The Business I Did Not Start

My near miss with LeRoy Neiman

Back in the early 1980s, Peggy and I were taken to an open house at the Nutmeg Curling Club in Darien, Conn. We tried the sport and liked it.

Dues were cheap, and curling was a grand diversion over the winter—a sport to enjoy from ages 8 to 80. Fellow members were all party animals. Booze flowed and second-hand cigarette smoke was a fact of life.

I never got good at curling, but Peggy excelled. She traveled to bonspiels (friendly competitions in the northeast) and had a blast. After a few years, her team won the regionals and she went off to compete nationally.

Curling Collectibles
Booths were set up at bonspiels and championship events to sell equipment—brooms, shoes, gloves and clothing.

Others offered stone tchotchkes made from the Ailsa Craig granite island off the coast of Scotland’s Turnberry golf course. It is the only granite in the world suitable for curling stones.

Occasionally a marketer of curling art would exhibit—mostly reproductions of 19th century paintings, prints and etchings. Here were Scotsmen in kilts and tams curling on a frozen pond or canal. The modern prints, drawings and paintings were artistic crap.

Curling pins and patches were coin of the realm among curlers. Every club had a pin and every event was memorialized with a pin.

[See the first image in the media player at upper right for a sampling of Peggy’s curling collectibles.]

My LeRoy Neiman idea
Back then, ABC’s Wide World of Sports was hosted by Jim McKay. Every weekend viewers were offered the consummate coverage of world class competition—sailing, skiing, figure skating, the Triple Crown, track and field, gymnastics and, of course, the Olympics.

The premier sports artist of the time was LeRoy Neiman—a cigar-chomping macho man with a mustache that covered his face from ear to ear. ABC would hire Neiman to paint sports pictures on camera. His trademark was a series of vivid colors and impressionistic images that shimmered with energy and movement.

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Peter Rosenwald

    Another lovely píece.
    And, forgive me, right on the money.
    When we have a ‘great idea’ for a business, after all the first blush enthusiasm, we have to step back and always ask ourselves honestly: "What’s the worst case economic scenario?’ Only then can we align our passion with our reason.
    My father taught me a great lesson. "Never", he cautioned, "bet more than you can afford to lose." That advice didn’t make me rich. But it didn’t break my bank account either.

  • Steve

    What a great story – made my day.

    “Whatever business you want to start, know your arithmetic,” is one of at least ten commandments of a successful business, along with” “Know Your Cash Flow for Survival,” “Follow Ogilvy’s Rules of Advertising, “Ten Lessons I Learned from Shark Tank,” and last but not least, “Incorporate Target Marketing into Your Business (the Secret to Marketing Success) and “Denny Hatch’s Business Common Sense” to be highly successful.

    For many years now, I have benefited from the advice and information of Target Marketing, Denny Hatch and numerous companies that have profiled their services. I would not be in business today without those lessons and advice.

    Although these tenets of business come directly from them, I felt the need to repeat their messate, and add it to Denny’s blog so that they can know that their efforts are appreciated.

    And I look forward to more in the future. I will never grow weary from learning new things that will improve my business.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Whatever business you want to start, know your arithmetic
    Know Your Cash Flow for Survival
    Follow Ogilvy’s Rules of Advertising
    Ten Lessons I Learned from Shark Tank
    Incorporate Target Marketing into your business
    Denny Hatch’s Business Common Sense

  • Ruth Stevens

    Denny, you can take satisfaction that you and Peggy "were curling before curling was cool."

  • Anthony Green

    Delightful piece Denny. Decisions, decisions. You made the right decision – good judgement made from a combination of gut feel and experience. To pay a consultant $10,000 to tell you not to do something can often be the bargain of a lifetime.

  • Judy Colbert

    Will Shortz, New York Times Xword herder, organizes an annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournamernt. For years it was held in Stamford, then moved to Brooklyn, and now will return to Stamford. I don’t know the reason(s) for the move. When I attended, there were about 400 others, about 10% of which were crossnerds. The rest came from all walks of life with educational backgrounds that ranged from high school to multiple advanced degrees. Income brackets ran the gamit.
    Not a lot of souvenir potential – puzzle books, dictionaries, t-shirts. Sounds like a booming. Maybe there’s still time to star a business – before it becomes an Olympic competition and everyone wants in on the act.

  • Marketer

    Grat article but I wish it had worked out for you. Opportunities are all around us but I keep hearing the complaint the " I never had a chance". Back in the 1980’s, we remodelled one of our food stores and went heavily into the emerging field of imported beer. We got the reputation of the greatest beer selection in the area and made some revolutionary moves, such as inventing "make your own 6-pack". By allowing our well to do customers, many from Darien, CT. to mix and try new brands without spending up to $ 20.00 for a brand they had never tried, we build a great business. We also put an adhesive label with our logo on the neck of every single bottle on this display. Opportunity is everywhere.

  • mikewrite

    Great story!

  • Anne Robinson

    Dear Denny:
    Love your column, but this one really hits home. My husband, a scotch drinking curler direct from Highland Curling Club, married me in 1999, we moved to NJ in 2001 and he joined the Plainfield Curling Club. Loved the sport, and now has stopped due to bad knees and age, But mostly he has stopped because the Club went from 150 folks that all knew each other and played well together, to a group of over 500 after the 2006 Winter Olympics made curling popular, too popular if you listen to him. My business uses many curlers for extra Christmas helpers and my right hand lady is a National Champion Curler who has graced the same ice Peggy swept in far away places.
    Peter Max is still doing his pop art posters in bright colors – maybe you can get him to do a series of curling prints, reproduce them on tee shirts, rocks, brooms, even curling kilts! If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again!

  • Armando Ortega

    It was a good decision. I think the representative for the Painter was too greedy. A better price would have opened the market and more money could be made by everyone. Marketing has always been almost-everything.