How I Got Here

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It’s a Party!

When people ask me how I got started in business, I ask, “Are you familiar with Home Party Selling? It is amazing how many are not. The most common answers I get are;

 

“No, what’s that?”

“Is it multi-level?”

“Oh, you mean like Tupperware?” 

 

We did not start Empress Pearls with the concept of home party selling in mind.

 

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Originally, I thought that a retail location somewhere in a tourist environment like Balboa Island would be the way to go.

My friend Art Parent and I then opened up a small retail jewelry store; about 500 sq. ft. right next to the local fire station. It was a disaster, and looking back, the signs of its impending doom are quite clear today. We got out of there so fast that I cannot even remember what we named the store.

Art recognized this faster than I did and suggested we do something different.

He had seen a flyer for a Home Show in Reno Nevada.

Our primary product was Pearls, so we came up with a Polynesian theme, built a thatched roof, bamboo hut with a sales counter.

 

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Our concept; but a fraction of this size. 

After toiling all evening building our bamboo hut, and about to open for business, the Fire Marshal came over and asked if our booth had been fire proofed. Art immediately said, “Of course it has, now let us get back to work.“

The fire marshal removed a lighter from of his pocket, reached up to our thatched roof and lit the corner of it on fire. He said, “It looks like you missed some of it.“

We pleaded hopelessly for permission to open. He was nice enough to give us the name of the hardware store that sells an egg-white product that we could paint on our booth to fire proof it. He said, “I will come back and inspect it.” We went to that store, bought that sticky, smelly product and spent all day painting and fireproofing our nice little hut. The fire marshal never came back.

 

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Reno Distraction: 

The show went on day and night for four days. After dinner every night Art would gamble with what little bit of cash we brought in that day. After the last day, we had about $1,200. I went to bed, Art went to the casino. The following morning Art told me that we barely have enough money to get back to California. It was a very long, very quiet, very somber, very life changing drive.

 

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SEVEN People ONE Bathroom 

At this point in our venture Art & his wife Patty, along with their two children, Artie, & Lynnette, were all living in my, recently purchased, 3 Bedroom, ONE bathroom house in Buena Park with me, my wife and my infant son. I don’t know what was Art was thinking while we were driving back to California that day, but we were both terrified at the thought of “facing the wives.”

That’s when it hit me. I suddenly remembered that my sister, a young housewife with two children living in Corona California, had asked me many times if Art & and I could bring our jewelry into her home and sell it to her girlfriends.

 

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LIFE CHANGING PHONE CALL 

This all of a sudden was all that I could think about. We stopped the car and I called my sister from a phone booth, anyone remember those? I told her to get her girlfriends over to the house tonight at 7 PM. She was accustomed to me bossing her around, so she agreed to see what she could put together. I figured that if we drove straight from that phone booth to her house, we could have a “Pearl Party” that evening, and have some grocery money when we got home.

We had our bamboo hut in the car. We had plenty of inventory left over from the Home Show. We re-assembled the bamboo hut in my sister’s living room and that night did more business with her 12 to 15 friends than we did all four days at the Home Show.

Three of my sister’s friends asked if we would do this at their homes. BAM! We were now officially in the Home Party Jewelry Business. The next day Art said, “Ron, do you think we really need that bamboo hut?“

 

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Who Knew?

A decade later we had close to 100 formal offices stretched across the United States with thousands of independent contractor salespeople running pearl parties; anywhere from two or three a month to 20 or 30 a month depending upon what they wanted to get out of the business.

 

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                                                          RIP Buddy 

 

Art Parent and I made great partners. Our interests went in two different directions, mine towards selling; his towards manufacturing and printing, all of which were necessary to keep our company going and growing.

And that it did (for me) until May 1,1981 when I sold my shares to Art and bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii. I arrived in Waikiki knowing no-one. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I was determined that I was never, ever going to leave Hawaii.

 

To finish the story, 90 days into my Hawaiian retirement I got recruited to independently coach a retailer with his business. That’s where I learned how to apply the selling systems we created at Empress Pearls and tweak them to retail. That’s another story…

 

3 Responses to “How I Got Here”

  1. Jim Sharp Says:

    What happened to the business after you moved to Hawaii?

  2. admin Says:

    Jim; It slowly resolved after about three years. Art and his wife both died and Artie turned the company into a printing company, America’s Printer which is going gangbusters.

  3. Steen Says:

    Love this story Ron - thanks for letting me re-live this amazing “coincidental” start of your business life. I think a lot of us would love to hear a bit more about what you did before you met Art?

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