How a Candle Maker Grew from the Kitchen Table to 7 Figures
With 70% of their business taking place during the holiday season, Fontana Candle Company needs to be able to ensure the timely production and delivery of their products. “I could never do it without MRPeasy,” says Eric Roering, Founder and COO.
From a date night to 7 figures
Fontana Candle Company is a home and personal care products manufacturer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Apart from their specialty, non-toxic candles, they also produce a variety of different home products ranging from bath salts and soaps to room sprays and lip balms.
The company’s story is like something out of a fairy tale. It all started in 2018 when founders Katie and Eric Roering had a date night that involved making candles on their kitchen counter. Happy with their creations, they gifted their first candles to friends and relatives, who absolutely loved them.
Katie and Eric decided to make more and try their luck at a makers’ market where they sold $800 worth of candles on their first day, prompting them to start an actual company. Initially, they visited various craft fairs to sell their products, then decided to expand their operation to the web. Sales skyrocketed and today, they have grown into a company of 12 people that generates a 7-figure revenue annually.
What makes Fontana Candle special is that they were the first candle company in the world to be certified as non-toxic by MADE SAFE®, a respected product safety certification company. Many scented candles and other home products include “fragrance” as one of the listed ingredients. This term encompasses thousands of different chemicals that do not have to be explicitly disclosed and could include carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, allergens, and other potentially harmful compounds. Aiming to eliminate “fragrance” from our homes, Fontana Candle products are made exclusively with safe natural ingredients that they are not afraid to disclose, including beeswax, coconut oil, and essential oils.
Managing growth with spreadsheets proved impossible
While quick growth is the dream of many small manufacturers, continuously scaling up poses challenges of its own. One of the weak spots of many small players when it comes to growth is their technical infrastructure. Although for the first year, the couple used spreadsheets to manage the business, these quickly began to falter.
“I was trying to do forecasting, inventory management, and tying raw inventory to production,” Eric says. “And I quickly realized we were going to need something better.”
Eric used to work at Cargill, a major food manufacturer. When he started his career there, the company was going through an implementation of SAP, a huge ERP software package.
“From that, I saw what software could do for a business and just how important software is,” he says.
After he realized spreadsheets weren’t going to cut it, Eric began research on ERP and MRP systems. He found many systems that seemed functionally suitable for their business, apart from their $10,000+ monthly subscription fee along with a $100,000+ price tag on implementation.
“Then I came by MRPeasy and did a side-by-side comparison with other solutions,” he says. “I realized I could do everything I needed with MRPeasy: bills of materials, forecasting, purchasing, inventory booking, and minimum inventory requirements. It fit perfectly. Coupled with an affordable price, the system was going to pay for itself.”
Initial software setup took 3 days
Being familiar with the concept of MRP software from his previous experience, Eric was aware that for the system to be effective, a lot of accurate data needed to go into it. And he understood he just had to meet the challenge head-on.
“I knew it was going to be a lot of work – I had 800-900 bills of materials, including multi-level BOMs, that I had to enter into the system,” he says. “But in the end, it was no more complicated than it had to be. It was very straightforward.”
Back then, the company only consisted of the two Roerings, so they implemented the system on their own. According to Eric, the new system went live after just three days of implementation.
“I had huge databases in Excel that I was able to import into the system and this hugely expedited the implementation process,” he says. “Setting up inventory items was more complicated, but we got the system up and running in three days.”
Eric praises the user-friendliness of MRPeasy, saying that after having recently hired a General Manager, the only part of the software that required some training was the color-coding system. In addition, every functionality has been well documented in MRPeasy’s support resources, which include a comprehensive user manual, an AI chatbot, demo videos, and a quick help function within the software itself.
“The quick help side panel in MRPeasy is very useful for learning the software,” Eric says. “I still use it today. And if the quick help panel doesn’t solve it, the support team will. They are very quick to react.”
Doing seasonal sales with confidence
As candles are very much a seasonal product, with 70% of Fontana Candle’s business taking place in the last quarter, a major challenge that MRPeasy helps them overcome is handling these seasonal spikes in demand. The software gives them a clear overview of how much product they have in stock, what they can make with existing materials, and how much they can produce by a certain deadline when considering material and production lead times.
“I could never do it without MRPeasy,” Eric says. “We do a lot of big sales during the holiday season and MRPeasy allows me to sell ahead with confidence. Instead of putting only the 100 candles that I have in stock on sale, I can put up 10,000 candles that haven’t been made yet and still know that I will be able to deliver them on time. It has allowed us to keep our service levels and customer satisfaction up. Because customers hate when something is out of stock.”
From production scheduling to financial analysis
In addition to inventory level tracking and forecasting, Fontana Candle uses MRPeasy extensively to fulfill a variety of other functions. Eric says that the system is essential for the business not only for creating effective production calendars and making sure orders are delivered on time, but also for ensuring traceability.
Specifically, when an MO is created and materials are booked from stock, the system records the numbers of the stock lots from where the materials were taken. Furthermore, the manufacturing order codes translate into batch numbers for finished goods, creating a record of the chain of events that makes up a product. This enables the company to trace back any quality issues to specific material lots or product batches and find the root cause of the issue, be it an error made during the production process or a quality issue on the part of a supplier.
“Nothing comes in without a purchase order and nothing is made without a manufacturing order,” Eric says. “Every little ingredient that goes into a product is managed in MRPeasy.”
A former certified public accountant, Eric also has good things to say about the system’s manufacturing accounting module. Although a third-party accounting app is still necessary, MRPeasy provides much of the information needed as inputs and enables the company to dive deeper into their specific costs. The software integrates with small business accounting apps such as QuickBooks Online and Xero.
“Accounting is one of my favorite things about the business and being able to use the data coming from MRPeasy in accounting is huge,” Eric says. “It can easily tell me our cost of goods sold (COGS) and where those costs come from. It enables us to see where our money is going.”
Software essentially runs the business
While MRPeasy caters mostly to manufacturers with a headcount of 10-200, Eric believes that even microbusinesses as small as 1-2 people would benefit from it. That is why he recommended MRPeasy to his father and brother who are now using it to run their ice-fishing vehicle manufacturing business.
Knowing that many small business owners feel intimidated by MRP software, he emphasizes that the time taken to set up the system will be recouped many times over as soon as the software is adopted.
“No matter how small your business is, you can’t afford not to use it,” he says. “Dealing with everything manually is unmanageable. Allowing this software to essentially run your business saves you tons and tons of time in the end.”
He adds, “I use MRPeasy every day. The confidence that it gives me allows me to focus on growing the business. It frees up time for product development, efficiency improvements, sales, and financial analytics.”
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