A hope-filled light

Christiana Trapani sparks support for Ukrainians embattled by the darkness of war.

As a second-generation Ukrainian American and owner of Door County Candle Co., Christiana (Gorchynsky) Trapani, Grad ’18, wanted to find a way to help Ukrainians after Russia invaded the country in February. Her idea: the Ukraine Candle — yellow and blue, like Ukraine’s flag — and 100 percent of the profits would go to support Ukraine. She set a fundraising goal of $5,000. 

After she posted her story on Facebook and it was shared hundreds of times, Trapani appeared on World News Tonight with David MuirPBS NewsHour and the Today show, leading to thousands of candle orders from all 50 states and countries around the globe. Her company has since donated $800,000 to Razom, a nonprofit founded in New York in 2014 that is providing emergency humanitarian aid since the Russia-Ukraine war began.

“Our shop is small. We weren’t made for this type of volume, but we’ve gotten creative,” Trapani says of the unprecedented production. 

She and her team made their Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, storefront smaller to create a larger packing and shipping area. They pour candles outside when weather permits, and more than 700 local community members have volunteered to help. Like every candle the company sells, each is fully handcrafted, from pouring to wicking to labeling. 

Having never made a candle before, Trapani has come a long way since she bought the company. 

“I didn’t know the first thing about making candles,” she says. “I had to quit my full-time job with salary and benefits, but I really wanted to take the leap.” 

After graduating from Marquette’s master’s program in digital communication strategies, Trapani opened an e-commerce business called Door County Delivered, a gift-box service featuring products from local businesses from her hometown. Through this, she met the owner of Door County Candle who was looking to retire.

“Thanks to Marquette, I saw all the potential for marketing the business and growing it through brand awareness,” Trapani says. “The company is so cool. Every candle is made by hand from start to finish with high-quality ingredients, so I wanted to share that story.”

Since becoming owner in June 2021, Trapani started a newsletter that now reaches more than 20,000 subscribers and has grown the company’s Facebook likes from a few hundred to 10,000. She runs ads on social media and in local publications.

“Not only did Marquette help shape my passion for marketing, it also helped me find a passion for entrepreneurship,” Trapani says. “‘Be The Difference’ really did inspire me to think about how I can be a positive difference in the community I’m living in and beyond.”