By Peter L. Morse AIA
Years ago, a former neighbor of mine, Jill Morse Menezes and I used to get together and have long chats about everything under the sun. Although we weren’t related, our common family name Morse was a good springboard for us to become kindred spirits of sorts. Her knowledge of the business world was fascinating and she always had a good eye popping story to tell.
One of her favorite topics of discussion was business development and entrepreneurship.
Jill and her husband Fred were successful entrepreneurs in their own right. They had established an inner city pizza shop; first on Thurston Road, then moving their growing business to Chili Avenue. Their business thrived in what seemed to be a rough and untenable neighborhood. Jill had the business savvy to negotiate a tough setting, and make their business thrive. One of her favorite sayings was that she understood the concept of recognizing a “narrow, but deep market”. Nothing could be have been more true in her case, recognizing the unique success of her and her husband’s own business.
Jill had a cousin, Richard Morse, she often spoke fondly of. Like me, Richard too was an Architect who resided in Massachusetts and was my age. Jill was very proud of her cousin and really wanted us to get together sometime to compare notes. Sadly that never happened.
She told me on day about Richard’s special entrepreneurial skills in a fascinating story.
Apparently, Richard also had a passion for Concertinas. You know, those squeeze box music makers that gypsies play. You almost never see them in this country unless you see them in the movies. Richard would collect Concertinas, lovingly fix them up and then sell them. Doing this while conducting his own architectural practice day to day, he began to seek more and more of them out, fix them up when he could, and then sell them. As the interest in his project grew he expanded his exposure; this time on the internet.
As more and more of these Concertinas were found, fixed up and resold, something happened that Richard was not intending to have happen. His hobby, love and passion for these unusual musical instruments was growing and thriving. He set up a small shop in his hometown, and began to formally establish a small store. One day, he had a surprise visitor drop by. A businessman from Japan came into his shop and proclaimed; “I’ll take……….all of these”, and bought out Richard’s entire inventory.
Richard needed to find more Concertinas to replenish his dwindling supply, but the availability of these used instruments was now in extremely short supply. He then, with the technical knowledge gained of how they worked and were made from his years of experience fixing them up, began making brand new Concertinas for a market that was previously unknown and now discovered. He hired twelve people and within a short period of time, was grossing more than two million dollars a year in sales.
Most of us, right about now after listening to this story would have to decide whether or a “hobby turned business” such as this was going to interfere with our own main source of income, investigate it and develop it more, or just pass it over. Obviously, Richard did respond to the new opportunity. But he did in the most elemental of ways. He loved what he was doing, and the market his was presenting his merchandise in, responded accordingly.
Richard’s original motivation however, was not the money. He had no real original intentions for this to become a business. He was first driven by his own passion, interest, and love of these musical instruments. Staying focused on this topic, he became knowledgeable and proficient in building fine quality instruments.
Opportunity will come to all of us at some point and gently tap us on the shoulder. Whether or not you answer the call to address it is up to each of us. Remember don’t do it for the money. Do it because you love it. Love what you do first, and the rest will follow.
Sadly, Richard Morse died of Cancer in 2009. His Concertina business however survived him. You can read more about his business “The Button Box” on the web at: http://www.buttonbox.com/Rich.html
Peter L. Morse is a local architect, interested in business development and entrepreneurship.