Gift idea sparks inspiration for business

Oamaru man Ben Johnston has launched a candle business with the support of his family. PHOTO:...
Oamaru man Ben Johnston has launched a candle business with the support of his family. PHOTO: SALLY RAE
Ben Johnston is living his best life.

The 29-year-old Oamaru man can add businessman to his CV with the launch of his business Bright Lights By Ben — complete with business cards.

Mr Johnston has Down syndrome and he is serving as an inspiration to others as he grasps all opportunities that come his way.

From working at local pub Fat Sally’s on Tuesdays, swimming weekly at the Waitaki Aquatic Centre and performing with the ICAN dance academy to attending church every Sunday, ten-pin bowling with the aim of making the Special Olympics national championships in December and participating in Zumba classes, he is a busy — and fiercely independent — young man.

When Mr Johnston left Waitaki Boys’ High School, he announced he was going flatting and he has been living away from home since he was 19. He flats with five other young adults, with the support of Idea Services, and walks wherever he wants to go.

And now he is also making candles, supported by his family, proving that having a disability does not define you or stop you from being able to make an impact on the lives of others.

Mr Johnston’s candles are already proving wildly popular in Oamaru and also further afield. Within a week of launching, the first batch sold out and there is now a waiting list for the next deliveries. Earlier this week, Mr Johnston and his mother Pip headed to Christchurch for two nights on a "roadie" delivering orders.

The interest stemmed from his mother’s wife, Jane, who made candles as Christmas gifts for family last year. Mr Johnston reckoned he could have a crack at it and the family had a chat and decided it was a good idea.

Mr Johnston explained how he lined up the glass jars in order, made sure the wicks were put into each jar straight and then, with assistance, the wax was melted and poured into the jars.

He put stickers on the candles and their boxes and the blue and yellow of the logo represented Down syndrome awareness. Personally delivering the orders gave him the opportunity to thank customers for their support and to snap a photograph with them.

Made from coconut wax, the candles come in three varieties — vanilla pod, coconut and, Mr Johnston’s favourite, lime and coconut, and there are plans for several other options. Several local businesses approached by him have agreed to be stockists.

Mr Johnston said he had been learning skills from his business venture and he was looking forward to spending the proceeds on a holiday to Australia to stay with friends.

Candles can be ordered at