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Capitalize on Nostalgia

Searching for the next big idea? Sometimes all it takes is a dash of the old to bring new splendor. Indeed, ideas that come from nostalgia are everlasting, and you can find inspiration everywhere. Gabriela Hernandez, 43, found her inspiration in the classic styles of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn and created a cosmetics line based on the colors and styles of 1940s makeup. In 2004, she founded Bésame Cosmetics in Glendale, Calif., and now projects year-end sales of $800,000.

97%

of trademark applications were filed electronically in 2008.

(Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Meanwhile, Jerry Calabrese, 60, saw potential in model train company Lionel, which filed for bankruptcy in 2004 to emerge again in 2008. Backed by VC funding, Calabrese secured shelf space at major retailers and inked licensing agreements with brands like Harry Potter and NASCAR. Lionel is enjoying mass market appeal once again, and Calabrese has more than tripled starter set sales since 2004.

When trying to strike your own strategic deal, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Pick a product that's relevant to today's consumers, and appeal to retailers by tailoring product offerings and providing limited exclusivity in their market segment, Calabrese says. "Because we were willing to tailor our programs to each retailer's special needs, they felt comfortable giving us prime space, displaying our products in high-impact floor displays."
  • Persuade today's retailers by knowing the duration and success of the product's market run, says Deborah MacInnis, a professor of marketing at the University of Southern California.
  • Don't overdo nostalgia. MacInnis says, "You have to let the consumer generate the emotion himself."

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the March 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Capitalize on Nostalgia.

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