Author Archive for FinneganBJ1

From Greeting Cards to Gift Cards

Greeting Cards Cash In…

Cameron Johnson started down the entrepreneurial path when he was just 9 years old by creating greeting cards for a holiday party his parents were throwing. Recipients of these cards were so impressed with the creativity and quality of the cards so much so that by the tender age of 11, Johnson had already managed to save up several thousand dollars selling personalized greeting cards for his Company which he dubbed Cheers and Tears. This taste of success proved infectious to Cameron and at age twelve he bought his sisters collection of 30 beanie babies from her for $100. Immediately,

he turned around and sold the collection on ebay for over $1000!!! -Not bad for a 12 year old!!!

Sprinkle in a little Advertising…

The next year, Johnson banked $50,000 he had made as seed money for his next venture, My  EZ Mail- a service that forwards emails to recipients without revealing any of the recipients personal information. Within only a few short months the company was raking in $3000 a month on advertising revenue alone! HE still wasn’t done however, and in 1997, he joined forces with several other enterprising teens to start,

a company that displays those lovely banner adds across the top of webpages that we all love so dearly. This business proved to be his most profitable one yet, and within a few months the business started drawing in revenue to the amount of $300,000 a month!!!

Cashing in on a Few More Cards…

On top of this, Johnson found that he had accumulated a bunch of unwanted gift certificates over time and decided to form an online company that would allow you to exchange gift cards without any serious penalties. In 2004, he sold his business, Certificate for an undisclosed six figure amount, making him worth an excess of $1000000 by the age of 19. Today, Johnson appears on many business oriented tv shows including ABC’s Oprah’s Big Give and BBC’s Beat the Boss. All I know is that if this guy doesn’t make you feel unaccomplished, I don’t know what will!

A Sweet, Sweet Business


The Child Chocolatier

When Louis Barnett was  just 11 years old, he was forced to drop out of school due to trouble he was facing with dyslexia and dyspraxia. Shortly after leaving, Louis decided to try his hand at baking, so he made a chocolate cake for his Aunt’s birthday. She loved it- in fact, she loved it so much that she began spreading the word to her friends and family and Louis found himself barraged with requests for his
chocolate cake, even some local restaurants began sending in requests. Louis was so excited and impressed by the how quickly people had taken to his cake, that he decided to make it into a business and just like that Chokolit was born. Louis was still operating out of his family’s kitchen making various chocolate goods when he decided to make a pitch to Waitrose, a UK grocery chain. He secured a meeting and had his parents drive him to the store and walk him into the manages office, then they left. The manager was confused and asked why they had just walked out when they had come just to pitch to him- when Louis told him that the business was in fact his and not his parents’ and furthermore that he would be the one making the sales pitch, the manager was thrown aback- that day Louis left with an order for 165 chocolate boxes. Shortly after, Barnett was encouraged to attend  the International Food Exhibition, where he pitched to Sainbury’s- another UK Grocery chain. After pitching , they asked Barnett to leave the room for a minute; when he was asked to come back in, they informed him that he was now Sainbury’s youngest ever supplier and further more, that he had just delivered the best sales pitch that any of them have ever heard.

The Growth of the Business

Barnett’s success continued to grow as he sold to more and more big name stores. Soon he had outgrown his facilities and his family was forced to renovate their garage into a working kitchen. His mom dropped her job to help Louis meet his orders but even that soon proved to not be enough. Taking a loan from his grandparents and several other small time investors, Louis was able to buy a small shop and hire a crew of ten workers. Now as at 20 years old, Barnett is working to penetrate the foreign market, and currently sells in South America as well as 14 US states- in fact, now only 5% of his sales come from his native Britain. Chokolit’s main mission now is to become the most innovative confectionery in the world, and works to make chocolate chairs, champagne flutes, and other distinctive products. With Barnett at its helm, Chokolit is well on its way to becoming a powerhouse in the growing Chocolate industry. 


Running with Swag

Road ID Saves Life and Defines Lifestyles

Edward Wimmer’s father had always told him to make sure he had some form of ID on him whenever he went for a run. When Edward was in college, a near accident caused him to think twice about Dogged determination: Edward Wimmer (right) and his father, Mike, have seen rapid sales of Road ID.his father’s advice when an oncoming truck forced Wimmer to jump into a ditch to avoid being hit during a training run.  After graduating, Wimmer and his father, an entrepreneur, holed up in their basement, and using credit cards to back their endeavors, began producing athlete-friendly ID tags, modeled after military dog tags. The two of them called their upstart Erlanger, Kentucky based company Road ID. Now, thirteen years later, the company continues to make these athletic ID tags and will engrave them with anything the customer chooses, but still recommends including “vital statistics and inspirational mantras to help lift spirits mid-workout.” An interactive version of these tags also gives responders access to your medical information including allergies and health insurance in the case of an emergency. However safety’nuts are not the only people who have taken an interest in these ID bands. What started out as a practical way to protect athletes has now evolved into a status symbol- a fashion statement that says: “I’m an athlete.” Road IDRunners, cyclists, and many other athletes are now wearing their Road ID’s even when they are not working out. In 2011 the previously online retailer decided to broaden its horizons by using kiosks to market and sell their bands in sporting goods shops. In addition to this, the company deals heavily in social media and email advertising as well as word of mouth. When a customer buys any Road ID product, they receive a special discount code that they can use and share for 30 days to get deals on other Road ID goods. In this way Road ID makes its customers its prime salesmen.  Although Wimmer refuses to divulge the company’s current worth, he claims that the company has growth by about 50% every year since 2002 and expects that its growth will continue as more and more athletes become acquainted with their product and want the image that it provides.

College Student Cashes in on Coat Checks

One cold night in 2010, Derek Pacque, a senior Indiana University entrepreneurship major, was hanging out at a local nightclub. Rather than wear his jacket into the club, he dropped it off in a dark corner while he was dancing, but later, when he went to retrieve it, he found that it was missing. Inside a College Entrepreneur's Unique Coat Check BusinessPacque, never found his jacket, but what he did find was the inspiration for a business idea. He noticed that none of the bars or clubs in town had a coat check, so the only way you could make sure that your coat did’t get stolen was to leave it at home or in the car, or wear it the entire time you were at the bar. Parcque approached several local bar owners and asked if they would be interested in offering a coat check at their bars; several bar owners expressed an interest, and Pacque decided to move on with his idea. First he invested $500 in materials to make portable coat racks, then he hired on a several college students and launched Hoosier Coat Check. Three local bar owners signed on and the  Hoosier began offering its coat check services at $2 to $3, giving a 10-30% cut to the bar owner. On cold nights, each coat check could bring in up to $1,500, and within 6 months the company had made about $50,000. The business was more profitable that Pacque had originally anticipated, but it came with its own set of problems; people would often lose their tickets or pick up the wrong coat causing huge hassles.

After graduating in 2011, Pacque and one of his former professors partnered up to develop a more secure and reliable coat check service. In 2012, he changed his business’s name to CoatChex  and managed to get a contract for the ESPN and Maxim Super Bowl parties increasing his yearly earnings to $100,000. With this new found success, Pacque began targeting larger venues, changing up to $45,000 per event. This change in scale required a much more efficient coat check system, so he developed a system of taking pictures and checking the qr codes of the coats to increase the speed and reliability of his services.

Derek Pacque is a great example of how a negative event can be turned into a profitable business, although he never found the cot he originally lost, he was able to create something much more valuable from that experience. Pacque is a great example of how sometimes those little hassles in life can be turned into big money makers with the right mindset and work ethic.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

A Story of Perseverance.

Rob Law has know failure. He has know crisis, rejection, and humiliation, but he has also known great success.

The Birth of an Idea and the Start of a Journey…Rob-Law

In 1997, while studying at Northumbria University, Rob Law was struck by an idea while walking down the toy aisle of a local department store. His idea- a suitcase that doubled up as a ride on toy for small children. Law was captivated with this novel idea, and quickly began pitching his idea to different companies in the hope that they would buy it from him and manufacture these  suitcases. He was met by harsh rejection from every company he pitched his idea to though- the toy companies said it was a suitcase and the suitcase companies said it was a toy. Disheartened, Law set aside his dream for a time to do some traveling.

A First Attempt…

Law arrived back in the UK in 2002, with a simple plan: scrape together some  money, and find a licensee for his idea which he called the “Trunki”. At first it appeared as if everything was going to work out- he successfully secured a loan from the bank, and found a company at the London toy show that was interested in producing the Trunki. The two of them agreed that the producer would take care of all of the Trunki’s sourcing, production, distribution, and sales, leaving Law free to continue in his current career as a design consultant. This partnership turned out to be a total flop and within three years the chinese manufacturer had only managed to sell 19,000 units. To make matters worse, in 2005, the Chinese producer of the Trunki went bankrupt, leaving Law in a virtual limbo.


Starting from Scratch. Again.

At this point, Law was left with no other options but to start from scratch. He took a £10,000  loan to start his own business to continue producing the Trunki. In the spring of 2006, just before Magmatic, Trunki’s parent company, was about to go public, a key Chinese producer that Law had been relying on went bust, forcing him to scramble to find a new producer on very short notice. Consequently, when the first batch of Trunkis hit the stores, the company faced a barrage of complaints about faulty parts and cheap construction. Finally, in September of 2006, Law appeared on Dragon’s Den, a national business pitch show in the UK, to present his product idea. Law was humiliated as the judges criticized his idea and then pulled the strap off of the toy with virtually no effort.

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade…

Although many would have slumped off in defeat after such a humbling experience, Law used the press he got to his advantage. He fixed the faulty strap and used his new publicity and website traffic to market his product to consumers and retailer’s alike. After only a few short weeks Law began to land deals with several major department stores including Toys’R’Us and his sales took off like a rocket.


Trunki used its new found success to broaden its reaches and began its plight in the international market. Trunki is now sold in 1,564 stores in 64 countries and its parent company, Magmatic is grossing roughly £6,000,000 a year. It is currently estimated that 1 in 10 three to six year old children in Britain actually owns a Trunki- an impressive feet for someone who had failed so many times to even bring the product to market. Surprisingly, Law has never attempted to file a patent for his Trunki idea, because he feels as though there is very little intellectual property there to steal. In addition, he has found that by not applying for a patent, his company has actually been able to make more money, while still owning the market for the “traveling toy”.

Magmatic currently employs 21 full time staff and focuses on selling its products in the cheapest, most personal way possible. Consequently, they company does no front end advertising, and instead relies on personal demonstrations to journalists for their PR, in addition to some well made youtube videos.

Rob Law.tif

The results are several million pounds worth of advertising that have only cost Magmatic a total of £200,000 in the company’s lifetime. The company’s focus on personal relationships, fun, and possibility have set them aside from their fellow toy companies, and in 2011 Trunki won the “Product Business of the Year” Award at the Fast Growth Business Awards. From the slide in Law’s office, to his name tag “Trunki daddy”, Magmatic truly shows the power that persistence, vision, and fun can have in the world of business.


College Dropout Sells Textbooks

A Student With a Dream

Glen Nothnagel, like many other college students had a problem- every time he went to go buy textbooks for his classes he found himself paying outrageous sums of money to get them; likewise, whenever he went to try and sell his textbooks back he found that he often couldn’t resell them, and if and when he did, he usually took a pretty substantial financial loss. Nothnagel knew that most college students didn’t have a whole lot of money in the first place, and what they did have they didn’t want to spend on textbooks. He noticed that there was a pretty significant gap in the market between the average textbook buyer and the re-seller and so in 2007, he dropped out of the college of DuPage where he had been attending as a freshman, and with $2000 of his own money he leased out a 1,000 square foot building and set about buying up used textbooks from friends and fellow students to build his inventory.

Building the Dream

Entr Pic

Glen Nothnagel, founder/owner of

 The business officially started in 2008 and worked on selling books through existing online vendors such as and at 20-30% normal retail value which gave them a competitive edge on their larger competition. In his first year of business Nothnagel’s company, EZ Book Recycle Inc.,  made about $200,000 through online sales, and by 2010 the company was raking in about $4,000,000 a year though its website, The company, which originally sold only textbooks, now sells a wide variety of student related gods ranging from graphing calculators to CD’s to fiction books and video games.

Sustaining the Dream


Nothnagel’s website:

In the world of Amazon and much larger competitors, one might not expect Nothnagel and his 12 man company to succeed, but Nothnagel continues to succeed by offering competitive pricing and great service. The website now offers Paypal for customers and has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Factors like these combined with perks like free shipping continue to make Nothnagel business shine, and  at 25, his business continues to grow and add new products to their line to keep in touch with consumer wants.