The Home Zone

A Step Ahead

"People have worn them in other countries for generations. They're only new here," says Robin Cohen, 29, of her jewelry dealership's principal product, the toe ring. In 1995, Cohen became a dealer for Toe to Toe Jewelry, based in Laguna Hills, California, and christened her business Once Upon A Toe.

It all started when she began to frequent Toe to Toe's yearly festivals. Cohen added new toe rings to her personal collection every year, and when she moved to Los Altos, California, four years ago, she couldn't help but notice people staring at her adorned feet. Cohen's gut instinct told her Toe to Toe was a business opportunity worth a try.

With an initial investment of $2,000, which bought inventory and an elegant sales booth, the then-nanny started her business on a part-time basis. "Business skyrocketed the first day," Cohen remembers. When she set up a booth at the Redwood City, California, Fourth of July festival, she sold out immediately and was featured in the local newspaper.

Cohen went full time in her second year, and sales increased eightfold. In her third year, when she hired employees, sales tripled. Her sales stem from the 50 or so art and wine festivals Cohen attends each year. She also throws toe ring parties at customers' homes.

She sells toe rings in 50 sizes and numerous styles. Cohen says customers tend to get addicted. "Soon they're adding a matching thumb ring," she says, "and bringing their mothers or sisters."

Cohen's secret to success? "I genuinely care about my clientele," she says. "When you have integrity and are good to people, you're going to be successful."

Before you buy a distributorship/dealership, consider the following:

  • Distributorships/dealerships don't necessarily have to be registered as a business opportunity or have a disclosure document. Investigate by requesting financial statements, visiting headquarters and talking to other dealers.
  • Is the inventory price really the wholesale cost? Be cautious if the initial amount you're required to buy seems unreasonable.
  • Make sure there's a market for the product you plan to sell. If possible, buy a small amount of inventory first and see if you can sell it. Ask potential customers if they'd be interested in buying the product and at what price.

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This article was originally published in the September 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Home Zone.

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