One of the things with parents is sometimes they don’t ask their kids for feedback on how they’re doing. Which doesn’t make sense to me because, as a parent, your kid is your number one customer!
– Aubrey Brown, age 10
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Parenting is a lot like selling candles, or computer software, or anything really. Successful sales, like successful parenting, requires skill in just about everything: communication, organization, creativity, adaptability, patience, perseverance, humility, hope, luck – the list goes on. Above all though, I think what matters most is that you love what you do and the people for whom you do it.
Nestled next to the towering brick facade of Concord’s historic Phenix Hall sits the 7’ by 12’ room known to downtown shoppers as CandleTree. In 2016, owner Ross Mingarelli, a long-time logger with his own tree-cutting business, was looking for a way to fill his off-season when a friend suggested he check out Pinterest. “At the time,” Mingarelli remembers, “I didn’t even know what it was.” Yet it was there, while searching for woodworking ideas, that he found unexpected inspiration. “I was scrolling through and saw an article with the title, ‘Make Your Own Candles.’ It didn’t even tell you exactly what to do. There was a lot of trial and error.”
From a humble start selling soy wax wares in eight-ounce Mason jars at fairs and expos across New Hampshire, CandleTree has become a Granite State staple for custom-made, hand-stirred candles in a seemingly endless array of scents and sizes. When asked what keeps a woodsman like him doing what he does, Mingarelli explains that he isn’t just making candles – he’s creating memories. “The librarian from my elementary school used to buy lemon-scented candles here because they reminded her of visiting family in upstate New York when she was a kid. It’s very cool to hear stories like that.”
Since my daughter Aubrey and I bought our first CandleTree candle ahead of this past Mother’s Day, Mingarelli’s store has become one of her local favorites. “The guy that works there, he makes sure you get what you’re looking for,” Aubrey observes. “He didn’t just hand us a candle, have us pay, and be off. He asked lots of questions and recommended ones he thought Mom would like. At the end of the day, we went home with a really nice, really good-smelling candle that she loves and still burns today.”
Because Aubrey is a frugal and financially savvy young lady, when she says a CandleTree candle is worth every penny her dad spends on it, that’s a five-star review you can take to the bank. When I was her age, any cash I had burned a hole in my proverbial pocket and went toward the first desired product around. My progeny, in contrast, has diligently amassed a cool couple thousand in savings and has similarly diligent plans to see it continue growing at an increasing rate. Much like the Teen Titans’ older selves in Teen Titans Go! episode 143, “Think About Your Future,” Aubrey has learned the value of a dollar, in part by watching her behind-the-curve co-creator contend with (read: gripe about) the challenges presented by making major financial decisions (read: student loans) before having done so himself.
Not long ago, I asked Aubrey for some customer feedback: “On a scale of zero to ten, how am I doing as your dad?” Despite hastily appending my request with a disclaimer about the perils of confirmation bias, I was assured she’d answer honestly. “I’d give you an eight,” Aubrey said. I also asked her how she’d rate my parenting performance in years past. On that score, my results weren’t so good: “A three or a four,” she said. I’ll admit, that sounds about right to me, and that’s okay – what matters is progress, not perfection.
Although Mingarelli isn’t a father himself, his journey with CandleTree gives me the impression that he gets it. “It’s very scary to commit yourself to something new,” he says, “but I wouldn’t go back for nothin’. It’s been awesome. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I keep working to make this my full-time career. It’s like a rollercoaster – there are ups and downs, but my goal is to stay focused.” With customer satisfaction for each of us at historically high levels and rising, I think we’ll both be in business for years to come.