When you find an untapped niche, a hobby can quickly grow into a profitable enterprise.
That’s what owner Nicki Pierce learned when she created Hooked on Ornaments. She started as many small business ventures do, “as a hobby, a fun activity and a learning experience,” says Pierce.
Pierce kept the business home-based as long as possible to keep overhead low, but storage, shipping, bookkeeping, marketing, and all other facets of a small business soon outgrew her home. The first leased commercial location for the company was quickly outgrown, as well – in fact, they needed to double the space within three years and again three years later. At that time, Pierce decided that it was time to buy a building. Hooked on Ornaments, which has exceeded previous years’ sales volumes every year since 1996, now occupies a 9,000 square foot building which includes an office, warehouse and shipping facility.
Hooked on Ornaments’ success comes during a time when the overall collectibles market has been in decline, due to generational changes and the economy overall. The company sells Hallmark ornaments on the secondary market through its e-commerce site. They don’t buy the ornaments directly from Hallmark, but instead specialize in discontinued, retired and collectible ornaments. Pierce strives to keep up with market and technology changes and advises, “Always be looking for better, more customer-friendly, profitable ways to do things, especially important on the internet, as things change very quickly.”
It was the challenge of an ever-evolving market that led Pierce to the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC) at Johnson County Community College. Pierce values the time she spends working with her KSBDC consultant, John Addessi. “It’s really important to have outside reviews and consultants to take a fresh and different look,” says Pierce. Over time, the KSBDC has worked with Pierce on improving her web sites with tips for getting to the top of organic search engine results, which she says is critical to any internet business. This process “lessened the huge expense of pay-per-click advertising that Hooked on Ornaments once endured,” says Pierce.
And not unlike many KSBDC entrepreneurs, Pierce is always looking for the next niche opportunity.
Occupying a largely seasonal market with Hooked on Ornaments led to further evolution. Pierce started a second e-business, Big Time Cruisers, focused on beach cruiser bicycles. It was a natural extension for the business playing off its current strengths. Pierce maintained a staff of exceptional full-time employees during the off season for ornaments. The addition of the Big Time Cruisers product line offered seasonal synergy for year-round sales.
No matter how large the company grows, Pierce continues to follow the sound practice of doing business by the “old fashioned Golden Rule” and “delivering quickly and as promised.” It’s a solid set of rules to live by for a fun hobby turned profitable enterprise.
Quotes from the Entrepreneur
Secret to Success: “Really pay attention to the market and always seek a better way to do everything that we do.”
If you could go back in time: “Do your homework” and “start small, keep your overhead low.”
Advice for starting a business/currently in business: “Be flexible, ever changing, always looking for new opportunities.”
Learn more hookedonhallmark.com | 866-219-9774
Assisted by John Addessi, KSBDC Consultant | KSBDC at JCCC | Overland Park. JCCC KSBDC | 913.469.3878 | jccc.edu/ksbdc | email@example.com
Represented by Senator Pat Roberts | Senator Jerry Moran | Fed. Dist. #3 – Kevin Yoder | State Sen. Dist.#9 – Julia Lynn | State Rep. Dist.#15 – Erin Davis