Fundraising Unit Sweet for McKeesport Candy

Written by Pamela Reinsel Cotter
Published by McKeesport Daily News, April 1996

Anyone who has ever had to sell candy for their child's little league or dance troupe knows that organizational fundraising is big business.

It's become big business, too, to a local firm that specializes in distributing candy.

For the first 64 years of its operation as a candy distributor, McKeesport Candy Co., steered clear of selling candy for fundraising.

But today, as it approaches its 70th anniversary as a family owned firm, a large chunk of McKeesport Candy Co.'s business now comes directly from the sales to organizations that use their product as a fundraising tool.

Jon Prince, a third generation owner/manager of the Fifth Avenue business brought the idea of fundraising candy to his family business shortly after he began working there upon graduation from Ohio University as a Communications Major.

"When we started the fundraising division six years ago, we never anticipated we would grow like we have grown, "Prince said. "We are now the biggest distributor of Hershey, Mars and Nestle Fundraising Candy in Pennsylvania."

Although originally the fundraising arm of the business was established by Prince as a way to start his own niche in his family's' company, changing market conditions made it an ideal way to gain lost revenue.

"The market has changed a great deal, a lot of the old mom and pop shopns were eaten up. As time passed these stores disappeared, so we had to refocus." Prince said.

Today, McKeesport Candy Co.'s fundraising candy division makes up about 25 to 30 percent of the firm's business "and at the rate things are going, we could go a lot higher." Prince added.

Jon said he began the business "totally from scratch, "with two strategies: "to provide the lowest prices in the tri state area, and to provide the best possible customer service."

"The one thing that's allowed us to grow is that we put a lot of caring into these sales." He said. "We don't just sell our customers candy, we sell them what services McKeesport Candy Co., can offer."

Prince said he and his sales staff take calls or questions from customers whenever they come up - even on weekends.

McKeesport Candy Co., has established a 24 Support Hotline and specialized paging system for all customers involved in fundraising candy sales and even offers help on how to train customer's to best sell their candy.

"I've been on the phone for two hours on a Sunday night teaching selling techniques." Prince said. "I find it pleasurable because when they are confident, the fundraising sale is usually a success."

McKeesport Candy officials note that "when you're selling to organizations, you're selling to people. The majority of these are schools, churches or sports organizations." Prince said, who often change leaders and need continuity from a vendor.

Sales Manager Tom griffin, a twenty year veteran of McKeesport Candy Co. claims that repeat business is an important step in maintaining a company's bottom line. "When organizations do a fundraiser and often pass on our name, that's what Jon built this business on."

Prince also notes that every customer gets a thank you note when the sale is completed. "It's important that the customer's know that they are truly appreciated."

Although fundraising candy sales have been taking off for the wholesale distributor statewide, it wasn't until recently that the local business became a staple of the company's fundraising division.

"Pittsburgh is an interesting market," Prince said. He added that out of town firms have tried to low ball area organizations but, often, their shipping and handling costs drive down an organizations profit.

According to Prince, the organizations his firm sells to say that Reese Peanut Butter Cups and M&M's are the best selling fundraising candies. Another very poplar item is the Cadbury Caramello candy bar.

Busiest times of the year for fundraising are in the Fall, at the beginning of the school year and again in the Spring when many summer Little Leagues get started according to Adam Chancio, A McKeesport man who has worked in the fundraising end of the warehouse operations since it began at McKeesport candy six years ago.

Supply of fundraising candy in the firm's warehouse "has more than doubled in the past two years alone," Chancio said.

In addition to selling candy to organizations, McKeesport Candy Co., is a wholesale distributor for supermarkets and other stores, even offering customized packaging of candy products as well as their line of bag candy called Todds.

The company stocks about 3000 confectionary items in its Fifth Avenue warehouse and is open to the public. They can also be reached on their new website which is www.McKandy.com*.

* Please note that the new website for our online candy store is www.CandyFavorites.com.