Duck, Duck, Cash
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Most major cities have guided tours of historic landmarks, but tourists who visit Boston can actually ride a duck through town. This duck isn't the web-footed kind: It's a vintage World War II amphibious vehicle originally designed to deliver Marines to enemy-held beaches.
Investment banking executive Andrew Wilson, 41, thought the vehicle would be perfect for tours of Boston, which is located on the banks of the Charles River. After leaving his job to get quackin' on the venture full time, Wilson discovered raising start-up cash was tough, but getting permits from the city to build a boat ramp and drive the duck through the city was even tougher.
Wilson's efforts finally paid off, and Boston Duck Tours opened for business in 1994. Last year, some 290,000 people paid about $15 each for 80-minute city tours.
Now with a fleet of 12 ducks, Wilson says he's never needed to advertise. "Tourists who see a duck go by see the passengers looking very happy, and that's its own advertisement," he explains. The ducks have made Wilson very happy, too: He is considering franchising the tours to other riverfront cities.
At a mall during the 1991 Christmas season, Michael Pukay noticed a long line at the customer service desk. Intrigued, the Streetsboro, Ohio, artist asked what they were waiting for. "Lottery tickets," came the reply. It turned out that many people gave the tickets as Christmas gifts. After all, who would return a chance at $1 million?
Pukay, 41, and partners Michael Hewett, 42, and Marvin Epstein, 68, are capitalizing on this gift-giving trend with LottOccasions, a line of greeting cards designed with special slots to hold lottery tickets.
The partners hit it big with their first client, Gibson Greetings Inc. As a result of that contract, LottOccasions was able to expand its distribution to more than 125 retail stores in eight states.
By 1994, the partners moved the operation from their homes to an office. The line, available in grocery stores and drugstores throughout the Midwest, now includes cards for all major holidays and a variety of special occasions, and sales are expected to top $1 million this year.
Supermarkets and specialty food stores aren't the only places to sell a gourmet food product. For Newport Beach, California, entrepreneur Kim Park, coffeehouses have proven the perfect place to sell her wares.
Park has always loved to bake chocolate chip cookies based on her grandmother's recipe. In 1990, when a friend who managed a local coffeehouse, Dietrich Coffee, asked her to make cookies to sell to hungry customers, Park whipped up a batch and thought no more of it. But the cookies quickly sold out, and soon the friend was begging for another dozen . . . and another. In a few years, Park found herself with a full-time business on her hands.
She and her husband, John, purchased a bakery and started Taylor's Mom's Cookies (named after her 10-year-old son). Today the company produces more than 12,000 cookies per week for sale at businesses. Park has also expanded her product line to include 14 varieties of cookies: oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and snickerdoodles, to name a few.
The best thing about being self-employed, says Park, is that she still gets to be a full-time mom. "Although our business has grown, I still consider it a mom and pop operation," she says. "It lets our family be together most of the time and allows us a great quality of life."
Boston Duck Tours, 790 Boylston St., Plaza Level, Boston, MA 02199, (617) 227-5296
LottOccasions Inc., 9233 State Rte. 14, Streetsboro, OH 44241, (330) 626-2274
Taylor's Mom's Cookies, P.O. Box 3505, Newport Beach, CA 92659, (714) 642-0147