Mitch Siegler

41, president of Sovietski Collection in San Diego
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This story appears in the January 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Description: Catalog marketer of gear, gifts and collectibles from Russia and Eastern Europe

Start-Up: $50,000 in 1992

Sales: Approximately $10 million for 2001

Seeing Red: With Russia's soaring inflation in 1992, Siegler's initial idea to sell discounted American consumer goods there never materialized. Switching gears, he began selling wholesale Russian handicrafts to specialty shops and large retailers like Pier 1 Imports and Nordstrom. Finding a receptive market after running ads for wristwatches, clocks and other items in targeted publications, he developed an eight-page mini-catalog in 1994 that has since grown to a 68-page catalog published quarterly.

Cold War Consumers: His willingness to deal with the headaches that come with seeking out hard-to-find, unusual and "difficult" items allows Siegler to offer objects that other businesses shy away from. Through relationships with hundreds of companies, government ministries, artists and cottage producers, he's able to secure unusual products such as giant "Big Eye" battleship binoculars, genuine Soviet space suits, B-52 bomber ejection seats and instrument panel clocks from MiG-29 aircraft.

Faces of War: "I don't think we would be affected [by the war on terrorism] any more than other companies. However, our bigger-ticket items would suffer more. Since our median price point is $40 and the vast majority of our items are in the $50 to $150 range, I believe we're reasonably diversified."

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Edition: July 2017

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