Hart Main, 14, started his home fragrance brand Man Cans with a $100 investment that he made from delivering the local newspaper, handing out flyers for a cell phone store and umpiring for the town recreation baseball league. A single “tweet” from one of his mother’s colleagues to a news reporter changed the course of the business. Today, the Marysville, OH teen is a national media sensation and owner of a thriving small business.
After finding a neighborhood store to sell his candles—housed in actual soup cans with artsy scents such as New York Style Pizza, Dirt, Grandpa’s Pipe and Gun Powder and retailing for $9.50 each—Hart was able to sell a few candles each week. The products were created in the family kitchen after the cans arrived back from soup kitchens that the Hart family supported.
“We went from selling around 70 candles each week and making them in our kitchen to selling around 400-500 candles per week and outsourcing the candle-making,” Hart said. “The media attention definitely caused a buzz around the product.”
Hart Main is a young man with a mission.
During the holiday season, ManCans sold more than 2,200 candles, which retail on man-cans.com and are now sold in boutiques and local shops around the US in over 100 locations. The company has big plans in 2012 as well, having started a fundraising arm for youth organizations, sports, clubs, churches and more to raise money by selling ManCans (think the Girl Scout cookies of home fragrance). Hart and is family are also looking for commercial space and are considering hiring a full-time employee to oversee the day-to-day operations. And the little fish can sometimes inspire the big fish, as major retailer Yankee Candle recently rolled out a line of candles just for guys.
Nearly every man can relate to the scent of fresh-cut grass.
“I got the idea for ManCans when my sister was selling candles for a school fundraiser. I wondered why no one was making candles for men,” Hart told HAPPI in an interview. “When I originally started, It was just for fun and it was something I could use for Christmas gifts but we got more orders after Christmas than we did before and it continued to grow.
According to Hart, Man Cans is currently taking customer requests for its next big scent and is also looking into new container possibilities such as spaghetti jar or tuna tins. However, an altruistic angle is key for the future of this ambitious teen’s company. Though the demand for the product is high, Hart insists on maintaining the charitable, “One Candle, One Meal” mantra and mission of ManCans.
“We have donated nearly 15,000 soup cans to soup kitchens and I want to maintain the charitable side of our business. I like the idea that every candle we make has fed someone who really needed it,” he said.