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Seventh grader Alston Collins holding $500 check as winner of the Thornhill Rites of Passage Foundation’s annual Business Pit
Seventh grader Alston Collins holding large check after winning the Thornhill Rites of Passage Foundation

Alston Collins’ hunt for the perfect candle ended in his kitchen. 

It began in malls around Charlotte with his two older sisters. The Providence Day seventh-grader walked into shop after shop - even Bath & Body Works - looking for candles with masculine scents.

“I like candles,” Alston says. “I don’t like bright lights, so when I get up in the morning, I like to light a candle. I like to have my room smell nice, too. A nice, fresh smell helps with my mindset for the day.”

When he couldn’t find any candles for boys, he made them himself.

Alston’s Candle Culture shop, which specializes in custom candles with masculine scents, officially opens this week. His business venture already gained attention: He won the middle school division of the Thornhill Rites of Passage Foundation’s annual Business Pitch Competition. 

In its fifth year, the Shark-Tank-like environment provides a platform for 10 middle school students and three high school students to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas in a competitive environment. Each participant presented to a live audience, a panel of CEOs, successful entrepreneurs, and business professionals for an opportunity to earn investment funds and a mentor. The event was held in January at the Wells Fargo Auditorium. 

Alston received $500 and sold candles at the contest.

“I was really nervous because I had never done anything like this before,” he says. “I’m not a big public speaker. But one of the things I think helped me win was I brought samples. It was a really great thing. I have much more confidence when I’m speaking now.”

‘Hype keeps growing’

Alston did his research: there are no large candle companies dedicated to just men, he says. And his friends told him they would be in the market for candles with masculine scents. 

“I had to make the candles with the strongest masculine scent as possible,” he says. I had to make them so they weren’t feminine. Most men wouldn’t like an entirely feminine idea.”

He offers a handful of scented and seasonal candles, including High Tide, Citrus Motive, Mellow Musk, and Fresh Spearmint. For winter, the season candle was Hot Chocolate. He sells them for $25 and $28, depending on whether a buyer wants a higher quality candle.

“They’re all handmade in my kitchen,” Alston says. “I made the scents for specific reasons. Fresh Spearmint is for when you need to wake up. Mellow Musk is for downtime. Citrus Motive is for when you need to get locked into something, like school work.”

He says it took him about eight hours to make 60 candles because “you have to have inventory,” but for a single candle, it takes 10 minutes.

“I want to be an NBA analyst or NBA player, [but] this could be a career option,” Alston says. “I could expand to have a factory so I don’t have to make them in my kitchen. I can just keep doing this. The hype keeps growing. I can expand to cologne, which I love. I could even expand to female scents.”

Visit Candle Culture’s website at