Sunday, September 10, 2006

How To Convert Multiculturalism To A Cool $1 Million.

John and Cynthia Ham Story

When John and Cynthia Ham were expecting their first child in 1997, they knew they wanted to decorate the baby's room but couldn't find exactly what they were looking for. But when Cynthia saw celebrity mom Holly Robinson Peete in a TV interview talking about the multicultural mural she commissioned for her children's room, inspiration struck. Cynthia also wanted a border on her child's walls that would reflect their African-American heritage.

The Hams hired an artist to make that vision a reality, and when friends and relatives saw the beautiful multicultural border, they all wanted it for their own children. It was then, says Cynthia, that they knew they had a business idea. Cynthia researched the market and found that the leading wall-covering companies weren't interested in the concept. "They said it wouldn't work," she recalls. "And I thought 'How do you know?'"

Armed with passion for their idea, Cynthia, 35, and John, 38, enlisted the help of their friend Steven V. Jones, 36, to get the unique product off the ground. Their first offering was an alphabet border featuring different African-American characters for each letter. Marketing was the next order of business-so they took the product to their college sororities and fraternities and began to spread the word through that network of alumni. They also attended the national Black Expo, a trade show for African-American products and services held by the National Minority Supplier Development Council, to drum up business.

Today, Cultural Hangups, which now includes multicultural wallpaper borders for kids of African-American, Hispanic and Asian descents, can be found on Wal-Mart store shelves in North Carolina and Georgia. Year-end sales are expected to hit $1 million, thanks to a new décor line for teens and the addition of bedding and accessories.

Business As Unusual: My Entrepreneurial Journey, Profits With Principles