Great Business Ideas: Create a Fad

Great Ideas for your Small Business: Create a Fad

People used to stand in front of dave kapell’s refrigerator for hours, even when they weren’t hungry. They were mesmerized by his collection of hand- made magnetized words—-an idea that evolved into a major 1990s fad: the Magnetic Poetry kit.

Kapell, a songwriter and cab driver, made the first kit as a way to combat writer’s block. He started giving them away to friends. “Instead of bringing wine to a party, I’d bring the magnetic poetry kits,” said Kapell.

He began selling kits at craft fairs and to local retailers. When sales took off, he had thirty people making kits in their homes. He worked ninety hours a week getting the company off the ground.

So far he’s sold more than two million kits. Kapell said he knew he had hit the big time when Magnetic Poetry appeared on Jerry Seinfeld’s TV apartment refrigerator. Seinfeld is the perfect customer for the $20 kit. Kapell said his target market is educated, affluent gift-buyers. He sells his kits in museum gift shops, bookstores, and catalogs.

Kapell said he would discourage entrepreneurs from trying too hard to protect their products. His kits aren’t patented, but they are trademarked and copyrighted. “Little guys should get out there quick and sell the hell out of it,” said Kapell.

“Don’t worry about legal protection—people are paralyzed by it. It costs a lot of bucks to patent some- thing, and it’s not important.” He said rushing your product to market is more important than getting bogged down in legalities. “The big boys aren’t going to pay attention or try to compete until you sell millions.”

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The company also makes other magnetic poetry items, including lunch boxes and coffee mugs with coffee- related magnetic words.