In Indiana, about 100 disabled Americans go to work each day making birdfeeders.
It’s all thanks to The Mr. Canary Company. In this Salute to American Success, we're highlighting the 100% woman-owned, made-in-America business.
“We’re not doing this for charity,” said Jan Long, the entrepreneur behind Mr. Canary. “This is a great, completely overlooked workforce with astronomical unemployment rates.”
Mr. Canary’s birdfeeders have been made by developmentally disabled workers since its start almost 20 years ago. The company contracts its work to Carey Services, which runs a sheltered-work facility in Marion, Ind.
“What’s remarkable to me … people say, ‘You can’t do this in America,’ ‘You can’t afford this,’ or ‘You need to outsource,’” Long said. But her company’s annual growth – the company will do more than $1 million in sales this year – may prove the critics wrong.
The Story Behind Mr. Canary
Mr. Canary was inspired by Long’s dad, an outdoorsy ex-Marine who owned a plastic-tubing company in Indiana.
“His secretary was an Audubon member who made homemade feeders for friends using the sample tubes,” Long explained. Long’s dad soon started making his own and selling the feeders locally. A few years after he retired, Long got the idea to start selling them on a larger scale.
And Mr. Canary’s feeders are prefilled.
“As folks get older, it gets to be more difficult to tote around 20-pound bags. And you have to store the seed and there’s a cleaning issue … It helps people who love it to continue their hobby,” Long explained.
Long is also starting a program called Mr. Canary Direct, a subscription business that ships Mr. Canary feeders regularly to nursing homes and extended-care facilities.
“We’re in the midst of launching this area – it’s such a good influence on people who are getting older,” Long said.
Mr. Canary is also stocked in stores across the country, including Kmart, Walmart, Kroger and Petco. Three of Mr. Canary’s finch feeders sell for $25, an eight-pack of its sock feeders cost $85.
In the Salute to American Success series, FBN’s Charles Payne puts the spotlight on self-made entrepreneurs, who – like him, are living proof that the American Dream is real.