'Tis The Season

Sweet Success

With a seasonal business, you can capitalize on the selling season and run several stores, as Wiederanenders does, or just one or two. Whichever option you choose, a key to success is choosing a product you personally like.

Mike Spehn grew up in Chicago, where Fannie May Candies were a part of life. So when he decided to invest in a business opportunity, signing on as a Fannie May licensee was a natural decision. "I still have family and friends in Chicago, and going back to Chicago always means picking up some Fannie May Candies to bring home," explains the Lake Forest, California, entrepreneur.

So in the summer of 1997, Spehn invested $60,000 to open two Fannie May kiosks for the holidays. (Each distributorship costs $30,000 and includes a custom kiosk, signage, a cash register, a week-long training program, initial inventory and an exclusive territory.) Fannie May's holiday season starts before Thanksgiving and ends just after Easter. At press time, Spehn was in the middle of his selling season. He plans to add between two and five kiosks next year.

Of course, sweet success doesn't come without effort. Spehn, who also manages a children's retail store, works double shifts and relies on some 12 employees to keep his kiosks running. "Even when I go home, I spend a couple more hours on the computer [working out] systems, the budget, etc.," he says.

Founded in 1920, Fannie May began licensing temporary retail kiosks last year, with 25 kiosks in shopping centers in 10 states. The company started its kiosk program to capitalize on the shops' best season; the 340 company-owned stores do most of their business around Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter. Within five to seven years, Fannie May hopes to have 400-plus kiosks nationwide.

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This article was originally published in the July 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 'Tis The Season.

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