Success Stories By Dick Kazan - Valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on May 29, 2007

Have you been trying to think of a great business idea?

If so, it may be right in front of you, as it was for Paul and Morris Secon in 1949.

One day Morris’ wife came home from a yard sale with several stoneware pieces created by well-known designer Glidden Parker. Those pieces should have been very expensive but she paid just a dollar for each one. How did this happen?

Bewildered, Morris spoke with Mr. Parker and learned he had three barns full of “platters, plates, pitchers, cups and saucers” and other merchandise he couldn’t sell to his upscale retailer clients because all of it was flawed.

A nick, a crack, or any other slight imperfection and as beautiful as it otherwise was it languished unsold in those barns.

As Morris thought about it, it occurred to him: Buy the inventory at a huge discount, acknowledge the imperfections, and sell it well below retail to the public.

Everybody would win. Mr. Parker could turn his inventory into cash and clear out his barns. Morris and Paul could open a store and potentially make a great deal of money. And shoppers willing to accept slightly flawed Glidden Parker pottery could buy it at big discounts.

The Secon brothers purchased 2,500 stoneware pieces for just $2,500 and they rented a store in a modest area of Manhattan for only $35 a month. Each week, Paul or Morris would load a family station wagon with Mr. Parker’s flawed or discontinued pottery and drive it to their store.

Being on a very low budget, the Secon brothers had no racks or shelving to display the pottery. It was stacked on crates. But then as now, the public loves a great bargain and their store became successful.

What is the name of their store? One you probably know well, the Pottery Barn. And this is how it began.

Today the Williams-Sonoma owned store chain has 197 stores in the United States and Canada.

So if you’re trying to think of a good business idea, look around you. Is there something someone else is stuck with that you could turn into cash? Or perhaps something they manufacture well but don’t enjoy the sales process, and would love for you to handle it for them?

If you can write a small check as the Secon brothers did, and rent a tiny storefront or office, you could be off and running. Today, you would likely setup a website as well and for a miniscule fee of about 10 cents a click, a search engine like AOL, Google, MSN or Yahoo could display your product to prospective buyers all over the U.S. or even all over the world.

Success Tip of the Week: Start small and test your idea. And perhaps one day, you too may be the head of a household name business like the Pottery Barn.

Editor’s Note: For further detail, please read Paul Secon’s New York Times obit [3-7-07], “Paul Secon, Who Helped Found Pottery Barn, Dies at 91.”

In the next KazanToday: An amazing story of a man who overcame seemingly impossible odds to end slavery in the British Empire.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!