It all started with toys and video games

By Char Adams
July 23, 2019 06:33 PM
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3 brothers with a candle company
Credit: Tamera Darden/Product & Branding Photography

Three brothers were simply looking to add more Nerf guns and video games to their long list of toys when their mother gave them a special challenge in 2017. The Gill boys — Collin, 13, Ryan, 11, and Austin, 8 — didn’t let her down.

“I told them, you need to get a job or start a business, and they decided to start a business!” Celena Gill, 44, tells PEOPLE. “We researched what kids’ businesses were successful … they asked me what I liked best and I said candles, so they stuck with candles.”

With that, the boys launched Frères Branchiaux, making candles together by hand in the dining room at their family’s Indian Head, Maryland, home. Less than two years later, the business has taken off and the boys give about 10 percent of their monthly profits to homeless shelters in the Washington, D.C. area.

“Ryan, he’s always wanted to give back to homeless people,” says Gill. “Even when he was younger, he wanted to collect care kits for homeless people. So he asked if we could give a portion of the profits to homeless shelters and that’s what they’ve been doing since they started.”

Ryan adds of the donations: “It makes me feel good about myself every day!”

Gill says the boys spend a few hours making about 300 candles each day. They work together to create special scents, and they call Ryan the “scent-ologist.”

“I usually pick the most scents I like and then I’ll mix them together and ask my family members if they like it or not and then we’ll make it into a candle,” he told Good Morning America.

Although they enjoy working together, they do bicker every now and then over the limited space at home.

“They fight because they’re brothers and they’re boys,” Gill says. “But me and my husband manage. We usually try to make sure all three of them are doing something different so they aren’t running into each other.”

The candles are available for sale on the Frères Branchiaux website, priced from $18 to $28. The family also travels with their candles, setting up shots at various events.

The boys say their goal is to one day have a “candle truck.”

“It’s like a food truck that sells candles,” Gill says. “That also doubles as training because they want to hire people from the community [who are] homeless. So they won’t just donate, but do something productive and create jobs.”

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help bring the boys’ candle truck dreams to life.

Though the young entrepreneurs are hard at work with their candle company, Gill tells PEOPLE they’re just like any other kids.

“We make sure they still have a childhood,” Gill says, noting that all the boys play sports. “They go outside every day. Skateboards, playing with their friends, going to the pool — they still have lives. Whenever they want to stop this, it’s up to them. It’s their business and we’ll take it as far as they want to take it.”