Twin Passions Lead to Major League Business Opportunity
It's a common story for a personal passion to lead to a business opportunity. For one Connecticut entrepreneur it was the convergence of two passions -- baseball and art -- that launched her on the road to success.
"Well, I grew up listening to the Red Sox on the radio, and on the only station that we had on our TV, you know, back in the Seventies. And my dad was a baseball coach and an umpire, so we just grew up with the Red Sox as sort of part of the family."
Peg Connery Boyd passed that passion on to her three boys, Kevin, Ian and Colin, who became regulars at the Mystic Little League field. But while baseball was a pastime and passion, the business idea didn't strike until one particular family vacation.
"We were planning a road trip for my three boys. We were going to go to Cape Cod for a couple of days to visit my family and then we were going to come back to Fenway Park. And I was looking for something for my middle son specifically, who was about nine, to do in the back seat of the car that wasn't electronic, just to take a break from the screen time. And he was obsessed with the Red Sox, so I went looking for a Red Sox activity book for him and I was really surprised that I couldn't find one."
Connery Boyd had been taking figure drawing classes, so taking matters into her own hands, she drew some players for her son herself, and started making an activity book. After a couple of years of drawing only for her sons and their friends, she decided to take a crack at the big leagues.
"We sent it to Major League Baseball, and I didn't know where it was going to go, honestly."
She had her timing just right. Major League Baseball was in search of new products for kids, and in 2006, they licensed her to produce official activity books and with that, she launched Hawk's Nest Publishing.
"This is a new edition that we came out with this year, and it's filled with activities like find the difference games, and mazes and crossword puzzles......"
The books, a little like baseball itself, have a nostalgic feel.
"It's kind of a throwback product, you know, to when I was a little girl."
For Connery Boyd the ability to turn her pastimes into a business was a dream come true.... up to a point.
"The beginning was very happy, but then the reality hit of owning a business. Once the first inventory sells then you have to replace that inventory and where is the money for printing more books going to come from? How am I going to do all this myself?"
It was a huge learning curve. But her background as an IT consultant and her willingness to seek help and advice saw her through the growing pains.... Including some rather unexpected issues that cropped up.
"We don't have so many players in the mix anymore because we've learned, the hard way, that players move from team to team. I was actually working on an image of Johnny Damon when he went from the Red Sox to the Yankees."
She also credits the support of many local booksellers and toy stores in Connecticut for helping her launch. Now, seven years on, her books are sold in most stadiums and supported by the teams - the Yankees made a major purchase to give away in inner city schools. This year a loan from the state of Connecticut has allowed Hawks Nest to publish 12 titles.
"In that growth our sales increased tremendously. We're having our best quarter ever. We just hit 50k in sales -- for us that's a big number -- I know for some people it may not be. And over the course of the lifetime of Hawk's Nest we've sold over a hundred thousand books."
Connery Boyd just took on her first employee, and she has her sights set on even bigger things.
"I would love to get the NFL involved. There's a huge opportunity there. We can go really far -- we have a lot of potential. I don't really think we're scratching the tip of the iceberg yet."