Eleventh Candle Co., which is underwritten by Worthington-based COhatch, will open two new locations ahead of the holiday season to provide fragrant gift ideas while spreading awareness of human trafficking.
Eleventh Candle, which has been operating in COhatch's Madery at 752 High St. in Worthington, was founded three years ago by CEO Amber Runyon after she took a medical mission trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The experience made the former hospice nurse realize she wanted to help women who have survived addiction, abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.
"One day, I watched two little girls who were about 5 and 7 get sold into sex trafficking," Runyon said.
Runyon said she decided to start a candle company because it was relatively inexpensive to open.
She hires groups, or "classes," of women who are survivors of addiction, abuse, exploitation or human trafficking to produce candles at the Madery, where the candles also are sold.
After about nine months, the women are given the opportunity to move into a leadership position within Eleventh Candle or are given the opportunity to partner with another COhatch company for a job. COhatch rents co-working, events and office space to businesses and individuals at five locations in central Ohio, including two in Worthington.
Later, they are given the opportunity to earn scholarships to pursue higher education.
The social enterprise partners with Legacy, a nonprofit organization Runyon founded to address poverty in Ethopia and provide "trauma-informed care" and lifestyle training for women in Columbus. Trauma-informed care is an organizational structure that responds, recognizes and understands types of trauma, according to the Trauma Informed Care Project website, traumainformedcareproject.org.
"There's little employment that's specific to trauma-informed (care)," Runyon said. "If we can get them past the point where they need us, that's what we want. We don't want them to want to need us forever. But if you're a great fit for our company, you can stay forever."
Gym memberships and other resources also are provided for the women who are employed by Eleventh.
Everything is tailored to each woman and what she wants to accomplish.
"I knew I didn't want them to be in any sort of service-oriented job ... the way we heal is that we use our hands and we create something," she said.
Eleventh Candle's second retail location, a freestanding kiosk, is scheduled to open at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at Polaris Fashion Place, next to the Apple Store.
Its third location will be a pop-up shop inside the Mall at Tuttle Crossing and is expected to open Nov. 1.
At both locations, retail employees will have scripts and education materials to help spread awareness of human trafficking to customers.
"If we could educate 10 percent of the people that walk through there, that's huge," she said.
Eleventh Candle was one of the first businesses to open in the Madery, a "maker and market space" aimed at providing a home for a series of social enterprises. The Madery is in the basement of the Kilbourne Memorial Building, which also is home to COhatch's Library.
"What we've done is really helped them and supported them," said COhatch founder Matt Davis.
COhatch supports Eleventh by providing a space to create the candles at the Madery, Davis said, and he also has invested in the company. Advertising and other services also have been provided to the company by COhatch members and workers, he said.
"It's really been a whole community of our partners and members getting them to where they are now," he said.
Davis said he plans on expanding his company throughout the Midwest and plans to take Eleventh Candle with COhatch.
"We really believe in what they're doing; we helped them broaden their mission," he said.
Runyon said her company already has exceeded her expectations but she wants to make $1 million in profits so everyone – from the company's home-office staff to the women in the program – can have their lives changed.
"Because of that store, I'll be able to walk women through their first apartment doors," she said.
For more information about Eleventh Candle, which has 11 scents and three seasonal scents for its room sprays, candles and wax melts, go to eleventhcandleco.com.