TAMPA, Fla. — Mercedes is a young Tampa woman with one baby boy and another on the way. She is dreaming up the perfect candle. That is her job. She gets paid to make your house smell good.
“I like fruity candles,” says Mercedes, a recent graduate of Hillsborough Community College. “Like lemons. They start as seeds then bloom into something delicious.”
The symbolism is intended.
Mercedes is a paid intern at Transitions Candles, a non-profit organization that helps at-risk girls and women develop the skills for a bright future.
All the candles are themed to inspire. Names include Change, Courage and Confidence. The best-seller is called Empowerment.
Transitions Candles is an offshoot of Girls Empowered Mentally for Success (GEMS), the brainchild of Crystal Bailes, a former New York City corrections officer.
“These girls are going to change the world,” says Bailes, who this week received a huge financial boost thanks to a donation from Altierus Career College. “But how is she going to do that if she doesn’t have the resources to succeed?”
Bailes works with the Tampa Housing Authority to find girls for the program.
Mercedes and her fellow candlemakers create and market Transitions Candles at the Seventh Avenue Apothecary. The shop, located on the outskirts of Tampa's Ybor City neighborhood, has developed a loyal following for its own delicious-smelling soy-based candles.
Transitions Candles are available online and start at $9. Proceeds from the sale of the candles help fund GEMS programs and pay Mercedes to keep dreaming up her candle scents.