Chicago mom launches special business for people with special needs

A visit to a Lush store struck a chord with Holly Simon, the South Side mom behind the I Am Who I Am Foundation. She knew she wanted to start a business someday for her son, Nate, who has Down syndrome, but she also knew she wanted something more.

Because Lush buyers are made to feel part of a larger community, Simon knew that’s what she was looking for when it came to Nate and his peers having a business of their own. So, I am …, a new line of all-natural bath bombs and soaps packaged and sold by people with developmental differences, evolved.

Simon sees the new company as not only providing employment, but also as a way to showcase what people with special needs can really do.

“I can’t wait for the world to see more for them,” Simon says. “The love you get is so infectious, you want everyone to see it and feel it.”

She found a manufacturer for the products, and the new employees–some of them at the Ray Graham School–are designing the labels and packaging as well as selling the products in their communities. Each package is personalized with one of 36 empowering adjectives. Fifteen fragrances are available, with each soap or bomb priced at $7. I am … also will launch a lotion for Mother’s Day with a portion of proceeds used to donate a baby blanket for every child with special needs born at area hospitals.

“It’s just a beautiful product brought to you by amazing children,” Simon says.

I am … has already booked a couple of pop-up shops. Simon expects more opportunities this summer, particularly with farmers markets, and as word spreads about the products.

“I just can’t tell you how much pride I have in seeing that our kids have so much to say,” Simon says. “They have so many great ideas, such as how they wanted the (promotional) video to look and how they want the message to be heard.”

I am … will hold a public launch party 6-9 p.m., March 24 at Cork& Kerry, 10614 S. Western Ave., Chicago. Businesses interested in hosting a pop-up shop can contact Simon at or (773) 547-3300.

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