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 March 25, 2011

Clock-in to your passion each day

Jim Mofhitz of Wellington established his business, Humorous Clocks, in 1981, when he noticed his part-time hobby as a clock maker – his first true venture in the arts and crafts industry – was earning more than his day job in accounting.

During the craft show season, Mofhitz works almost around the clock – 12 hours a day, seven days a week – but he says it never feels like work; it still feels like a hobby, even though he makes a couple thousand clocks a year. He thinks that’s a critical common element among successful entrepreneurs: They work long hours, but the hours rarely feel like work because when you are doing something you are passionate about, something that fulfills a deep purpose within you. You’ll be at it for hours upon hours, and it’ll feel effortless.

Mofhitz has two employees, and used to pay $100 per design to a professional calligrapher and printer to execute the clock faces he designed. Today he uses Corel Draw, and you can’t tell the difference between what was done by a calligrapher and what was done by the computer. He admits he initially resisted moving over to the computer because it was “uncomfortable,” but today he can create any customized clock face for virtually no cost.

Computers help the business in another way, too. In addition to his craft show appearances, Mofhitz estimates that 8 percent of his sales now come through his Humorous Clocks website at www.humorousclocks.com.

Mofhitz plans to include the Greeley Arts Picnic at the end of July in his itinerary this year, and feels lucky that he’s found a way to turn his hobby into a way to pay the bills.

Q: Which came first, the problem or the solution?

A: I love woodworking. The detail and quality of clocks is appreciated, and I have pride in what I build. The humorous clocks used to represent only a small part of what I took to craft shows, but turned out to be my biggest seller. Today I have over 250 different clocks, and commonly do custom orders allowing my clients to have a unique one-of-a-kind clock.

Q: Did you use a business plan?

A: Not a formal one, but I do have to plan out which craft shows I want to participate in each year because you have to submit your applications early, and I also need to build up enough inventory.

Q: The passion that it fills for you personally?

A: I love going to the craft shows and meeting so many interesting people. The appreciation I receive from others who enjoy my product is rewarding.

Q: What was the genesis of the idea?

A: I was making clocks as a hobby when people started asking me to make clocks for them. When I noticed my part-time hobby as a clock maker was earning more than my job as a controller, I decided to go for it full time. In one of my first craft shows, the Gilroy Garlic Festival, I made more in two days than I did in a month as a controller.

Q: Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years?

A: Retired. Not sure if the business will be viable enough to sell or not, but I would like to see someone who is as passionate about the craft as I am to continue making the product.

Q: What were your biggest challenges?

A: Traveling as much as 229 days a year, and having leftover inventory.

Q: Are there one or two things you can attribute your success to?

A: My background as an accountant has helped me stay in business by staying focused on the numbers. You need to be careful not to overspend, and be realistic on the profits. I use a spreadsheet that highlights the most important indicators of whether or not a show I did made any money or not.

Q: Do you recommend an MBA? Any other resources?

A: No on the MBA, but you do need to understand how business works. Too many people in the craft business get buried because they lack common business sense. For resources a couple of great sites are Festival Network Online at festivalnet.com and The Crafts Report at craftreporter.com.

Q: Are there any areas where you need help?

A: Online marketing. If I could get (website sales) numbers up, I would be able to travel fewer days a year.

Q: Anything else?

A: I am always surprised at the number of people who work craft shows but have never looked back to see if it was profitable. I keep track of every show I have a booth at using a spreadsheet. Some are worth my time, others are not. Occasionally, I’ve even taken a loss. It helps me decide which shows to attend each year and which ones to pass up.

Brian Schwartz is the founder of 50 Interviews Inc., and can be reached at www.50interviews.com.

Jim Mofhitz of Wellington established his business, Humorous Clocks, in 1981, when he noticed his part-time hobby as a clock maker – his first true venture in the arts and crafts industry – was earning more than his day job in accounting.

During the craft show season, Mofhitz works almost around the clock – 12 hours a day, seven days a week – but he says it never feels like work; it still feels like a hobby, even though he makes a couple thousand clocks a year. He thinks that’s a critical common element among successful entrepreneurs:…

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