Kent State Student Sells Candles With a Philanthropic Twist
“Don’t put any idea off as a joke,” said Richard “Hart” Main, a Kent State University sophomore economics major from New Philadelphia, Ohio. “I almost did that and missed an opportunity.”
The 18-year-old entrepreneur, from Kent State's College of Business Administration, is referring to ManCans, his company that makes and sells masculine-scented candles with a philanthropic twist.
ManCans are sold in 150 local shops throughout the U.S. Customers can choose from a variety of scents, including new car, campfire, cigar and fresh cut grass. The company is able to donate 75 cents from each homemade candle to charity. More than 100,000 cans of soup and $50,000 have been donated to soup kitchens throughout the Midwest.
Starting a Business
Main conceived the business idea on a whim when he was only 13 years old. His younger sister asked their mother to purchase candles for a fundraiser, and Main noticed there were few scents that would appeal to men.
“They were all super girly scents, such as rose, lavender and cinnamon,” Main said. “I was joking with her, ‘Where are the man scents?’”
However, Main did not start taking his idea seriously until November 2010 when he needed extra money to purchase a new racing bike. Main used the money he earned from his paper route to buy supplies to start the candle company.
Main’s mother, an assistant professor of nursing at Kent State University at Tuscarawas, initially helped him make the candles in their kitchen. His father also assisted with transporting and delivering candles. It was a family effort, but Main’s parents encouraged him to make the business decisions. They wanted him to learn from his own mistakes, Main said.
Growing Momentum and Helping Others
ManCans began growing slowly, but quickly gained momentum in March 2011 when a news station in Columbus, Ohio, covered Main’s story. The Associated Press picked up the story shortly after. Main received 1,400 orders in 48 hours as a result of the media coverage.
The business was forced to expand production to keep up with increased orders. Main chose the Beaver Creek Candle Company in Lisbon, Ohio, which employs individuals with developmental disabilities.
“Working with Beaver Creek may not be the cheapest way of doing things, but it is the best thing for both us and them,” he said. “Being able to employ people with disabilities is one of the most rewarding things I’ve been able to do.”
Main also has received a great deal of media attention, appearing on national talk shows such as “Steve Harvey” and “Lopez Tonight,” but he has not allowed the attention to go to his head, he said.
“I was always taught by my parents that giving is the right thing to do,” Main said. “There are more important things than just helping yourself. I mean obviously you want to help yourself, but if you have the opportunity to help others, that’s the right thing to do.”
Encouraging Other Young Entrepreneurs
Main encourages young entrepreneurs to take their ideas seriously by remaining professional and motivated. They should not allow their young age to discourage them from following their dreams, he said.
In addition to serving as a role model for young entrepreneurs, Main is also an exemplary student.
"Hart Main’s startup story is a great example of lessons learned,” said Craig Zamary, entrepreneurship instructor in Kent State’s College of Business Administration. “He’s an inspiration to his fellow business students in the Marketing & Entrepreneurship’s Speaker Series class as they prepare to venture out and want to do as well."
This past summer, Main co-authored the book “One Candle, One Meal” with his father to help guide young aspiring entrepreneurs during their business journeys.
“Don’t let people see you as a joke,” he said. “Act professionally and show them that you know what you’re doing. Just because you’re a kid doesn’t mean you can be unprepared. If you appear to them as a professional, then they’ll take you seriously.”
Main hopes to continue making a difference through his company in the future. He also plans on attending online law school after graduation to launch a career in politics.