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Many entrepreneurs can't afford to seek costly advice from consultants, but the TLC series Taking Care of Business gives select entrepreneurs an opportunity to do just that, in exchange for camera time. With help from four experts, dubbed the Gut Instinct Guide, the Management Maven, the Glamour Guru and the Buzz-Builder, entrepreneurs put suggestions into action and cope with changes that sometimes make them uncomfortable. These entrepreneurs share their tales of being made over:
The owners of this specialty toyshop in Hoboken, New Jersey, were surprised when the experts proposed converting much of the selling space into a kids' play area. Initially, husband-and-wife team Joe and Tracey Falzarano, 43 and 37, respectively, were against it. But they thinned out the merchandise, widened the aisles, added a play area and remodeled the cash-wrap area. Sales haven't increased yet, but "we've been told by the vast majority of shoppers it's a much more pleasurable experience," says Joe.
The front display case's myriad merchandise was cleared for a carousel theme, which Joe doesn't think reflects their image. "I understand the message, though, to create a central image," he explains. Big Fun's clown mascot, Oobert, came to life with the help of a puppeteer and several appearances made by a life-size replica at local events.
"We had bets with Joe about things [he was against]," quips Buzz-Builder Richard Laermer, who's also founder and CEO of PR company RLM Public Relations. "I took home a lot of novelty toys."
Gabe Feliciano, 54, and his wife, Patty Dellolio, 51, got a complete reboot with their gaming/IT/internet center in New York City. Clutter, an unappealing layout and a rather lackluster cafe added up to a giant mess inside, while passersby saw only a front window plastered with advertisements. A trip to the Apple Store gave Feliciano some insight into the concept of open space. "That was an epiphany," he explains.
By simplifying their offerings and introducing a sophisticated look, including a cool gaming room, the couple gained a brand identity as clear as their new storefront. Sales increased 20 to 30 percent, and the business has sold more computers and made more house calls than ever. Laermer encouraged them: "You can be the McDonald's of internet cafes." The couple has since received numerous e-mails expressing franchising interest.
Like the film Barbershop, Teryl Dixon's barbershop has its fill of funny characters and repeat business. But the Prospect Heights, New York, neighborhood has shifted from predominantly black to white, and Dixon wants to attract new customers. "He's got these incredible guys working for him--so eccentric, so vivid," says Laermer, who wanted Dixon to use that as a strength.
While passing out flyers, Dixon, 41, was naturally gregarious, and many recipients vowed to visit the store. Following the experts' suggestion, he added a part-time manicurist, but resisted offering hair-lengthening services. With the new service, slight price increase and spiffy d�cor, business has picked up. Dixon plans to apply much of the marketing advice to either his barbershop or barbershop/beauty salon across town, adding, "Some of that stuff I knew already, but it's always good to bring it back into your head. Sometimes you get a little complacent."