Today, we have the next addition to our series exploring businesses that got their start in a garage. Many businesses that have started in garages have grown into some of the most well-known companies today! It just goes to show that a garage can be the perfect space to think, imagine, and create. This business makes fragrant, colorful products that can soothe your nerves, bring back childhood memories, or even make you hungry. There’s an excellent chance you have at least one of their products in your home. Have you guessed the business yet? It’s Yankee Candle! Let’s take a look at this flourishing business that got its start in a garage.
Beginning the Business
The story of Yankee Candle started in 1969 with a 16-year-old boy’s desire to give his mother a beautiful Christmas gift. The founder of Yankee Candle, Michael Kittredge II, didn’t have money to purchase a gift for his mom, so he put his mind to work and made a candle in his garage. He used melted crayons and a milk carton. Though he didn’t know it, he’d just made the prototype for his future business. As a twist in the story, Kittredge didn’t give the candle to his mother: A neighbor saw it, loved it, and convinced him to sell it to her. The young entrepreneur used the money to buy supplies to make two more candles. And yes, he gave one of those to his mother! He sold the other one and purchased more candle-making supplies with the proceeds. For the next four years, Kittredge grew his candle-making business in his parents’ garage.
Taking the Business to a New Level
Yankee Candle continued to flourish as Kittredge sold a growing number of candles. He hired a staff to help him make the candles and soon had a team of 12 employees. It was time to move operations to a larger space. Kittredge rented an old paper mill for $80 a month. Though the building was 200 years old with no heat or electricity, Kittredge and his staff persisted in their goal of making fragrant, colorful candles. Kittredge used the upper floors of the paper mill for candle-making and the first floor as an outlet store.
The Sweet Smell of Success
In 1974, Kittredge’s unique candles got a lot of attention at the Boston Gift Show. This recognition led to the opportunity to sell his candles through national retailers. By 1983, Yankee Candle was making $1 million in sales per year. In time, more than 500 Yankee Candle stores would open up in shopping areas and malls. As an interesting note, in 1986, Yankee Candle began putting full-color labels on their candles: Before that, the illustrations on the candle labels were colored in by hand with colored pencils.
Today, Yankee candles are still available in stores, but many are purchased from mail-order catalogs and online. In 1996, the Yankee Candle website launched, sending the company’s sales to more than $100 million per year. In 1998, Michael Kittredge II sold the company and retired. However, the candle business called him back in 2009, when he helped his son to start Kringle Candle.
It’s hard to believe that such a huge business as Yankee Candle began with an idea for a Christmas gift for Mom. But that’s the story behind Michael Kittredge and his popular candles. Thanks for reading. – Alan