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Kiwi business started by dad to provide jobs for daughters living with Down syndrome sees new growth

A New Zealand business started by a father to provide jobs for his daughters who live with Down syndrome has done so well they’ve had to upsize their headquarters.

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Seven Sharp spoke with the small social enterprise specialising in hand-poured candles. Source: Seven Sharp

Downlights is a social enterprise that manufactures hand poured candles and supports young adults with Down syndrome and intellectual or learning disabilities.

Tony Sykes started the company two years ago to provide jobs and training for his daughters Emma and Nicki, who both live with Down syndrome.

Mr Sykes approached established candle maker Jennifer Del Bel for tips on getting started, and got more than he could have hoped for.

“She was really inspired by what we were trying to do and we basically joined forces.”

No strangers to overnight growth. Downlights made headlines in 2018 when George Takei, who played Mr Sulu on TV's Star Trek, shared their story on his online platforms, which boast millions of followers.

At the time, Ms Del Bel told Seven Sharp that by sharing their work Takei had catapulted them "into sales through the states, through Canada, through the UK and Australia too.

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Two years later and business has been better than ever. With the helping hand of a crowdfunding campaign, Downlights has upsized to a bigger premises.

“To sit there and hear the computer go ding, ding. ding everytime someone donated, it was like, 'We are going to do it, we are going to do it,'” says Ms Del Bel.

“This is amazing. This is the dream. This is what’s allowing us to expand. It’s giving us future growth.”

Mr Sykes says he’s proud of the work they’ve done.

"If I think about it too deeply it's a bit overwhelming, really.

“I’m proud of this whole thing. I’m proud of the guys we have got working for us."