Richard “Hart” Main of New Philadelphia, Ohio, created a business by taking a common household item and tailoring it to men: candles.
Hart Main’s business started with a joke and a bike.
At 13 years old, Main wanted to buy a $1,200 bicycle that he
could use for triathlons. He wasn’t going to be able to foot that bill with the
$40 he made a month on his paper route, nor was he going to be able to get that
cash from his parents. He needed a different job. Around that same time, his
sister started selling scented candles at a fundraiser for school.
And he thought: “Why
aren’t there any candles for men?”
At first, the sentiment was just a joke. Soon thereafter, though,
Main started ManCans,
a proprietor of candles that range in scents from the scent of a new leather
baseball mitt to sawdust. A family friend sold candles as a hobby and taught
him where the buy supplies, how to create scents and how to start his business.
Now, his operation is nearly bursting at the seams. His candles are in 150 stores
around the country—one in every state—and his operation cleared $200,000 in
sales last year. He’s on pace for $230,000 this year.
Main isn’t pocketing all of his profits, though. From the
start, a large part of his business has been dedicated to giving back to local
soup kitchens. His candles are made in aluminum cans, which came from canned
soup at the start of his business. Rather than eat all of the soup, he donated
it. Now, the business is large enough that it can afford to purchase custom-made
cans, but it still donates 75 cents per sale to kitchens in Ohio, Pennsylvania,
West Virginia and Michigan.
“It helps them more because they can do more with that
money,” Main says. “One of our kitchens that we donated to had their roof cave
in right above their stove just before Christmas Eve. They were able to use our
money to fix that, which was pretty cool to see. The impact of just donating soups
is kind of hard to see, but with money, you can see it.”
Main’s business got its biggest push after it went viral on
March 15, 2011. A day prior, the local NBC affiliate ran a feature on the
company during the morning news. The Associated Press then picked up the story
and spread it across the country.
“We were on CNN and Fox News, and The TODAY Show talked
about it because it was trending,” Main says. “A ton of articles were written about
it over a span of two days. I was still in 8th grade going to
school, and I refer to that as the craziest week of my life—because it was.”
Next year, Main plans on attending Kent State University to study
economics. He hopes to keep the business running remotely.
NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation established its scholarship program to raise awareness among the nation’s youth about the critical role of private enterprise and entrepreneurship. Since 2003, YEF has awarded over 2,500 scholarships worth more than $2.5 million to graduating high school seniors who own and/or operate their own small business. Meet the other 2015 winners and learn how to get involved.