Andrew Evans, founder of Feed the Fire Candles, started the process in a spare bedroom, before moving to a larger-scale venture. (Photo by Courtesy photo)
Inspired by TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, Feed The Fire Candles founder Andrew Evans is tackling a domestic issue: hunger. (Photo by Courtesy photo)
When an issue needs solving, shedding a little light on the situation can help. Andrew Evans, founder of Feed the Fire Candles, is proving the power that comes from raising awareness. By the simple act of lighting a candle, Feed the Fire is helping fight hunger.
Andrew Evans knew he wasn’t meant to work for someone else, enlivened by an entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to make a difference.
In 2012, as he was about to enter his last semester at Blue Ridge Community College, he picked up “Start Something That Matters” by Black Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes. “It’s about creating a business that has more of a purpose than just a paycheck,” Evans explained.
Inspired by the idea of creating a business founded on social responsibility, he began researching an issue he could address domestically. “I really just wanted to do something that benefits the local community,” Evans said. “So, I researched … actual issues that are rising here in the States, and the one that screamed off the page was hunger.”
Evans discovered that 1 in 6 people suffer food insecurity, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from and are often forced to rely on others for basic food necessities. This problem affects not only the homeless and poverty stricken, but middle class Americans, too, Evans said.
Surprised to find that hunger is a bigger problem than he previously realized, Evans decided to make a difference.
Evans began by thinking of ways to repurpose tin foods cans that could be donated, cleaned and then reused, leading to a pattern of giving based on reciprocity. By donating food cans and then recollecting the empty cans, he could repurpose and resell them for profit — which could, in turn, purchase more food for those in need.
Evans said a flame was eventually lit when he imagined using those recycled cans as candle containers. He bought his first candle making kit to see if he could produce candles using tin food cans.
“I started making the candles in a spare bedroom upstairs,” Evans revealed, working for several months until he had the process down.
However, he soon realized that he would need a team. In April, Evans attended an event at James Madison University called Startup Weekend, where attendees come with a business model they must pitch in just 60 seconds. Votes are cast and tallied; those with the highest support have a chance to meet others and form a team that will help put the idea to fruition.
With more than 50 percent of the total votes, Evans knew his plan was worth pursuing. “That’s when I said ‘Alright, we have something here, a viable product and a viable idea.’ ”
He left the event with three others — Kevin Groat, David Khoshpasand and Jamie Higgins — and a 54 hour deadline to launch the business.
On May 1, they officially launched Feed the Fire Candles.
The small business took off, and in just a few months since its creation, the 100 percent all natural soy candles are now sold in 14 stores throughout Virginia and Pennsylvania. Created with cotton cored wicks and packaged with 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, Feed the Fire Candles donates two foods cans to local food banks for every candle purchased. With the first month’s profits, more than 500 meals were donated and local contributions continue.
Excited to see the company growing, Evans remains true to the founding purpose.
“The whole mission, as a company, and the reason for its existence is to raise awareness about the issue of food insecurity that exists right here at home,” Evans said. “The worst part about this issue is that people simply are not aware of the types of people that hunger affects.”
Contact Sarah Stacy at 574-6292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.