America is famous for its rags-to-riches success stories, but Jay Kamhi of Kamhi World (ToyShow) started out with just a blanket. How did he go from selling toys on the streets to running a multimillion dollar company? In this issue of TDmonthly Magazine, Kamhi shares his personal story of a “family guy” who paid attention, learned from his mistakes and is making a fortune.
| “You have lots of energy when something is your purpose.” — Jay Kamhi, Kamhi World
I was a street vendor in New York City for 15 years. My day consisted of putting down a blanket on the street and hoping I made enough money before the cops came and closed me down.
It was a unique approach to marketing: I just had enough time to do what would get the customer's attention, get them over to my stand and buy as soon as possible.
I felt like I wasn't qualified to do anything else. Every time I worked in a regular office, I'd get tired and want to fall asleep. But I needed money, so I thought I'd sell something.
All of a sudden the energy was created; you have lots of energy when something is your purpose.
Then, in 1999, the Beanie Baby craze hit. Some were going for $10,000.
I found out that Ty Warner had just opened a market in Germany. I got a friend to translate a postcard for me, offering to buy Beanie Babies for $50 a piece. We worked on it for two months, to target it to the conservative German market.
I sent it to an acquaintance in Germany, and asked him to send out 10,000 postcards via Bertelsmann AG, the publishing and marketing company, to the stores who were just getting Beanie Babies.
We sent it out, and we're waiting for the phone to ring and nothing happened! I thought, “Wow, this can't be happening!”
I called Bertelsmann and they assured me they’d sent out the postcards. But I kept calling, and sure enough they discovered that they hadn’t sent them out; they were all sitting in the corner of an office.
They sent out the mailing and two days later my German acquaintance e-mailed me, “Omigod! The phone has not stopped ringing all day!”
I started bringing Beanie Babies in for $50, and selling them for $300 on the Home Shopping Network. We literally made millions of dollars.
Then I started making my own stuff.
Everything I’d saved from Beanie Babies, I used to make a set of dolls called Trash Talkers. They said funny but R-rated things when you hit their heads. The dolls sold everywhere.
One day, Ivy, my youngest daughter, said to me, “Daddy, I don't like your dolls. They're not nice. I can't play them for people at school.”
I decided not to make them anymore and instead made the Spice Mice. We sold over 1 million. Kids could take them to school, they were on Regis & Kelly three times and in Family Circle … but the price margin was so low (because of details like real leather jackets), that I went broke.
That was my lesson about profit margins: I could sell tons of a product and make no money.
At that point, I said, “What can I do that already has built-in publicity?” That’s how I came up with licensed products.
My kids can bring these to school, and they have a better profit margin. We’ve done millions and millions of dollars worth of business.
Our Family Guy line's going great. We’re in major retailers across the country and our distributors are doing fantastic with it. And we just licensed “Nacho Libre,” starring Jack Black.
It doesn’t matter where you start. Name your goal, want it and then get it.
See Jay show off some Kamhi products at this year's Toy Fair: Watch Video
What follows is more information on Kamhi products.
Officially licensed by Fox, these four collectible Family Guy Talking Pens each say six different lines from memorable Family Guy episodes — in each Family Guy character's own voice! Stewie, Brian, Peter and Quagmire are there to provide advice and comfort any time their pen top is clicked. These are great fun for school, the office or home.
One of the most memorable characters in movie history, the 40-year-old virgin Andy Stitzer has now been immortalized in this finely sculpted talking figure. Sculpted by famed American artist Paul Brooke, this talking doll says nine different lines from the hit movie, "The 40 Year Old Virgin," in Andy’s own voice. He proudly stands with hands on hips, wearing nothing but his boxer shorts and a smile. His chest hair has been recently waxed. Hear Andy Say ... "It loses its value if you take it out of its packaging!" "Is it true that if you don't use it, you lose it?" and many more memorable lines.
Sculpted by Paul Brook, the high-quality PVC figure stands 7 3/4" tall on his sound platform. Each talking doll comes individually packaged in a clear plastic tube that contains additional artwork from the movie. Batteries are replaceable. Top quality 57mm speaker and integrated electronics produce fantastic sound quality at just the right volume. The doll recites 18 different lines from the movie, "Napoleon Dynamite."
— “Napoleon Dynamite”: Released in U.S.: June 11, 2004. Total U.S. Gross: $44,540,956. A surprise cult hit, Napoleon has made his way into the American psyche, and now the toy makers are scooping up the lucre. Kamhi World’s Napoleon is the fastest-selling of the bunch according to retailers.
— “All of a sudden, stores are selling out of the Napoleon doll and calling us,” explained Jay Kamhi, owner of Kamhi World, Clearwater, Fla. “It's really amazing. This may be due to the upcoming release of the collector's edition of the DVD movie.”
— “BLOCKBUSTER! NUMBER-1 SELLER — CAN’T GET ENOUGH ...” shouted Brett Dewey, “Oh, wait; that was December. After Christmas we saw a dramatic drop-off in Napoleon D sales. He's still selling but has gone from our number one property to a much slower mover.”