My first experience with Yankee Candles came in the early 1990s. After the 1991-2 holiday season, I went to visit a friend. As we sat down, my friend lit a beautiful orange colored candle in a large glass jar. After a few minutes of conversation, I remarked about the heady fragrance coming from the candle. My friend agreed that he was enjoying the scent as well. He remarked about how he recently received the candle from his younger sister for Christmas. His sister lived in a town hours away; they had just had their annual visit. I remember my friend saying that candle was the best gift he had been given that season. Then, he smiled broadly as he remembered some half-forgotten memory he shared with his sister.
Since that time I’ve become more familiar with Yankee Candles – hasn’t everybody? It has come to be my preferred brand of candle. And, I am NOT alone: The Yankee Candle brand is the most popular brand of scented candle in the world.
I decided to investigate the creation of this brand. Wow, the story has all the elements of the American Dream! And, it all began with a teenager who wanted to give his mom a Christmas present.
In December of 1969, a sixteen year old boy named Mike Kitteridge realized it was practically Christmas Eve and he was without a present for his mom. Unfortunately, he was also without money. Mike thought creatively as he looked around his mom’s kitchen. He spotted an empty milk carton and remembered saving some old, used crayons from his childhood. Suddenly, he came up with an idea to melt the old crayons and pour them into the milk carton. For the wick, he used a household candle and crushed up the wax slightly. He placed this candle in the center of the milk carton and voila – he had an original, good-looking present for his mom.
I guess his mom never lit the creation, because Mike was able to sell it to a visiting neighbor for $1.36. Like a true entrepreneur, he reinvested his money and was able to purchase a slab of real candle paraffin wax and create two more candles: the first for his mom, the second one for sale.
He continued on this way, but the demand for the candles suddenly appeared. Relatives, friends, and neighbors loved and bought the candles. Word of mouth spread through he town where he lived in Massachusettes. The business of candle-making had begun to take over the garage and then the basement of his parents’ home. Mike put a lot of work into his business.
IN 1973, MIke’s candle business was so popular, he decided to move production to an old paper mill site . The site in Holyoke had a building with three floors. It was enough to house Yankee Candle for the time being. Mike worked alone for the first year. He worried that the location in Holyoke was too remote from town to be very profitable. He needn’t have worried: he was able to hire help and continued growing his brand.
In retrospect, he must have put everything he had into his business, financially and emotionally. Mike spent most of these days developing scents and producing better quality candles in the morning. Then, by afternoon, he changed his clothes and ventured out to market his products to gift shops and small stores. Evenings would find him wrapping candles and preparing them for the next day’s deliveries.
During its time in Holyoke, he and his first investors devised a “heated room”. This development made it possible to buy larger, cheaper wax deliveries and store them until they were needed for production.
In addition, a co-worker devised a turntable taper wheel, which doubled the production of candles daily. At the same time, the device dramatically slashed the cost of production by reducing the amount of labor necessary to run it.
by 1982, Yankee Candle Company had 30 employees and had completely outgrown the old paper mill location. While sales of his candles continued to boom, Mike decided to move the business to its own, specially-built 1,600 square foot facility/store, complete with a 10 space parking lot in front. It wasn’t long before the parking lot became too small for all the customers’ vehicles.
Always growing, the company began to add other retail locations in his area. Everyone was in love with The Yankee Candle brand. Many opinions believe the reasons for the brand’s continued success is the creator’s passion for using only the highest-quality fragrance ingredients. As improvements were made and the business expanded, Mike always had the reputation of his brand at the forefront of his mind. He handed down his long-standing methods of candle production to employees throughout the development, production and marketing cycles of his products.
Mike’s passion became his legacy. His creation of and devotion to the Yankee Candle Company resulted in his selling it, in 1998, for $500,000. That’s a half a billion dollars!
The Yankee Candle Company was started by a teenager in 1969 in his mom’s kitchen. His commitment to quality and dedication to hard work is responsible for the creation of one of the world’s most beloved brand of scented candles. Forty years later, Yankee Candles come in over 150 fragrances (some offered only at special times of the year). Retail outlets total over 500 all over the world. Today, the Yankee Candle brand still is known for high-quality scented candles all over the world. The brand is now owned by Newell Brands, but is still producing extremely popular scented candles and wax.
I love this story because it proves the best way to help yourself is to help someone else. Mike deeply cared about his products and customers. This fact showed in how careful he was with his products and how deep his beliefs about the quality really were. He remained true to his vision and continued to work hard. Finally, his fortune was made – the stuff of American Dreams.
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