I’d like to start off by asking you two questions: How old were you when you first started a business and made some profit off of it? The second and equally important question is: Are you an entrepreneur?
I was just 12 years old when I started my first business. The idea came to me during grade 6 when my grandparents introduced me to sports cards. Being a huge hockey fan, I instantly realized that these sports cards could take off with hockey fans and I could make some money.
STEP 1 – Brainstorming
My idea was to buy the cards in bulk rather than individually, since the cost was dramatically lower. So when it came to executing my plan, I had to beg my grandma to help me buy 2 boxes worth of cards. With the boxes in hand, I set out to package each one in its own clear plastic sleeve. My thinking was that this feature added extra perceived value to my customers. It later turned out that I was right!
All of this had given me new motivation to go to school. Rather than focusing on the books like a lot of other 12 year old kids, my mission was to take special card requests from other students. I would also charge a little bit extra for rare cards such as Wayne Gretzky’s. Keep in mind that at this time, smart phones weren’t around, so I had a notepad that I’d carry around and make notes on.
STEP 2 – Be Open-Minded With Your Ideas
As I was becoming more successful with my sports card business at school, I opened booths at card trading shows that were held at the convention center in Toronto. I made sure to dress in a suit and tie. I wanted to be different and standout from my competitors, who were much older than me. I kept my table in immaculate condition. The way that I operated the booth involved 2 people, myself and one other person. One of us would go hand out flyers while the other would walk around the convention, closing sales. Just like my current A Nerd’s World retail location at 986 Bathurst Street, Toronto, I had colourful balloons at my convention booths.
It’s kind of funny, a lot of what we’re doing today at A Nerd’s World, I did at 12 years old!
STEP 3 – Know Your Target Customer
Yorkgate mall is half the story of the third step. My idea was to go on the weekends and set up a booth somewhere in the mall. Instead of baseball cards, I would bring basketball ones since the demographics here were totally different. Teenagers around here weren’t into hockey at all. So this was a change involving different markets, different areas and different products.
The other half of the third step involved me trying to sell my cards on the streets of my neighbourhood. My home didn’t have a garage so with the help of my good friend Jeremy, I used his garage as a booth to sell cards. I worked out a deal with his mom to pay her $50 a week. The operation was sweet! It had balloons, pull-tabs, flyers and I was promoting via word of mouth. It was booming, however one day the police showed up and shut down the operation. I quickly learned that in the city of Toronto, you can legally have a garage sale twice a year. I later found out that complaints from disgruntled neighbours were the trigger source for the police.
STEP 4 – Never Quit!
At this point, I thought to myself “Now what?”
I was at a loss for ideas until I came up with collecting autographs for each of my cards and selling them for more profit! I would call hotels to find out where athletes and celebrities were staying, through carefully crafted conversation with concierges. I was so successful with this and I’d do it so often that celebrities started catching on. They would get to know me by first name and would start asking me if I was selling these cards.
I put their minds at ease by asking them to personalize the cards with my name, to prove that I wasn’t selling them. I, however, had other intentions. Little did the celebrities know that the sharpie I’d get them to use, was very easy to take off with cologne or an eraser. These tricks worked because the cards had a glossy coating.
So with having these cards in hand, I considered this a wow-factor, one that made me different verus my competition. I had a low-cost, high-value.l product in the form of autographed sports cards.
I like to be around like-minded people. If you’re in the toronto area and want to talk about any ideas, give me a shout and let’s talk!
Stop thinking, stop coming up with a “master plan”, just do it, call me at A Nerd’s World at (647) 726-2020.
Chris A. Hughes