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I took a good hard look at the miniatures business to see what was currently available and found that there was really a “Cottage Industry,” but no mass production. There seemed to be several artisans making miniature furniture, selling their wares at small shows and in magazine ads.
I found that there were several makers of dollhouses, but no one was producing authentic 1/12th scale components, such as doors, windows, hardware and roof shingles. We gathered a small group, and HOUSWORKS, LTD was formed.
|My son Paul was in charge of sales. Tom Quinn handled graphic design. Betty Nastopoulis managed product design and helped us network with notable miniaturists from around the country. I took responsibility for production, importing and finance. Our first products were a 5-piece set of 1/12th scale clay pots. I recall that we printed a flyer showing the clay pots and a nickel standing on edge to illustrate the size. We then went through every publication on miniatures that we could find and mailed a flyer to every advertiser. I remember “Nutshell News,” a digest sized magazine to which practically every miniaturist subscribed. We placed a small advertisement. Within a week, orders started pouring in for the clay pots, and we had a mailing list.
We listened to advice from miniaturists from all over. We were told many times that miniature collecting was the world’s third most popular collector hobby – surpassed only by stamps and coins. This seemed like a real opportunity for us to make a positive impact on the hobby. Paul contacted people building dollhouses to show them our doors and windows and convinced them to size their openings to accommodate our components.
|In the meantime, production was started on windows, doors, dormers and shingles. Many times Paul and I would be in our warehouse sanding and gluing components to make them perfect before being shipped to our customers.
In Atlanta, we bought machinery, hired operators and started to produce a Williamsburg dollhouse in a leased space next door to our offices. This dollhouse venture was a big mistake because I didn’t have the temperament to manage a factory. If it wasn’t perfect, it was not HOUSEWORKS quality, and it would be rejected. That was the way it had to be. Excellent quality was our standard. It didn’t take us long to realize that we were not meant to be manufacturers, and we proceeded to outsource the dollshouse production.
Within 18 months, Houseworks was off to a flying start. We established a network of wholesale distributors and dealers worldwide. Our product line was growing and was the leading source for the miniatures industry. In order for our business to grow, we realized early on that we had to do something to perpetuate the hobby. A gathering of local miniaturists in Atlanta was organized, and this was the start of the Atlanta Miniature Society, which Houseworks initially funded. Shortly thereafter, we arranged a meeting in Chicago with other manufacturers and importers to form a trade organization for miniatures and to run an annual trade show for our industry. We co-founded the MINIATURES INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION of AMERICA. Several years later, Paul became president of this association.
Houseworks needed to expand its product line. Our business plan was to grow 25% a year for the first five years. When I went to the bank to talk about our needs, the banker thought we were crazy. He had never heard of dollhouse miniatures being a business. So, we did it without the bank’s help. After three years, the bank was calling us to offer help.
As I look back over the years, what we did was create a fun business that was creative, profitable and fulfilling. Customers and vendors became close friends that we cherish to this day. It’s these realities that make it all worthwhile, even now. Thank you for your interest in Houseworks, and here's to the next 35 years.