While catching up at a local bar, four friends discovered a collective desire to create a business that was both sustainable and community supportive from the ground up. After further discussion, the mention of a grandfather’s unused candle-making supplies, and a few online video searches, Candle With A Cause was born.
The company −founded by Dan Kim, Kani Brown, Thomas Dann, and Dave Colina− sells soy candles made with soybeans grown in Ohio. The candle containers are the bottoms of empty wine bottles that have been cleaned, cut, and crafted. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds support a local charity.
“More and more, there are companies that are giving back,” says Colina. “We thought, ‘That’s really cool and we could absolutely do that.’ And in fact, as opposed to the contribution being a small amount or percent of profits just to get publicity, we’re going to build our business to do more. And so we started from the ground up giving a significant portion of our proceeds to build up our community because that’s what we set out to do.”
When they started, the founders sourced wine bottles from Alana’s restaurant and learned from YouTube how to cut glass bottles with a wet tile saw. Additional materials were sourced from a warehouse in Columbus. Once they reached a quality level they were comfortable with, they began looking at introducing the product to the community.
With a quality product in place, Candle With A Cause looked for an initial partner to help launch their business. The company approached Elizabeth Lessner and held a soft launch for their candles at Betty’s Fine Food and Spirits. The candles began appearing in Lessner’s other restaurants in February. The company’s first sponsored cause was Pets Without Parents, a no-kill animal shelter in Clintonville.
As Candle With A Cause’s volume grew, it partnered with Rockmill Brewery in Lancaster, Ohio to obtain more bottles. Now they partner with Eartha Limited to source the wine bottles they need and share its warehouse space. Candle With A Cause’s most recent partnership gave the company its first retail experience and new opportunities.
“The stars aligned that we were able to get our hands on a partnership that was extremely beneficial for everyone,” Colina says. “We had the Jack Roth Fund, run by Maren Roth, partnering with us who we all cared about. They were promoting us and we were promoting them. Also, we had our candles for sale at Maren’s store, Rowe, that all of us had been fans of for awhile now. They were promoting us and we were promoting them. It was this great sort of trifecta of events and a partnership.”
This summer Candle With A Cause will partner with Peletonia, then in the fall with Flying Horse Farms, a new summer camp for children with disabilities. The founders are continually learning new lessons with each partnership and want a solid model before they begin to think about expanding Candle With A Cause to other markets. Also, the founders want to simultaneously give to more than one cause once the company improves its production process.
“Essentially, it’s about a story,” Colina says. “It’s about the story of the cause we partner with and the individuals who are supporting these causes and our company. We’re trying to facilitate all these great stories that abound in Columbus.”
When asked how a business owner should approach giving back to the community, Colina recommends focusing on something you love in order to contribute in a way that is meaningful to you. He also suggests having a support network in place because having the right people backing you is critical.
In the end, though, just get out there.
Your product doesn’t have to be perfect out of the gate, he says. You can refine the product as you go and as you get input from your community.
“The interweaving of business and society is only going to pick up,” Colina predicts. “It’s going to be more and more of a growing field.”
Philanthropic Pursuit is a monthly feature on The Metropreneur, powered by Community Shares of Mid Ohio. Is your business giving back to the community or partnering with a local nonprofit in a unique way? We want to hear about it. Contact Ryan Kovalaske at firstname.lastname@example.org.