These Boys Built a Candle Company That Donates to the Homeless

The three brothers started the company to earn extra money to buy toys and ended up giving something back to their community.

Aug 20, 2019

It all began one day in 2017 when the Gill brothers wanted to buy more nerf guns and video games. The boys received a weekly allowance that was enough to buy two games a month. When they asked their parents to buy them more stuff, they were told that they had enough toys and if they wanted to buy more, they would have to earn the money themselves.

That’s when Collin, 13, Ryan, 11, and Austin, 8, came up with the idea of opening a business. But they had no idea what to do. They asked their mom Celena Gill what her favorite thing to buy was and she told them “candles.” That’s when Frères Branchiaux  – French for Gill brothers – was born.

The boys run it from their home in Indian Head, Maryland and the small business has been extremely successful. Far more successful than the boys ever dreamed it would be. Today, 36 stores sell the homemade hand-poured scented soy candles and other scented products and a contract with Macy’s is in the works, according to the Washington Post. But instead of just spending money on themselves, the Gill brothers decided to give something back to their community.

From the very beginning, the brothers have donated 10 percent of their proceeds to Washington DC-based homeless shelters. It was Ryan’s idea to donate to homeless people after he saw a homeless man on the street.

“Every time I saw a homeless person, I was always asking Mom if we could give money to them, and this was a way to do it,” Ryan told the Washington Post.

Collin said, that the donations make him feel that the company has a greater purpose. “The community helps us, so we have to help back,” he said. “Giving back helps you and the people you’re giving back to."

Today, Frères Branchiaux gives around $500 a month to area shelters and the boys want to do more than just write a check so they will visit Pathways to Housing D.C this month and they plan to make this a bi-monthly outing so they can get to know the residents.

Frères Branchiaux sells about 400 candles a month. The candles come in 23 scents that are made from a closely guarded recipe that was created by one of the boys. Ryan is the “scent genius” according to his mom. He calls himself the “scent master.” The scents include Lavender Crush, Whiskey Sweet, Chunky Sweater, and Lime Cotton and they also sell diffuser oils, sprays, and bath products.

The website says: “We hand-pour soy scented candles in small batches. We want our candles to make you happy when you light them. We want you to be so happy that you get more of our candles – and share them with your friends and family." Frères Branchiaux products are also available online and on the boys visit farmer’s markets and craft shows. Winning awards and spots on TV have also helped.

Almost all of the products sell has a picture of the Gill brothers on the label it so that customers know the products are really made by the boys.

The boys are home-schooled so they have time to handcraft the candles themselves. Collin as the oldest does a lion's share of the work. His mother told the Washington Post that “Collin “drives most of the production,” making between 50 and 60 percent of each month’s production. He spends three to four hours a day making candles. While Ryan develops most of the scents, Austin – the baby of the family – has what the family calls the cute factor that really helps with sales pitches.

All of the boys contribute to the company and their parents have to do very little of the work. Celena and her husband, Patrick Gill, a cybersecurity adviser, help with administrative duties and supervision.

All of the boys want to make Frères Branchiaux their life work but of course, they are still young and may change their minds later. “I want to do this long enough to pass it on to my kids,” Collin said. “One day we want a factory. And stores across the country. And probably even around the world, too.”

The Gill brothers have powerful messages to share. Firstly, that brotherly love and working together trumps everything else and secondly, to give back to the community that takes care of you. It is amazing that they have learned this at such young ages.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.