Goat Hair Doll Wigs (and Other Small Business Successes)
by Eric Taylor, Attorney, EagerLaw PC
Business ideas can come from anywhere, anytime
That’s something I learned growing up with an entrepreneurial family. One unique idea came after my grandfather retired from a successful career as an apartment developer based out of San Francisco, and my grandparents moved to the Sierra foothills.
My grandmother had seen lambs on neighboring properties and thought they were cute. One day she stopped into the local knitting store and began speaking with the owner about various things. One thing led to another, and it turned out that the owner’s husband had around 50 Angora goats. My grandmother was invited to the property to check out the animals and thought that a couple of them would be great to have at home.
While watching the goats roam the property, my grandmother began to think that she could turn the hair from the goats into a marketable product. These being Angora goats, their hair was very desirable for making wigs for high-end porcelain dolls. Knowing that, my grandmother purchased two goats and set to work having the goats sheared, cleaning the hair, and turning the cleaned hair into a wig.
Though the hair took hours of hard work to clean, she succeeded and developed a wig for her Father Christmas dolls. Based on this initial success, she packaged the materials as a do-it-yourself kit. She returned to the yarn shop with the product, and the owner placed an order right away. This order set in motion what would become the family business I grew up around.
The booming business of goat hair
While all this was going on, my uncle had been selling baby bibs as a work-at-home kit. The idea was that, for a fee, he supplied you with a kit including the raw material, and then you did your best to complete the kit. If you succeeded in completing it, you sent it back to my uncle for inspection and he would hire you if the product passed inspection. My grandfather melded the two ideas together and began selling small work-at-home wig kits to people across the country.
He wrote all the marketing materials and spent hours on the phone with potential customers and work-at-home contractors. People in high rise apartments in the city began hanging goat hair out to dry on their balconies and filled their bathtubs with it.
Eventually my parents purchased the business due to its great success. From there, things continued to grow and grow and grow. As a child I went to numerous trade shows where my mother worked tireless weekends selling the finished products, while my dad took me and my sister on adventures. It was a lot of fun for us. Eventually they tired of this business model and transitioned to a retail toy store, which they owned until 2015.
When I look back on all of this, it seems quite normal to me
Doesn’t everyone’s family talk about cleaning goat hair? All kidding aside, this experience meant that I grew up around regular discussions about new and exciting business ideas, some of which seemed completely crazy, as well as the hardships that come along with running a small, unique business. This vocabulary was bred into me at a young age and has made small business a big part of my life. Many times it’s hard for me to remember that not everyone grew up like this.
As a business lawyer, I really enjoy the opportunity to help small businesses navigate legal issues. It’s fun to come along for the ride with a business as it grows. My small business background allows me to help clients in a unique way as the issues they are dealing with are familiar to me, and I understand the impact that they have on their business. Who knew that a couple of dirty goats could end up helping me define my career?
Eric Taylor is a business attorney with EagerLaw PC. He regularly represents business in a wide range of issues including formation, dissolution, real estate transactions, and employment law issues. Call him at (541) 323-5851. Stay up to date on all Bend business matters with EagerLaw PC on Facebook.