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Entrepreneur Lessons Shared: New Philadelphia Student Started ManCans at Age 13

Megan Payne

This article originally appeared on April 15 in the Canton Repository, authored by Kelli Young, Repository staff writer

A Student Success Summit was held Tuesday where students, teachers and administrators from 12 counties shared what they’ve learned over the past two years as part of the Young Entrepreneurs Consortium, which was funded by a $13.6 million state grant.

Massillon–Hart Main was 13 years old when he started a business in his parent's kitchen to earn enough money to buy a $1,200 bike to better compete in triathlons. 

He decided to make candles that men would enjoy smelling, an alternative to the girly scented candles his sister had been selling for a fundraiser. ManCans launched in 2010 with three scents that were distributed in soup cans.

The company exceeded the $1 million sales mark a few months after Main graduated from New Philadelphia High School in 2015. ManCans now offers 17 scents, including bacon, gun powder, sawdust, dirt, fresh cut grass and campfire. Its offshoot brand, SheCans, provides eight different scent options with names such as fearless, unstoppable, peaceful and awesome.

On Tuesday, Main, now a sophomore at Kent State University pursuing a degree in economics, shared the lessons he learned while developing his company during the Young Entrepreneurs Consortium's Student Success Summit at R.G. Drage Career Technical Center.

Among the experiences he shared, Main recalled when he first began approaching business owners about selling his candles in their stores. He said they would turn to his father, figuring that it was his father who owned and operated the business. He said the experience taught him to leave his father in the car and to present himself as professionally as possible.

"Use big words even when you don't know what they mean," he said.

His other advice included taking advantage of every opportunity even if it means staying up until 2 a.m. on a school night and being ready for success such as sales jumping from 40 to 4,800 candles orders after the Associated Press included the company in a story. He also said that it's important to ensure the company means more to you than just money. ManCans donates 75 cents of each candle sold to soup kitchens throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan, Main said, even though the company no longer uses soup cans to hold the candles.

 About the summit

Tuesday's daylong summit was hosted by the Young Entrepreneurs Consortium, a partnership of 12 school districts, three career and technical centers, four higher education institutions and 12 business and community agencies from a 12-county area. In 2014, the consortium was awarded a $13.6 million state grant to expose students to business and technical career options and the skills needed to succeed in business.

The summit, which had more 220 attendees including 94 students, showcased the multiple ways that the consortium has used the $13.6 million state grant it received in 2014 to help students develop entrepreneurial skills, such as critical thinking, communication and cooperation.

Among the presenters were:

  • Massillon eighth-graders Ja'Sean Myers, Nevaeh Bullock, Zoey Paulus and Lexi Goff, who gave away samples of the brightly colored soap they created for their business, Seasonal Bodies, as part of a Junior Achievement of East Central Ohio program funded by the consortium's state grant. The students said they wanted to create a soap that was fun for kids to use and not expensive. Through the process, they learned how to talk to each other to express their ideas and about the importance of market research. They hope to continue the business beyond the end of the school year.
  • Minerva High School senior Michael Repella, who presented a business plan for his product, The Endobox, which he described as a larger-sized cold pack that keeps items cool through the endothermic reaction of mixing urea and water. Repella said the inspiration for his product came after the nine-day power outage in 2008 when the food in his family's refrigerator spoiled due to the lack of electricity. He said his product would be cheaper and more portable than a generator.
  • Michelle Allison-Palmer, a business teacher at Sandy Valley Local Schools, who is finishing the college classes she needs to earn the credentials that will allow her to teach college-level business courses to her high school students. Allison-Palmer said taking the courses on top of her teaching duties at Sandy Valley was time-consuming, but she believes it was worth the effort because it will help Sandy Valley expand its college-level course offerings. "We're a rural school and we don't have the opportunities the big schools have," she said.
  • Nursing instructors and students from the Mid-East Career and Technology Centers in Zanesville who demonstrated how they use a high-tech, life-like mannequin to improve learning for both high school students and adults. "I could try to describe what wheezing sounds like until I'm blue in the face," practical nurse instructor Rhonda Eldredge said. "Now, I can (program the mannequin) so they can actually hear it." The center bought the $70,000 mannequin with money from the consortium's state grant.

Para Jones, president of Stark State College, told students Tuesday that the skills they are learning through the Young Entrepreneurs Consortium will be applicable whether they pursue a career, go to college first or pursue another path. "You are ahead of a lot of adults in doing this," she said.