Canastota, NY (WIBX) - Brian Howell has been operating the Bee Man Candle Company since 1992. Twenty years later, the Canastota-based business is looking to hit the big time.

The specialized candle wholesaler is one of 100 finalists for the Martha Stewart American Made Award. In the end, the winning company earns $10,000 and will be featured in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Howell says the award money would go a long way towards expanding his business.

"What we would like to do, if we actually do win, is we're trying to build a store that has an interactive center in it where can learn [about] bees and candle making," Howell said. "We have it three quarters of the way built, we're just trying to get the last money to buy some equipment, so that people can use all the equipment safely and stuff like that."


Howell's company prides itself on being one of only two U.S. companies to make beeswax candles, and the only one to specialize in bayberry wax candles. He started the business  when he was 12 years old, after serving as a beekeeper's apprentice one summer. His neighbor, a craft vendor, rewarded Howell with three beehives, helping him set his own business in motion. Since that summer he has kept the business, though now he imports much of his beeswax from other countries due to pesticides used here in the U.S.

The business has grown exponentially. Working with an estimated 3,000-4,000 pounds of beeswax each month, The Bee Man Candle Company creates candles in a variety of colors, but without the metal wicks, scents or paraffin. Still, the true barometer of Howell's perseverance and passion for his work is displayed in the commitment his customers and Upstate New York  friends provide.

"Every single vote is an honor," Howell said. "There's nothing  I can do anymore up until this point. It is up to our community. So, the fact that it's up to our community and our community is saying they want it, I think that says everything about what it's like to be in Upstate New York."

People can vote until September 27th. The top ten vote getters will be invited to New York City's Grand Central Station to meet with marketing agents and Martha Stewart, herself.

More From WIBX 950