How To Make $2 Million A Year, Setting Up Christmas Lights
Bob Martin and his employee-turned-partner, Larry Jones, couldn't help but notice the attention they were receiving as they put up their first client's Christmas display. "We had 25-foot toy soldiers, a 40-foot arch going across the driveway, a 36-foot-long Santa's Express in the front yard, and about 400,000 lights going throughout the property," says Martin, 45. The extravagant display even attracted the attention of the local media in New Lenox, Illinois.
That was in the winter of 1996. Martin got the creative spark for his company, BrightIdeasInc.com, when he realized most people dread the yearly task of hanging holiday lights. Confident that people would pay for the convenience, Martin launched the business from his garage. He spent just $2,500 at startup, purchasing supplies such as advertising signs, ladders, lights, timers and other equipment.
Thanks to free consulting help from his local Small Business Development Center, Martin developed a solid business plan and even got help with marketing and financing. By sponsoring the local TV station's toy drive and giving away free lighting displays through radio shows, he was able to score much-needed exposure in his community for next to nothing.
In 1997, BrightIdeasInc.com also began offering year-round landscape lighting services along with its seasonal decorations. Now with two showrooms and four warehouses in Illinois, the company projects nearly $2 million in sales this year.
What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School: Notes From A Street-Smart Executive