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For The Birds The penguin has landed, space savers, finding funding.

By Mary Greenfield

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Since age 16, Eric Bennett has had a penchant for penguins. In1985, the then-recent college grad was working at a collectionagency, where, he jokes, "I sent myself threateningletters." He wanted to start his own business and, in pursuitof tuxedoed bird memorabilia, had run across many like-mindedpenguin lovers. But was there a market for an all-penguin specialtystore?

There was just one way to find out. That same year, Bennettopened Next Stop . . . South Pole, a pushcartin New York's South Street Seaport. His $4,000 of start-upcapital covered the cart, displays, two weeks' rent, and twoweeks' inventory. The business was so successful that thefollowing year, Bennett launched a mail order catalog, and withinthree years, he had opened retail stores in New York City andBaltimore. Though Bennett no longer has pushcarts, his retailstores, catalog and Web site help him move $350,000 in web-footedmerchandise every year.

Bennett, now 39, credits his success to four factors. First, hechose a location in a tourist area with plenty of foot traffic anda steady influx of customers. He's also been careful to expandcautiously: In 13 years, he's never taken out a loan. Third, heavoids jumping on big trends, such as Beanie Babies or Hello Kitty,where competition from major chains "can crush you," heexplains. Finally, Bennett hasn't diversified his stock withother marine animals, as that would eliminate what makes his storespecial and alienate his core bird-loving market.

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