One of Marcus Lemonis's greatest skills is saving entrepreneurs on the verge of financial and emotional collapse.
On Tuesday's episode of CNBC's The Profit, Lemonis meets candlemaker Mark Biren, a struggling founder whose Burbank, California-based scented candle company Wick'ed had no money left to burn. Annual revenue was on the decline, while annual losses were growing, reaching about $20,000 in 2014. Biren also had $20,000 in family debt and more than $15,000 in personal credit card debt he hadn't disclosed to his wife and co-owner Samantha.
Despite the company's financial woes, Lemonis saw an opportunity to give the products more mass appeal and and improve profitability by partnering with a local candle manufacturer. After investing $200,000 for 33 percent of the company, however, Lemonis learns that Biren never followed up with the manufacturing partner they'd decided to partner with. He also rejected some free advice from a candle retailer who told him that consumers aren't interested in reading the short stories about candles that Wick'ed prints.
"This is bullshit," Lemonis says during the episode. "I don't think he understood how disappointed and angry I was."
After pressing Biren to explain why he refuses to take direction, Lemonis learns that the root of the problem is Biren's tumultuous relationship with members of his family, some of whom verbally abused him for years about everything from his looks to his career choices.
"It's this overwhelming feeling of trying to figure out who I could trust," Biren says. "It still sticks in my head."
As is often the case for the founders Lemonis backs, a honest conversation about personal issues that go deeper than business is the key to getting their companies back on track. Realizing that Biren's problematic business decisions were related to his bad experiences growing up, Lemonis begins to forgive Biren for ignoring his advice.
"He's not a bad guy," Lemonis says. "He just comes from a very broken place."
Having addressed the trust issues holding Wick'ed back, Lemonis and Biren get to work on a packaging redesign and add ancillary products like a bath gel and lotion that use the same fragrance as the candles. Lemonis also convinces the founders to change the name of the brand to Biren & Company, and helps Mark and Sam land a distribution deal with New York-based home goods company The Harper Group.
The rebranding and product expansion, combined with the ramped-up manufacturing capacity, make all the difference. "I now feel like we're on our way to being a contender in the candle and home industry," Lemonis says.