Milan Candles/Submitted

By Kamala Kirk | May 12, 2022

After returning home from Afghanistan in 2014, Luis Garcia knew he wanted to help rescue and rehabilitate sex trafficking victims.

At the time, he had no idea what that would look like or how he would achieve it.

Seven years later, the Army combat veteran brought his vision to life when he created Milan Candles, along with his nonprofit organization, Milan’s Mission. As a kid, Garcia’s mom sold Avon products, so they always had candles around the house.

“I’ve always had an affinity with candles,” Garcia says. “I love how they bring you warmth and comfort and can inspire a sense of hope in your life — so to me, they were the perfect product to bring Milan’s Mission to life.

“Our goal with the brand is to rescue sex trafficking victims around the world and to provide a safe space for self-love, healing and holistic well-being. Our mission is what makes our candles unique.”

He stressed the candles are beautiful as well.

“I wanted to create something that would add joy, comfort and beauty to one’s environment,” Garcia says. “So, I spent a lot of time developing the best candles that I could. Every detail has been carefully thought out.”

The candles are available in seven soothing and comforting scents such as French vanilla and chai latte, and each comes in a vessel that can be reused once the wax is gone.

“Each scent is bold and distinct in its own way, and one of our biggest compliments from our customers is that you can smell the candle before you even open the box,” Garcia says.

“Our candles are luxury candles, so I was intentional in making sure that our vessels and our packaging reflect that — there are no cheap stickers, the labels are embossed onto the glass itself. Our vessels are a beautiful neutral color, so it doesn’t matter what environment you put them in, they’re going to look great. And they’re quality vessels — strong, safe and dependent — exactly what we want Milan to be for our community.”

Of all the scents, Garcia shares that coconut cashmere is the brand’s most popular fragrance.

“It has a subtle hint of coconut, which makes you feel like you’re on your own private getaway,” Garcia says. “It’s a really simple yet impactful scent that evokes a calm, natural and peaceful vibe. It’s popular among men and women alike, and perfect for every room in your house or office.”

All of the candles come with angel numbers on them and each one has its own meaning. For example, 111 signifies that a person is about to manifest their thoughts into reality while 333 represents the perfect time to accomplish one’s goals.

“Our entire brand’s mission is to help our Milan family feel safe and supported — mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually,” Garcia says. “What better way to symbolize that than angel numbers that contribute positively to this goal? Whether you believe in them or not, it’s comforting and reassuring to know that you’re not alone on your transformational path to healing and self-realization.”

The company’s name was inspired by Garcia’s youngest daughter’s middle name.

“I wanted to name the company Milan because all three of my daughters are the reason why I do anything in life,” Garcia says.

“I want them to see that anything is possible if you’re willing to work for it. But more than that, I want them to know that I did everything I could to help make the world a safer place for them and others like them.”

Garcia donates 15% of the profits from every candle purchase to Milan’s Mission. Garcia says the nonprofit supports victims of sex trafficking through its 3R strategy: Readiness to raise awareness, educate and provide preventive strategy training; Rescue those who have been trafficked; and provide Rehabilitation support to victims of sex trafficking through Operation Haven.

“When I was leaving the Army and thinking about what to do with my life, I thought a lot about the types of people who needed help and were, in my opinion, actual victims,” Garcia says.

“Meaning they were completely helpless and needed real help. That’s why Milan’s Mission is so important to me — I want to help create a safer world where every individual has the fundamental right to freedom and safety, not just in name, but in actuality.”

Garcia joined the military in 2012 as an infantryman and served for four years. During that time, he was deployed to Afghanistan as part of OEF14.

“I joined because I was looking for an escape from my environment that would provide me with the mindset and resources to begin a successful life,” Garcia says.

“I grew up in North Philadelphia and there weren’t a lot of opportunities for someone like me. Statistically, I was likely to end up in a minimum wage job, dead or in prison. But I learned early on in life that if you want something, you have to go get it yourself. You can’t wait for anything to be handed to you—you have to take initiative. So I did. I took what I learned from the streets and enlisted in the army. Then I took what I learned from the Army and distilled that into the foundations of all my businesses.”

Garcia’s experience in the military taught him a lot — especially when it came to integrity, discipline and leadership. Growing up in the streets, integrity wasn’t something that came naturally to him, he says.

“I had the survival mindset, and when you have a survival mindset, integrity is way down the list in terms of priorities,” Garcia says. “But the military taught me that in order to be successful, you have to have integrity. Your team’s lives depend on it when you’re on a mission — if you say you’re going to do something, you better do it. I also learned a lot about leadership from the different leaders I had—the main lesson being that whether your team succeeds or fails, it comes down to you as the leader. Watching various commanders lead, I was able to see who was a good leader and inspired their team and who wasn’t.”

Breaking that down was fun for Garcia, he says. He applies those lessons to himself and the business.

“I’m able to lead my team from around the world effectively because I have the tools that the military instilled in me: we utilize PACE plans, TPCA, and the four laws of combat amongst other things,” he says.

Looking ahead, Garcia has big plans for Milan’s Candles and Milan’s Mission. In addition to new scents, diversifying his product line and collaborating with other brands, Garcia also wants to recruit highly trained military veterans to help with the rescue missions for Milan.

“Being a veteran myself, I value the skills, discipline and expertise we have in conducting these types of missions and want to ensure that I create jobs for my fellow servicemen and women,” Garcia says.

“This will hopefully help with the employment of our veterans and prevent some from potentially becoming homeless after they’ve ‘ETS.’ The mission is bigger than me, and in order to help me accomplish it, I want a team of dedicated specialists who align with our values and have the skills to execute on the ground. Our mission is everything, so every bit of support counts. Whether that’s following us on Instagram or purchasing a candle, it means the world for someone we can reach or rescue.”

Milan Candles

Instagram: @milancandles