owner Brandi Woolington, it also has a greater purpose. When her daughter was 5 years old, she was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects speech and motor skills. “That shook my world,” Woolington says. In part, that diagnosis helped motivate her to start a business.
She has an interior design background but had long been interested in making candles. The business gave her a chance to indulge in a passion, and to raise money for a plan to create a second home of sorts for people with special needs. In the future, she envisions a Pepper Street location next door to what she would call Sofi’s Home. Named after her daughter, it would serve as a place for people with disabilities and their families to gather, and would also provide employment opportunities through Pepper Street Studio.
It’s an ambitious plan, but she’s already come a long way.
Woolington started her business in October 2019, and was traveling frequently across the state to sell her wares at markets and events when the pandemic hit. She shifted to doing more digital sales and building the business one person at a time; reaching out to existing customers and at times literally meeting them in parking lots to drop off soap or candles. But it worked, and she was growing her business by word of mouth. She opened a studio in North Naples in November 2020 and started hosting candle-making classes. She’s found that the one-on-one contact at the classes and at local farmers markets has really helped the businesses thrive.
“We had to build a loyal following,” Woolington says. “It’s fun to grow a business, because if you have a great product people will keep coming back.”