Sweet and Low

6. Carts & Kiosks

She calls herself an accidental tourist in the land of entrepreneurship. But even though she had no previous business experience, 33-year-old Alexis Abramson's success is hardly a random event. Combining her compassion for seniors with a growing demand for products to help them live independently, she has created a thriving business.

In 1995, Abramson, who holds a master's degree in gerontology, knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of older Americans. "I felt as if they had been put out to pasture," says the owner of Atlanta-based Mature Mart Inc. "I wanted to take away the negativity surrounding them."

With a $2,000 loan from family members, she launched a Web site selling products geared toward seniors. It logged 40,000 hits in the first month. The following year, around the Christmas holiday season, Abramson tested a kiosk in a nearby mall, and it sold out five times before Christmas Eve. "It told us what we wanted to know about price points and who our customers are," Abramson says. "Actually, we saw that everyone wanted the stuff."

The kiosks helped fund Mature Mart's growing Web site, which features more than 20,000 items. Point-of-purchase displays appear in grocery stores, and products are sold on QVC and through the company's catalog. Sales are increasing 500 percent every six months, and franchise requests are pouring in. As good as it is, Abramson, who employs 15 and outsources to 125 others, is ensuring it will get even better by spending $20,000 on a site facelift.

Like Abramson, many entrepreneurs find carts and kiosks are a low-cost way to launch a retail business or to supplement an existing business. Patricia Norins, publisher of Specialty Retail Report, a publication focusing on carts and kiosks, says they're particularly good start-ups for young entrepreneurs due to the low investment required and their ability to thrive even during economic downturns.

Abramson says she's driven by her commitment to older citizens. "I keep doing this," she says, "because with every new product I offer, another senior becomes independent."

The basics: a cart (buy your own for about $3,000 or rent one from a mall), a cash register, $1,000 for initial advertising and $4,000 in inventory.

Total cost: more than $7,100

What she spent: Abramson's start-up inventory and first month's rent at a mall cost less than $5,000.

For details:Specialty Retail Report (800) 936-6297, www.specialtyretail.com

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Sweet and Low.

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