Creating demand for a collectible that's been around for decades isn't easy.
But serial entrepreneur and Internet marketer Andrew Hazen and his father, Michael, looked at the high number of online searches performed for bobbleheads and saw an opportunity.
Together they formed FadToys.com in 1998, buying bobbleheads wholesale and selling them on the Internet.
But after 12 years in business, they realized annual sales had capped at $200,000 and they needed to make some changes.
"We needed an edge," said Michael Hazen, 67, noting margins are slim when you're competing online selling a product that retails on average for $19.95.
On top of that, "bobbleheads are pretty stale and stagnant just as an overall concept," said Hofstra University business professor Joel Evans. To stand out, you need a differentiator, said Evans.
For the Hazens, that meant changing their business model from buying wholesale to manufacturing their own custom bobbleheads -- and bringing on a new partner who could help kick-start sales.
The Hicksville-based company started the transition around 2010, when Michael Hazen found a manufacturer in China to make custom dolls. Their first break was getting the license that year to make Michael Jackson bobbleheads, manufacturing 100,000 pieces, said Andrew Hazen, 40.
But their inexperience in importing and moving that much product in traditional brick-and-mortar locations made them think they needed some help, he said.
A friend introduced the Hazens to Stewart Barnett, a public accountant who had co-owned a regional bicycle manufacturer. Barnett had a strong background in importing and sales and brought a new energy to their company, Michael Hazen said.
Within six months of joining the company in 2010, Barnett unloaded the 100,000 Michael Jackson pieces through various retail channels.
As part of their shift to making custom bobbleheads, they changed the name of the company to AllBobbleheads.com, creating a portal in 2011 where customers can design their own personalized custom bobbleheads by uploading photos, said Barnett, 59.
They sell them for $85 to $250, compared with $19.95 for stock bobbleheads.
A call from Groupon in late 2010 to sell their bobbleheads at a discount to its 50-million plus subscribers boosted growth.
But initially the company wasn't equipped to handle the amount of orders they received and drew ire via some negative online reviews from customers complaining about slow delivery and customer service issues. "In three days, we took in 10,000 orders," explained Andrew Hazen.
At the time, they only had one manufacturing facility overseas. They've since added three more and changed the Groupon offer from six-to- eight-week delivery to nine to 12 weeks, said Barnett. They've also more than doubled their customer service team.
"Like any other company we went through some growing pains," said Michael Hazen, noting they've boosted sales to nearly $10 million.
They even have some celebrity clients such as Eric Trump, who said in an email that Andrew Hazen has been "incredibly generous to The Eric Trump Foundation over the past few years by creating amazing bobbleheads to benefit the children of St. Jude."
The company recently signed a deal to make custom bobbleheads featuring NHL team jerseys and is pursuing other sports licensing deals, Michael Hazen said.
"This is a really big deal," said Barnett. "It's going to really propel our holiday business."
AT A GLANCE
Name AllBobbleheads.com in Hicksville
Officers Andrew Hazen, chief executive officer; Michael Hazen, chief operating officer; Stewart Barnett, president
Product Custom bobbleheads; the company produces more than 65,000 a year
Revenue Nearly $10 million
Correction: A table running online in an earlier version of this story misstated the company's revenue.