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Hobby Course

The way to a great business? She went with a hobby.

Thirteen years ago, Shelli Gardner was a stay-at-home mom looking for an opportunity that would give her a flexible schedule and let her work at home. Intrigued by direct sales, Gardner and her sister, LaVonne Crosby, created a company to satisfy their business needs and fuel their creativity, turning to their favorite hobby, rubber stamping, for inspiration. Stampin' Up! Inc. was born.

The company now manufactures and sells exclusive lines of rubber stamps and accessories through its 18,000 independent consultants, or "demonstrators." With more than 400 stamp sets and a variety of accessories in its 250-page catalog, sales for 2000 were just under $100 million. "We have some demonstrators who make over $100,000 a year-easy," says Gardner, 39.

With no prior business experience, Gardner and Crosby began their adventure out of their Las Vegas homes. After a few rocky start-up years, they were advised to prepare for bankruptcy. But thanks to a careful recovery and the decision to manufacture their own line of stamps, they got back on track. In 1996, they moved their headquarters to Salt Lake City. Two years later, Crosby left the business to pursue other interests.

With 30 percent annual growth in the past three years, Gardner anticipates sales will top $120 million for 2001. She also plans to bring Stampin' Up! to Canada by 2002.

"[Stampin' Up!] is whatever someone wants to make of it. Some demonstrators work part time to supplement their families' incomes; for others, it's a lucrative, full-time business," says Gardner. "That's the joy of this business."


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This article was originally published in the May 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hobby Course.

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