Old-line manufacturer weds old principles, new vehicle

The HMA Link , November 2004

Third-generation family firm keeps its edge by seizing an opportunity online

How do you keep a generations- old company on the leading edge?”

Fast Company magazine asked that question in its October issue – and answered it with a story about a candy company in McKeesport, Pa., a former mill town about 10 miles up the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh.

The McKeesport Candy Co., now in its 77th year and third generation, has transformed itself into CandyFavorites.com, which the company promotes as the world’s largest online candy store.

John H. Prince, current president and grandson of the founder, told the magazine that his business philosophy is “Take an object. Do something to do. Do something else to it.”

He elaborated with five principles that balance the past and the future:

  • Rather than following the competition in the 1980s by diversifying into other foods, the company stuck with candy.
  • “Candy is what we deliver, but service is what we sell,” Prince says.
  • Never stop building. Prince says he started the website not only because he saw an opportunity, but because he needed a challenge.
  • Think big. In deciding to start a big online store, Prince reasoned that greater selection was more likely to trigger impulse purchases.
  • Keep it simple. Before taking the site public, he tested it by asking his mother to see whether she could navigate it well enough to buy her favorite Necco Wafers.