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From Soup to Scents: Hart Main’s Man Candles

April 3, 2012

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.

Gift Guides

Happy Birthday April Babies

March 30, 2012

Does someone you love have a birthday this month? Enter them to win a shopping spree at UncommonGoods. From now til April 30, you can tag your friend in this photo on our Facebook page and they’ll be entered to win. Leave a comment to let us know why your friend or family member is special to you, and why you hope they have a great birthday. Be sure to include their birthday! We’ll pick one lucky birthday girl or boy to receive a gift card to UncommonGoods.

And here’s the best part—for every 50 people you enter, we’ll add $50 to the grand prize, up to $250. So if your mother, sister and best friend forever are all April babies (and maybe you are too), you can enter each time.

You can also double your chances of winning a birthday prize for your favorite people by tweeting:

Hey @uncommongoods! Help me wish my friend @name a very happy birthday. http://unc.gd/Hs8uas

Is your birthday in April? You should enter yourself too. We know UncommonGoods shoppers are great when it comes to finding perfect gifts for the people they love, but we wouldn’t want you to forget yourself.

Treat yo self!

The Uncommon Life

Can Diana F+ Come Out and Play? by Alli of Kisses & Chaos

March 28, 2012

Photographer and blogger Alli wrote about her Diana Camera on her blog, Kisses & Chaos, not too long ago. We loved her tips and stories so much that we asked her if she would kindly share her experience with you.

I have recently had the pleasure of partnering with Uncommon Goods…purveyors of all things quirky and awesome. If they don’t have it then you don’t need it… there’s a little something for everyone. They have amazing gift ideas for women. Have a hard to shop for man in your life? They’ve got you covered with great gifts for him too…but I’m getting away from the point and my point is a good one…

A few weeks ago they were kind enough to send me the Diana F+ camera kit (which I have been wanting for ages) with some Lomography 120 black and white film (I already had the color film), asked me to go play and then tell you guys what I think. Seriously? You don’t have to ask me twice, no sir. So play I did.

The instruction manual was actually helpful! Say what? I know! A helpful instruction manual? Bust out your ice skates ’cause hell froze over. It’s short, sweet and to the point. That’s my kind of instruction manual. No long explanations – just quick and easy. It explained the settings and (surprising) features. A toy camera with features? Yup. You heard right. It has the basics you find with any toy camera with one exception: it has a pinhole setting. It’s like someone getting their peanut butter in my chocolate. This camera is Bruce Wayne by day and Batman by night…your average toy camera with vignetting and saturated colors but then BAM! it also has this secret pinhole identity which creates dreamy photographic goodness. This revelation brought about the infamous “Alli Happy Dance-Dance-Dance of Joy and Happiness™.” +1

property of Kisses & Chaos
(Good god, I’m an idiot.)

Ok. Playtime details:

I have other toy cameras (Holgas, quad cams, polaroids, etc) but I have never had the chance to play with a Diana. Though really lightweight it felt sturdier than my other toy cameras. I was impressed that the back plate actually has a good locking mechanism so it doesn’t accidentally pop off and expose your film. (I have had this happen with my Holga -which is why it is now held shut with electrical tape- and it is very frustrating to have a roll of film ruined due to poor construction…I’m just sayin’…some people say it’s part of the “charm” of a toy camera…I think those people must have a lot of disposable income cause I get m-a-a-a-a-a-d when my film gets ruined in the name of “charm.”) Safe and secure film makes Alli a happy camper. +1

The film was easy to load (unlike my Holga, which you have to man handle and knock around) : +1. The locking back plate, lens and other accessories were easy to get on and off : +1. As I wound the black and white film I noticed that I had to strain to see the exposure number on my film and it was a VERY bright sunny day. I initially thought this was a flaw with the camera, but after shooting with a different brand of film I discovered the fault actually lay with the black & white film I was using. (The extremely dark paper made it impossible to read the film. Boo.)

So as I traipsed around the countryside taking photos of cows’ butts, camera around my neck, I discovered that the lens cap had fallen off somewhere amid the tall grass. I spent the next 5 minutes retracing my steps trying to find it (which I did). Loose lens cap: –1.

I decided to try out the pinhole feature using the bulb setting (which means the shutter stays open until you release it). The Diana comes with this little, well, to use the technical term, thingy-ma-bob that you pop into place to keep the shutter open for long exposures. Brilliant idea! I didn’t have to hold the shutter release manually which can cause camera shake. Fantastic! +1. But it was awkward to use and kept falling out…which subsequently caused camera shake. Damn! Hopefully it will be easier to use with practice but for now it counts as a –1.

above and below: playing with the pinhole settings

Since the camera is a toy camera, the film has to be advanced manually. This has its advantages and its drawbacks. Drawback? If you forget to wind your film you wind up with double exposures. Advantage? The film doesn’t wind automatically so you can have double exposures. I like to play with double exposures, so for me this was a total perk. +1

I would love to try the Diana with a flash and shoot indoors. The kit, sadly, doesn’t come with a Diana flash…it has to be bought separately (-1)…of course you can also buy a hotshoe adaptor which means you can a non-Diana flash if you like, but I think I will, since I am all anal & matchy-matchy, buy the Diana flash (and the adaptor because I’m a weirdo like that).

The kit did come with a hardback book – Diana F+: More True Tales & Short Stores, which is a collection of essays and images of, you guessed it, the infamous Diana camera. I doubt I would ever buy the book separately, but I enjoyed skimming it (even if I think the book’s claim of being filled with work by “Diana masters” was over-selling it a bit… Okay…totally overselling it. I think the “shoot from the hip” photo movement is absolute rubbish and an insult to photography. It’s best not to get me started). +1

So let’s tally up the score. The Diana F+ camera receives a grand total of…*drum roll please*… 4 points! What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. I have no point scale… but here are my final thoughts:

I will not use the film again… between the dark paper making it impossible to read the frame number and what I consider to be poor quality film I’ll be sticking with my Kodak 120 for all my medium format photographic needs. I must say, however, that I do love this camera to bits and it will likely replace my Holga as my toy camera of choice. It was fun and easy to use. Thank you, UncommonGoods for giving me such a wonderful new toy! (And to dear friends and family who are reading this: I know what I’m getting you for your birthdays… whether you think you want one or not. You’ll thank me later. The great and powerful Oz has spoken.)

Kisses & Chaos,
Alli Woods Frederick

image/video credits: image #1 © uncommon goods

all other images © 2012 Alli Woods Frederick. all rights reserved. use without express written permission is prohibited.

Design

The How To Make It Panel Weighs in on Branding

March 27, 2012


The panelists of March’s How To Make It event weigh in on the importance of branding your creative business.

Tina Roth Eisenberg, Swiss Miss and Tattly – People trust consistency in a brand. Knowing what to expect is a valuable thing.
Jeff Davis, Vinylux – As an independent designer, you are your brand and the integrity of the product. Consistency is really important. It’s everything, as long as it is consistently good.
Nickey Skarstad, Etsy Success – Create a cohesive public face. Make sure your social media, copy and product photos all tell a tight story.
Anna Rabinowicz, RabLabs – A brand develops over time within the products. It should be an organic process: it should make sense and all wrap into what you are eventually trying to accomplish.

For another look at How To Make It, hear Brianna’s story on Unemployed Brooklyn.