LAKEWOOD RANCH -- It seems like Walmart granted Ruth Brown a wish, but she doesn't want to blow out any candles just yet.
The Lakewood Ranch resident recently was able to secure a deal to have four Manatee County Walmart stores sell her Amazing Candle as a test for the Bentonville, Ark., retail giant.
The Amazing Candle is a birthday candle that sparks, rotates while playing "Happy Birthday" then unfolds into a lotus featuring 14 tiny candles.
"Everyone likes to be special on their birthdays," said Brown, president of Jaxx Marketing, which distributes the product.
Brown and her family-run company include her daughters, Jaime Brown, who handles social media and trouble shooting; Tiffany Brown, who handles sales and marketing; and Candice McElyea, who also runs 360 Degrees PR.
The family first saw a prototype candle in China, but was concerned with the lacing in it being a fire hazard and wasn't sure if the product was lead-free. "We basically took it apart and created a candle that would be OK and good for the American market," Brown said. The changes were substantial enough -- made at a different Chinese plant -- that the family now has a patent pending for the product, she said.
The candles, selling for about $10 each, were first offered in yellow, blue and pink, but have added more colors, including rainbow
and now have a sports line featuring soccer and, soon, a football candle. The soccer candle starts out looking like a trophy and reveals a soccer ball.
"Over the years we kept adding more colors and went from selling five cases a year to five cases a month," she said. "Little by little, we've grown to over 30,000 pieces."
The family has a knack for spotting trendy items that can sell. Brown's husband, Stan Brown, had one of the first patents in the country for a bag clip called The Keep Fresh.
The patent for the Chip Clip predecessor was sold to Ecko Housewares and started from there.
McElyea remembers her family always creating something new to market.
"My family has been bringing products similar to this to market as long as I can remember," McElyea said. "They've never really taken off like this one."
The candle received air time on CNN and The Food Network before being introduced to Walmart.
"A bunch of local stores welcomed the candle, and that was huge because we love to partner with the local stores," McElyea said.
Locally, the candles are available at Crowders Gifts & Gadgets, The Learning Express, Lakewood Ranch Florist, Main Street Bazaar, Cakes & Cups, The Mail Station Pack n' Ship in Lakewood Ranch in addition to the Walmarts on State Road 70 at Interstate 75 and U.S. 301, State Road 64 and I-75 and University Parkway and Lockwood Ridge Road.
"If it does what we think we're going to do in the Florida stores, we hope it goes national," McElyea said.
Brown's goal is to have half of the 317 million people in America buy one of her candles to celebrate a birthday. Some of the best ways to get people to buy one is to bring it to a birthday party.
"We take it to restaurants on our own birthdays," she said. "Kids absolutely love it."
For more information, visit theamazingcandle.com.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.