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.
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.
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.
Hart’s creative candles are also available in Coffee, Campfire, and Dirt smells that men (and women) are sure to enjoy.
Earlier this week we hosted How to Make It: How to Make Money While Doing What You Love, a panel of design professionals who shared their experiences with local Brooklyn artists. We asked them each to share the best advice they’d ever gotten about how to succeed in a creative business.
Tina Roth Eisenberg, Swiss Miss and Tattly – At one time I was seeking the advice of others when faced with a heavy decision. I kept on getting advice that didn’t feel right, until I realized the greatest advice on my own- nobody can tell you what’s right for you. You are the only person who knows what is best for you. Trust your decisions.
Nickey Skarstad, Etsy Success – Tell your story well. You are unique and creative and so are your products.
Anna Rabinowicz, RabLabs – I often refer to Blink by Malcolm Gladwell for my favorite piece of advice. When you make a quick decision, everything falls into place. When you mull over choices and take a lot of time to think about it, that extra time doesn’t pay off. Follow your gut.
Jeff Davis, Vinylux – A professor told me to make sure this is really what I wanted to do. Knowledge of your business will be all-encompassing and when you embark on a certain path you must commit. If there is something else you are thinking about, examine it. Some day it might be too late to turn back.
Dave Bolotsky, CEO of UncommonGoods –You don’t ever make the right or wrong decision. What matters most is what you do after you make that decision.
What an inspiring evening! Stay tuned for some great video. In the meanwhile, here are few shots from the after party!