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From Soup to Scents: Hart Main’s Man Candles

Having a great idea is only the first step in building a successful business as a product designer. Hart Main took that step when he was just 13 years old. Hart’s idea came to him while his sister was selling heavily-scented candles in common fragrances for a school fundraiser. He took a whiff of the wax and wondered why no one was making candles in scents that everyone could enjoy.

Now, the young entrepreneur and his family are not only running a business producing Man Candles, candles with less perfumed, flowery smells, they’re also helping to feed the hungry.

Hart is pretty busy, with his business, school, and the swim team, but he took a moment to tell us more about his candles, donating soup, and how kids (and adults) with great ideas can follow in his footsteps.

Q.) What was it like starting a business at a young age?

I was 13 when I got the idea for ManCans, it was late October of 2010. I was really excited at first to get my ideas down on paper and then trying to find ways to accomplish them. At times, though, it can be frustrating when things don’t work out like you planed. Being young, and looking younger, also works against me sometimes. It’s hard to get some adults to take you serious. I can’t drive places without my parents so adults want to talk to them about my business instead of me. And I am not allowed to legally own the business, because I am a minor, so my parents currently own it.

Q.) What was the first scent you developed and why did you choose that scent?

A scent list was my first list of ideas that I wrote down on my laptop. I don’t remember what ones were at the top of that list, but the first three that we bought to start making candles were Fresh Cut Grass, New Mitt, and Campfire.

Hart making candles.

Q.) Why did you decide to make the candles in used soup cans?

I wanted them to be different than most candles you find at a store, in glass jars. This was another brainstorming process and I knew I wanted something that was recycled and easily accessible. We talked about pop cans, sports drinks bottles, and a few other things, but the soup can was just sitting there from the dinner the night before. At the time it seemed a perfect size and easily accessible and inexpensive. At that time there were no plans of donating thousands of cans of soup, that came out of necessity. Looking back, this was a really lucky find for the business, but it has become a core part of my business. All containers that have the ManCans logo on them are recycled food containers [from soup] donated to people who need a little extra help.

Hart opening cans to serve at a soup kitchen.

Q.) What’s your favorite ManCan scent at UncommonGoods?

My favorite scent is Fresh Cut Grass. I like being outside, playing baseball, and playing with friends, and it reminds me of that when I smell it.

Q.) Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?

I get asked this question a lot through email from kids my age that want to start a business or make a difference. I try and answer their questions the best I can related to what they are doing, but I always tell them two things. 1.) Find a way to solve a problem with your business and people will buy your product. 2.) Find a way to give back to your community and they will support you.

‘Manly’ smells: New York Style Pizza, Sawdust, and Fresh Cut Grass

Hart’s creative candles are also available in Coffee, Campfire, and Dirt smells that men (and women) are sure to enjoy.

Written by Cassie

Cassie spends most of her time at work writing things. She loves books (including comics), sketch comedy, and sci-fi. She's inspired by art and science. As a former Minnesotan, she longs for an afternoon on a lake, Grain Belt in hand. The New Yorker in her is happy spending that afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History instead.

3 Comments

  1. Tyler Herman

    Great to see young entrepreneurs getting out there and making it happen. There are other similar candles out there but nobody needs to by 100% original.

    Cool story but they really need some branding. You can do the “home made” look but not really optimal for novelty items.

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