A social enterprise gives a business the power to turn a ubiquitous product into so much more. A candle becomes not only a way to light a room, but a reminder of a little way that you’ve made a difference. A hand-made piece of jewelry comes with a story and a job for a woman in need.
Candles, jewelry and other hand-made goods are employing victims of human trafficking here and abroad through newly minted social enterprise Legacy Candle Co. Founder Amber Runyon formally launched the enterprise in November of 2015 with the mission to redeem, restore, empower and equip exploited individuals.
A nurse by training, Runyon had been traveling the world on medical missions visiting Haiti, Honduras and Ethiopia, when a little girl in Ethiopia stole a piece of her heart. She decided to make her mark on the community during frequent visits to see the girl, not only running medical clinics in the area, but also working with local women to produce products that she brought back to the States to sell to family and friends, cycling the money back into projects overseas.
Runyon realized her way of giving back was hitting a tipping point.
“I actually need to do this or not do this because it’s getting too big,” she says.
Doing it meant adding an impact stateside, “Women here need employment also,” Runyon says.
And thus, Legacy Candle Co. was born.
Legacy Candle Co.’s line of hand-poured soy wax candles come in scents like lemongrass, sea salt & rosemary, honey & fig and spiced chai. Trial and error and YouTube have both played their part in the process. New to candles, Runyon had a whole new world to discover – what containers to use, kinds of wax, wicks and fragrances – but is already enjoying seeing the progression of her product in a few short months.
Women in Ethiopia hand-craft Legacy Candle Co.’s other offerings including bracelets, bangles and carved wooden crosses. Runyon plans to feature even more of the products these women create like wooden bowls and spoons.
“Essentially our goal is to launch more of a home line,” she says.
Legacy Candle Co. currently employs two women in Columbus and 16 in Ethiopia, but employment doesn’t mean just a job. Runyon says employment means stimulating economies here and abroad. It means empowering women. It means making the goods to be sold with that money sustaining her non-profit Legacy.
The mission of redeem, restore, empower and equip also builds sustainability. The whole-person, whole-process approach redeems a woman from her current situation, restores her mentally, physically, emotionally and financially, provides a form of empowerment through someone believing in her, and equips her not only with a job, but skills for life. That means teaching women here about savings programs and other basic life skills many individuals take for granted. Overseas it means a community making small changes that have a big impact.
Runyon says that as a non-profit, Legacy is largely focused on programming. Stateside residential programs will give women a place to live for free for two years as they work towards healing and restoring their lives. Overseas Legacy aims to work with women and children to open an early childhood development center. Moms that otherwise couldn’t work can take their children there, while children have a place to grow and develop, perhaps keeping them from a similar fate.
Runyon believes hers is just one in what is a movement towards social enterprise, especially in Columbus. She sees the community that’s already building with Freedom a la Cart, Hot Chicken Takeover, CleanTurn and She Has a Name.
“We can make a difference just simply by changing the way that we do HR and the people we are willing to employ,” Runyon says. “We’re going to be one of those cities that other people say, ‘Wow how did Columbus do that?’ and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”
Legacy Candle Co.’s namesakes are available at many shops across Columbus including Simply Vague, the new Quinci Emporium and Swoonful Gifts. The reception is just as Runyon hoped, with customers telling her, “Every time I light this candle, I think about the difference that it’s making.”
For more information, visit legacycandleco.com.