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Historical Research Center

Profit from your passion for history.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the February 2001 issue of Subscribe »

What's in a name? Well, for John Brett, everything. Having always had an interest in history, Brett's curiosity was immediately sparked when he discovered the Historical Research Center (HRC). Upon learning that the company specializes in researching the origin of family names, he decided to make a living by bringing the past into the present.

The HRC employs skilled artists and learned historians-many of them educated in the craft of onomastics (the study of names and their origins) and heraldic art (family crests, coats of arms, etc.)-to comb through an extensive list of rare books, manuscripts and records and pour the information into a database. Once a customer provides his or her family name, business owners retrieve the relevant information from the database and print it out on a richly decorated parchment scroll. This versatile operation can take the physical form of a booth, cart or shop, or it can be run from home as an Internet or mail-order business. Brett, his wife and two daughters all work together running this busy venture.

Make The Call
The Historical Research Center International Inc., (800) 940-7991

When asked to name the main reason he got involved with the HRC, Brett recites in an endearing Irish accent, "Location, location, location." You may dismiss this mantra as an ordinary business tenet, but think again-Brett operates in three high-profile tourist locales: the Forum Shops in Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas; inside a castle at "the happiest place on earth" in Anaheim, California; and in the Seaport Village outdoor mall in San Diego. Perfect timing and help from the HRC secured the Las Vegas and Anaheim locations, but it was Brett's performance at these sites that led Seaport Village to approach him.

This business opportunity is relatively inexpensive ($5K-$8K) to start and has very little competition. "It's not like buying shoes, which isn't necessarily a fun experience when you have to go into several stores and compare," notes Brett of his product. "Our customers are genuinely fascinated by their name and their coat of arms. The product sells itself, but you've got to do your part, too. For me, I'm just passionate about it."

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