Inspiration can come from anywhere. Tom Janzer can attest: The former operating room designer was looking for a new business-something that would require less time traveling-when one day his wife asked him to buy a new mailbox.
Simple, right? Nope. "[I] couldn't find anything in home centers or hardware stores," Janzer explains, "and then, finally, the lightbulb went off and I said, 'I'm looking at a great business.' "
Janzer made a mailbox that got the attention of people in the neighborhood: "In one week, we had six or seven people knock on the door and say, 'Hey, where did you get that? I want one,' " he says. From that one mailbox, Janzer founded Janzer Architectural Products, a Trenton, New Jersey, manufacturer of mailboxes, porcelain signs and brass plaques. Four years later, in 1989, the company began offering a business opportunity to people interested in selling its products.
Janzer dealers can operate the business full or part time, use their own business name and sell other products, like swing sets or gazebos. "We do ask them to have a minimum display of all our samples so that they can go to a convention and [have] a full cadre of products," Janzer says. He also suggests his dealers have a work area in which to store samples, although some dealers have showrooms.
Back in Trenton, Janzer and his eight-person staff continue making mailboxes with extra touches, like a tray that slides mail out of the box. Says Janzer, "It's not just a box with a door and a flag."