As a casualty of corporate down-sizing a decade ago, but armed with an MBA and computer industry experience, Dean Hanley decided to take the opportunity to start his own web-based business. His choice of product drew some strange reactions.
“When I told people that I was going to sell baseball cards for a living, they would either stare in disbelief or break out in laughter,” he recalled.
Luckily, things turned out just fine. May of 2011 will mark Hanley’s tenth year as owner of Deans Cards.com. With over 1.2 million cards in stock, Hanley claims to have the largest inventory of sports cards on the web.
Unlike traditional sports cards stores, Dean’s counts on the internet for 100% of its sales. To keep expenses low, Hanley started the business out of his basement. Since he is a card collector, Hanley used himself as model for the type of customer that he wanted to attract.
“My goal was to create a store where I would love to shop, that also had the best selection of cards available anywhere,” Hanley explained. “We do not have a physical store for people to visit, so our website has to be fast, easy, safe and fun. “
Sports cards collectors have certainly responded. DeansCards.com now averages over 1000 unique visitors a day to its online store and the company’s revenues have grown an average of 35% annually. Hanley has over one million vintage sports cards posted online, eight full-time employees and does business out of a 3,000 sq ft office in Oakley, Ohio, not far from Cincinnati.
The one piece of advice that Hanley gives to fellow entrepreneurs is “try to become the foremost expert on the products that you sell”, and he has certainly taken his own advice. He writes a popular blog about vintage card sets, writes articles for other sites, and was recently featured on a series of “How To” videos on collecting sports cards . Dean is also releasing two books on vintage cards and has been chosen to appear as a subject matter expert on a new documentary-type game show series – scheduled to air later this year.
“Looking back, I guess the decision to sell baseball cards was a big risk,” said Hanley. “I was not sure if I could make a living out of my boyhood hobby, but I knew that I would have a lot of fun trying, so I totally threw myself into building the best internet store possible. It has been a great ten years, and it will fun to see what the next decade will bring.”