Chapter One: How it all began

In all likelihood, you have come across this adage “Most people are too busy earning a living to make any money”. This is definitely true, particularly if you are a salaried individual. This is often the case even with people who are self-employed, more so if they charge by the hour, or perform some tasks wherein they are paid a standard fee for the work.

This was the story of my life, just five short years ago. At 27 years of age, I was spending about 70 hours every week at work. This included weekends as well and also a couple of nights every week when I got home not before 2 in the morning. Although you could say that I was earning a decent living for someone my age; like a lot of others, there was not much money left over after the mortgage had been paid and all the other day-to-day expenses were taken care of.

I was certain that there was a better way; the only problem was I didn’t know what. Watching a lot of advertisements about promising ‘get rich quick’ schemes, I even tried a few of them, but unfortunately not a single one lived up to its exaggerated promises. Seems like the lone thing I did not do was to stuff my garage with costly stocks of cleaning supplies through those pyramid selling plans, which were so famous some years back.

And just like that, one fine day, I came upon something that was the break I’d been searching for all this time. Like a lot of great business ideas, this is a straightforward idea; but unlike many schemes, it doesn’t require you to purchase large stocks or work an entire day to earn good money. At an average, I only work 2-3 hours per week on this work, and for every 10 items that I handle, I make as much as I was earning on my full time job.

So, what do I do exactly? I obtain the select rights for distribution of any item from its maker, and then I simply sell that right to another person.

Let me start by telling you how it all began, and then you’ll know that there is no lack of prospects here, and how you too can make this idea work for you by utilising your own knowledge. My very first idea was linked to the catering business, but you will come up with various other ideas that are connected to your existing line of work. You should put your idea down on paper as soon as it enters your head – never let a good thought slip away!

Here’s how it all came together…..

My entire working life revolved around the food industry as I owned my own catering business and also ran a nice little sandwich deli of my own. In my sandwich shop, we would prepare different sandwich fillings everyday and then display the fillings in chilled units for our customers to choose from. I thought the visual display needed to be spiced up a little, so I would spend hours carving tomato roses, and swans from lemons to create a nice and attractive finishing touch to the visual display.

The only problem was that the carvings would last just two days at the most and I’d have to spend hours recreating them. Thus, every second day, I’d waste a lot of time making the carvings. Not exactly waste, but you get the gist.

This got me thinking that perhaps there must be someone who could supply them pre-prepared so that my time could be better utilised elsewhere.

I called up all the catering suppliers that I could find and asked them if they could help me with my requirements. All of them had the same two things to tell me: none of them had pre-prepared food carvings, but all of them agreed that it was a super idea and hoped they were obtainable.

I was losing patience and preparing to give up. Then one day, at a friend’s place, I happened to notice some pre-prepared ornamental food carvings which my friend had got back from a trip to the Far East as a souvenir for his kids. The only problem was they were plastic and I thought that would detract from the quality image I was trying to portray in the shop. But when I saw the product in my hand they were so lifelike they were perfect….

My friend gave me the number of the place where he picked them up and I called up the given number, which was one in the Far East.

“Hi, may I be of assistance?” an Oriental woman enquired.

“Hi, I’m calling from England”, I replied. “Could you inform me who your supplier is in England?” “I’m sorry; we do not have a supplier in England.”

“Oh, alright”, I said. “Could you let me know who you have supplied to in the United Kingdom or Europe?”

Once again, “I’m sorry; we have never supplied to anybody outside the Far East.”

At that moment, the thought came to me.

“Would you be willing to let me have the exclusive UK rights to sell your merchandise?” I enquired.

She answered, “Sure!”

“Would you also be willing to let me have the exclusive European rights too?” I enquired.

Once again, the same answer: “Sure!!”

To be honest, I had no notion of what to do after that, but I intuitively knew that I had something great on hand. I had chanced upon such an item that was not to be had anywhere in all of UK and Europe, and I would soon have the exclusive rights to the product. Just the thought had me so keyed up that I was even ready to foot the expenses for drawing up the legal papers and dispatching them to the Far East.

I’ve learnt my lesson about that. But I do know that trying to obtain the solitary rights to an item is not preposterous, even though it may sound that way. You’re essentially telling the other person that you think their product is good. Nobody would ever be affronted by that, and they sure are not going to turn their noses up at the thought of having an entire new market for their goods. Any foreign business would spend thousands of pounds to start a European branch, and here you are – doing it practically for free. Since you are already based here, it would be very easy for you to build the required contacts, which the company would find quite hard to do.

So, that’s what I started to do – build those contacts. I called up all the catering suppliers I had spoken to earlier, and they all were thrilled to know that the item I was looking for before would now be obtainable. And then came the bolt from the blue – they needed me to stock a warehouse full of goods, so that the product would be available as and when the need arose. This meant that I would need to get an entire load of pre-prepared ornamental carved display foods, spend money on storing them, some more money to insure the goods, and then distribute them; all of which would cost me thousands of pounds! This was certainly not what I wanted!

After this, I decided to approach the producers of other types of table and unit displays. Their Sales and Marketing department was quite excited. They enquired whether I could give them sole rights to the product, in return for which they were prepared to pay me a royalty. This got me really excited and then the CEO of the company burst my bubble.

According to him, the plastic food carvings would be competing with his table display products. With plastic ornamental food carvings on the scene, people would not use his products, thus decreasing his sales. “Thanks, but we’ll pass” was his decision. Here I learned an important lesson. Any new item should not decrease sales of present goods, but add to them, thereby providing users a wider selection.

I discussed my dilemma with a customer, and he told me, “Get in touch with the source.”

“And who would that be?” I inquired.

“Those who produce the real goods – bigger food carvings and ice carvings”, he said.

Initially, I thought it was not a very great idea. Obviously, if they had the marketplace cornered with bigger food carvings and ice carvings, they would probably not be fascinated at the idea of an alternative. But then it struck me that my product was not an alternative. I had small plastic food carving displays, which would perfectly complement the bigger ones. Thus, I grabbed the Yellow Pages and called up the first number.

I talked to the Managing Head and he was so thrilled with my idea that he hopped on to an airplane the very next morning and met with me. By the end of the day, we had reached an agreement wherein he would pay me a royalty on whatever sales of the pre-prepared ornamental food carvings he managed, and I left with a cheque in my pocket. Yes, there were some formalities to complete and loose ends to tie up, but that was just a little administrative work. The deal was on.

From then, till now, I have obtained and re-sold the sole rights of various other goods such as:

  • A product for gift wrapping presents in balloons
  • A device for keeping open bin bags
  • A collapsible bin
  • A series of novelty door knobs
  • Vending machines
  • A device for rocking babies to sleep
  • A bracket for holding paint tins on ladders

By reading all this, you are probably realising that here’s an idea which may work well for you too. You may have, in all likelihood, even come up with some possible ideas about goods that you can handle. Even if you haven’t, worry not. That’s what I’m going to do – educate you about how to search for goods and products, and come up with ideas, which will enable you to strike your own deals and earn handsome royalties.

The Appendix has a few sample agreements, which can be altered as per your individual needs.

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