The Blue Umbrella is a unique gift shop that embraces inclusion for all by selling items that are handmade by artists with developmental and intellectual disabilities across Arkansas. Having a source of income through creating these items gives our artists a sense of independence and purpose that they have not experienced before. Many of our artists would not be where they are today without the support and love of their families – especially their mothers. As Mother’s Day approaches, we want to highlight the important role that the mothers of our artists play in the lives of their special needs children.
One such mother-child duo is JJ and Barb Palmer of North Little Rock, who created a handmade candle company called 2Scentzworth that sells “Beautifully scented candles produced by beautifully gifted people.” JJ is on the Autism spectrum and has struggled for much of her life to find her passion and a place where she truly belonged. When the idea of starting their own business came about, both JJ and Barb filled important roles in making their dream a reality. In addition to making the candles, JJ enjoys sales because she loves speaking passionately about their products with customers and making people laugh. Barb makes the wax melts and oversees the day-to-day operations of the company to ensure things are running smoothly. Together, their unique skills and passion come together beautifully and have ultimately led to the success of the company.
When JJ gets frustrated or overwhelmed, Barb reminds her of a saying she developed when they first started the business, “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.”
2Scentzworth is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide jobs for people on the Autism spectrum and other disabilities. JJ and Barb use the connections they make with customers to educate people on Autism awareness, and they donate a portion of each sale that they make to the Autism Awareness Foundation and other similar organizations. Right now, JJ and Barb run the business out of their family home. Eventually, they hope to move the company into a retail space so they can have the capacity to make more candles and hire more individuals with disabilities.
JJ attributes much of her success to her mother. She says that Barb always puts others before herself, is patient and encouraging, and is always making her laugh. “She’s my support,” said JJ, “She’s the very reason that I haven’t just collapsed altogether and, you know, just gave up.”
We are proud to carry candles and wax melts made by JJ and her mother in our store. If you’re looking for the perfect gift to get a loved one for Mother’s Day, please stop by our location on 700 Main St. in Little Rock or click the “Shop” tab above to view products from our other artists. Every purchase made at The Blue Umbrella goes back to the artists and makes a positive impact on their lives. Happy Mother’s Day from the Department of Human Services!