Young entrepreneurs with Down Syndrome showcase their businesses

March 21, 2019

Young entrepreneurs with Down Syndrome showcase their businesses

Emma and Tony Sykes started Downlights a year ago and hope to hire more young people who struggle to find employment.

Young people with Down Syndrome and their families presented their businesses at Auckland’s ‘Buddy Walk’, for the first time in the event’s history.

Auckland Down Syndrome Association’s event allowed young entrepreneurs to sell their wares and highlight the opportunities that the community could create for themselves.

Tony Sykes and his daughter Emma, who has Down Syndrome, struggled to find employment after she left school because potential employers would not respond.

Together they began Downlights, and in collaboration with candle-making company Illumina, now make and distribute candles internationally, as well as selling at events and markets throughout Auckland.

The business is growing and Tony says they plan to expand to be able to hire other people with special needs who face the same struggle as Emma.

“Hopefully we spread the word about inclusiveness and the fact that there’s a whole community of people who want to work, and are very capable of doing a huge amount of different types of tasks.”

Laura Harkins and her mother Jenny held a stall to sell Laura’s handmade soaps.

Laura has Down Syndrome, and is employed part time, but having a side job of other tasks to do keeps her life more balanced and busy.

The ‘Buddy Walk’, a day of entertainment, food, stalls and a 3.5km walk around the base of Mount Eden, has been held by the ASDA for the past 14 years.

The “really inclusive, fun event” is an opportunity for the community to meet and share with each other, as well as a fundraiser for the association, says organizer Kirsten MacDonald.

“This year, what we’re really excited about is we have some of our entrepreneurs, so older members with Down Syndrome that have their stalls here, and they’re showing their wares, which is fantastic.”

Sally Rayner, who has attended and volunteered for the past seven years, says “there’s a huge sense of community” and that having the business stalls there is inspirational for everyone involved.

“This is the first year this has happened, and this is hopefully a tidal change of people having more employment opportunities.”

“So often its parent led, but in time, we’re hoping that actually, employers start seeing that these adults are more than capable, because it means a lot for a lot of people.”

International Down Syndrome Day is 21st March.

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