Robert Ellis considered a long list of business ideas before starting Bavarian Clockworks, a business that makes cuckoo clocks from the Black Forest region of Germany.
Learn more about the business and how it operates in this very specific niche in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Sells authentic Black Forest cuckoo clocks.
Ellis told Small Business Trends, “Our clocks are made by clockmakers in the Black Forest region in southwestern Germany, an area with over 300 years of history producing authentic cuckoo clocks. Wood carvers and clockmakers in the Black Forest are considered the best in the world.”
Offering attention to detail and top notch customer service.
Ellis says, “We want our customers to be blown away when doing business with us. We want them to be so happy with their purchase that they decide to recommend our company and products to their friends and family. As a small business, we want each of our customers to feel like their experience with us was personal and unique. We believe the personal touch and connection with each customer is something larger competitors can’t offer.”
How the Business Got Started
As a niche passion project.
Ellis explains, “Before starting Bavarian Clockworks I ran an insurance business. Although it was a profitable, it did not move me anymore. I had lost the passion. I wanted to begin a new venture and challenge. My goal was to start an ecommerce company in an industry that was large enough to support a growing company and that was not saturated with competition. After analyzing a variety of different markets, I decided upon the cuckoo clock industry.”
Finding the right suppliers.
Ellis says, “Establishing those relationships and getting preferred pricing has allowed us to compete on a global scale rather than just the US market. That took a lot of work and did not happen overnight but it took our business to a new level.”
Starting the business in the first place.
Ellis says, “I had already been running a successful insurance agency, which I decided to sell. It was a big risk to take, especially considering Bavarian Clockworks was nothing more than an idea at the time. Most people become more risk averse as they move later into their career. However, that hasn’t been the case for me. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial itch.”
Progress over perfection.
Ellis explains, “I would have spent a lot less time trying to make everything perfect out of the gate and just gotten on with the operation. Since you can’t plan for all contingencies anyway, you are better off starting out with a good foundation and making adjustments quickly and decisively as you grow. Our early revenue would have been better for it.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Expansion and security.
Ellis says, “I would continue expanding inventory and fulfillment capacity and by doing so negotiate more favorable price terms with suppliers. I would also fortify our cash position in order to weather any potential storm.”
Wally the dog.
Ellis explains, “He is a loyal Mini-Schnauzer that as a puppy slept at my feet as I developed our brand from an idea. Since he was there supporting the business from the beginning I decided to make him a permanent fixture on our site. He can be seen on the homepage of our website and even has a section highlighting his favorite clocks, all of which have dogs on them. Wally is German, fiercely loyal, intrigued by cuckoo clocks, and has spent many hours patrolling the shop. He is a great companion and protector of our brand.”
“The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.” – Henry Ford
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Images: Bavarian Clockworks, Second image: Robert Ellis