At first glance, the two business partners seem an unlikely pair.
One’s the captain of the Lake Forest High School football team already looking forward to playing college ball, the other a sophomore who hasn’t quite hit his growth spurt.
Despite their differences, the two have teamed up to take Soy by a Boy, a hand-made all-natural soy candle company, to the next level.
Jacob Farkas, 16, started making soy candles after his grandmother died from colon cancer in June 2012.
“She always loved lavender, so at her wake we had a lot of lavender candles burning,” Jacob said.
It was then that something clicked.
“I thought, ‘I could make these better,’” he said.
With a starter candle kit bought online for $20, Jacob began making candles in his family kitchen. His mom, Mary Farkas, helped.
“It gave us a bond, a way to cope,” he said. “It just gave me peace.”
For months, Jacob experimented with temperature and scent.
“I finally got to, ‘Okay, it needs to get up to this degree, cool down to this degree, put in this much scent, this much color, so it turns out to be the best candle,” he said.
His family’s Lake Forest home quickly became overrun with Jacob’s handiwork. A businessman at heart — he enrolled in the Business Entrepreneur class his freshman year — Jacob decided to sell his candles.
Geno Quaid, 18, Jacob’s gym teaching assistant at the time, was an early customer. Geno gave the candles to his girlfriend.
“She thought they were really good,” Geno said.
Throughout the year, Jacob and Geno got to know each other better, with Geno even offering to drive Jacob to his job on Market Square. It was during those rides talk of candles, the entrepreneur class and a shared cancer experience — Geno’s mom is a breast cancer survivor — emerged.
“That’s how our friendship developed to the point that I’d call him my friend,” Geno said.
Last summer, when Jacob wanted to expand his business, he turned to Geno, a fellow budding entrepreneur, for help.
The two partnered up, with Geno serving as chief financial officer
“I came on to do the financing and help with the sales,” Geno said.
He also implemented purchasing changes to lower costs.
The two hired Geno’s friend, George Quall, a 2013 Lake Forest High School graduate who also took the Business Entrepreneur class and has a personal experience with cancer, as president and chief marketing officer.
“I thought it was an awesome idea so I jumped on the opportunity right away,” Quall said.
Geno contacted another friend, Jessica Pilarski another senior, to design the Soy by a Boy logo.
“We’re trying to keep everything local,” Geno said. “People here like that.”
Jacob is chief executive officer of the company and sole candle-maker.
The biggest selling feature, the three believe, is the company name and the product behind it.
“Soy is one of the most expensive waxes, right next to beeswax,” Jacob said. “It also burns the cleanest. When you burn one of my candles, it’s gone.”
“Most candles are petroleum-based,” Geno said. “It’s fossil fuel. So, think about it, when you burn one, it’s kind of like turning on your car in your house.”
Jacob’s hand-poured candles are natural and preservative-free.
“I add three things to these candles: wax, scent and color,” Jacob said.
Soy by a Boy candles are available in three sizes: a small tin and medium and large, both in glass, which can be refilled for half the cost. There are 12 scents and limitless color palette. Unscented is also available on request. Customization is an option for a product made in small batches by hand.
“As long as you order three candles of any size, we can do any color or scent you want,” Jacob said.
For now, Soy by a Boy candles have been sold locally at the high school — “you wouldn’t believe how many teenage girls like candles,” Geno said — and in a number of local shops, including The Initial Choice, Lake Forest True Value Hardware, Helanders Stationers, Forever Om Yoga, Gifted and at the Gorton Community Center Kids Only Holiday Shop in December.
“That was a big day for us,” Geno said.
Quall has worked hard to get the company recognized. So far this year, Quall arranged to have Soy By a Boy available at the Lake Forest Farmer’s Market and a meeting with the city’s Business Accelerator is in the works. He also initiated a sponsorship with the American Cancer Society and the company’s presence at the local Relay for Life at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.
“We will donate a percentage of each sale to a cancer charity and we’ve also tossed around the idea of each scent representing a charity, to allow the consumer to tailor their order not only to the scent they like but the charity they want to support,” Quall, an economics major, said.
At DePauw University where he attends, Quall sells candles on campus and has made contact with local small business owners eager to see the product line.
Geno plans to take the Soy by a Boy candles along when he goes to Claremont McKenna College in California next fall, where he will continue to work on the company, play football and study economics.
They’re all looking to gain the most from this experience.
“We’re all mature enough to see that money is something you can have for now but knowledge is something you’ll have forever,” Geno said.
Jacob, inspired by the success of Yankee Candle Company, also begun by a teen, is grateful for what he started and why.
“Every time I make candles,” he said, “I think about my Grandma, so it’s nice.”