“I know a candle can’t fix all your problems, but it can make you feel warm, it can make you feel cozy and it can make you catch a moment of happiness every time you breathe in and smell that great scent,” says Benefiscent Candle Company founder Taylor Graustein.
Both Graustein and her father, Robert Graustein, have been making and selling handmade sustainable candles to benefit cancer research since 2015. What originally began as a high school service project has evolved into a business close to the Grausteins’ hearts.
Benefiscent has donated more than $44,000 to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where Graustein’s mother was treated for brain cancer before passing away on the eve of Graustein’s 14th birthday.
The concept for Benefiscent first came from Graustein’s high school service project, Candles for a Cure. She constructed candles and donated proceeds to cancer research. Before her senior year of college, Graustein and her dad spent the summer brainstorming ways in which Candles for a Cure could get into the business of giving back.
It was in 2020 during her senior year at Wake Forest University that Graustein worked with the director of her college’s startup lab program to turn Benefiscent into a company that promoted cancer research and awareness while doing good for the environment.
“It started as more of a healing process to be able to do something and give back and feel like I had the power to make a difference out of a situation where I felt so out of control,” Graustein explains. “I was very young when my mom first got sick, and I was also young when she passed. I didn’t have any control over the situation in any way. I think that [starting Benefiscent] really did help me in that regard.”
The business is operated mostly online and ships candles all over the country, with 20 percent of all sales donated to cancer research. Graustein also prioritizes connecting with her customers in person through pop-up events whenever she can.
“People pour their hearts out to us [at pop-up events]. It’s really incredible,” Graustein says. She displays a photo of her and her mom at every pop-up, and it has inspired people to share their own stories. These gatherings have developed into a source of healing for Graustein.
“It reminds me why I do what I do,” says Graustein. “I try to approach it from a perspective of understanding and being like, ‘Hey, I’ve been through this, I get you, we don’t really need to talk about it. We’re here to support you and realize life is precious. These moments of happiness are so special.’”
When it comes to the future of Benefiscent, Graustein is just getting started. The business recently entered a wholesale marketplace with the goal of putting Benefiscent candles onto store shelves. Graustein has also made it her mission to create socially responsible and sustainable candles, aiming to ditch plastic entirely by 2024.
And, of course, Benefiscent will continue donating and giving back to cancer research.
“That time of life [when my mom passed away] is so scary and so dark,” says Graustein, “but I think what’s really important and what I try to do now is [remember] that there is no magic thing. Life isn’t about some tangible thing. Life is about love and these small moments of happiness.”
For more information, visit benefiscent.com