Vital Stats: Jen Bilik, 37, of Knock Knock
Company: Gift and stationery company in Venice, California
Projected 2006 Sales: $3.5 million
Latecomer: Former book editor Bilik was a chronic procrastinator. The idea for her business actually came while putting off the creation of her illustrated memoir. After designing and sending belated holiday cards in January, her friends encouraged her to sell the cards. "Humor is a great way to acknowledge and excuse your own shortcomings," Bilik says. "January" is now her bestselling holiday card.
Homegrown: With the profits from a real estate sale, Bilik launched Knock Knock in 2002 with 13 products. Buyers were hesitant until they saw prototypes, so a sales company came onboard to help her gain entry into specialty gift stores. Despite difficulties keeping up with orders, sales shot to $650,000 the first year. "The key is resiliency," says Bilik, who learned quickly from her mistakes.
Culture Clash: Knock Knock acknowledges the oft-unspoken hilarity of life, whether it's in office politics or relationships. One card, for example, tells the newly single: "Time wounds all heels," and "You're better off." "It's observational humor," Bilik says. "Most greeting card companies are so idealized. They're not funny about the actual occasion." Knock Knock products, including a dating kit and humorous flashcards, are sold on www.knockknock.biz, in more than 3,000 stores nationwide, and in Canada and the UK. Bilik plans to create additional brands, such as a line of contemporary office products called No. 2, and rework the company's signature products for mass merchants. Says Bilik, "I've inadvertently tapped into a psychology zeitgeist."