Eleventh Candle Co is a social enterprise that seeks to redeem, restore, empower and equip those vulnerable to human trafficking, abuse, exploitation, and addiction. It is a way to employ women and empower them through work.

How did they get started?

Amber’s interest in human trafficking was born during a trip to Ethiopia, where she witnessed human trafficking in broad daylight. And she wasn’t okay with this. When she returned home to Columbus, Ohio, she was shocked to learn that human trafficking was just as prevalent in her hometown as it was in Ethiopia. So she set to work to figure out a way to make an impact.

She googled what businesses she could start that would take the least amount of capital, and she came up with… candles.  She started over two years ago, mostly selling online and at festivals and events, and just recently opened their first store in the Madery, at the Co-Hatch in Worthington – a place where artisans make their socially minded, locally made, and finely crafted products right in front of your eyes.

While reflecting on their journey, Amber remarked that she grew up through foster care and recognizes the statistics of what can happen… 50% of kids in foster care are trafficked or abused: she could easily have been one of those she works with today.

What do survivors need?

In this podcast, we talk about many forms of trafficking – whether it’s drug addiction, forced dependency, kidnapping, labor trafficking – it has countless different forms.  Eleventh Candle Co is focusing on what survivors of human trafficking need:

They need a safe place, safe people, and a purpose in their job. One of the most important things is teaching them how to dream.

Quite often those who have been through extreme situations need extra guidance – especially working through the past trauma they have experienced. Everyone is unique, and this can range from basic life skills such as budgeting to healthy eating to rebuilding trust. One of the most useful ways to make a difference is through peer support, and Amber has worked hard to create an environment where you can’t tell the CEO from an employee, from someone who has been trafficked. Because, as she puts it:

“One, we’re not a petting zoo, and two we need to have the same level of respect, so my staff can freely call me out on if I’m doing something wrong, whether it’s how I’m making a candle to if I have a bad attitude… and the reason that we did that is to create a level playing ground. “

Trust is a huge component as is creating a safe place where you’re held accountable but it’s still okay to fail.  Only when you are on an even playing ground can you really develop trust.

What are the challenges of incarceration?

For those who have been incarcerated, it’s even more challenging getting back on your feet.

The average woman leaves prison with about 29 dollars and the clothes that she came in with.

The transition from prison is challenging, so Eleventh Candle Co has a different solution to working with formerly incarcerated women: they reach out and working with them in the prison system by getting to know them and paying them real wages so that they have a path after they are released.

How do you affect change as a consumer?

Eleventh Candle Co has a variety of beautifully scented candles.  Personally, I love beeswax candles, and since I attended the She Has a Name training on Human Trafficking, I light a candle from Eleventh Candle everytime I’m working on this podcast.  There is one burning right now.  For me, it is a symbol of the change I want to see happen in the world (plus, it’s an awesome candle) — but in the bigger picture, it is an example how we can effect change through the products you purchase as a consumer.

Here is just a sample of companies built around a social mission like Eleventh Candle Co:

Imagine what a difference we can make in our local community just by purchasing from social impact organizations such as these.

Human trafficking is difficult to talk about, but the more we can shine a spotlight on it, the more we can find solutions that make a difference. As Amber describes it:

What we have to do is we have to bring light Into Darkness, thank you candle company for the perfect analogy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.