The QVC shopping channel, a retailing powerhouse with sales of nearly $5.7 billion last year, put out an open call for new products, and on a recent day 800 entrepreneurs from 50 states and nine foreign countries made the pilgrimage to QVC's West Chester, Penn., headquarters to show their wares and seek their fortunes. Some 2200 more had previously shown up at open calls in other cities
They get ten minutes to convince QVC buyers to put their products on nationwide television before millions of customers eager to order.
It is perhaps the most important ten minutes of their lives, their financial lives anyway.
QVC's Marilyn Montross set up this nationwide decade of discoveries product tour. "It's a very big deal for them, a lot of these folks have pretty much invested everything they have to start a business and these are their dreams," she says.
Mark Kapoyen has come all the way from Arizona, and he's really giving it his all.
"Our flagship product is a pet stain remover and odor eliminator," he says.
Lance Short has a local Italian restaurant and global dreams. He wants the world to taste his lasagna, and his cheesecake.
"I have a grandmother -- 90 years old -- still does our cheesecake," he says. And if he gets a thousand orders? "That she's a little squeamish about, but if we're ready, she'll be ready," he says.
Two men flew in from South Korea with magic shoes: shoes that make you taller, look thinner, more confident, and even richer. Can you really afford not to buy them?
Chris Green, a member of the U.S pizza team - seriously - believes that the world is waiting for rubber pizza dough, for practicing pizza making and for playing the new sport of pizza spinning.
"It's a global phenomenon, pizza spinning, it really is," he says.
Some say this product search is like the American Idol of entrepreneurship.
Montross calls it "sort of a cross between American Idol and the Antiques Road Show."
The entrepreneurs all want to be like Alan Rosen, whose family runs Juniors Restaurant in Brooklyn, and who took its cheesecake to a QVC product search in 1995.
He told his father, "I'm going to show people this company, QVC, our cheesecakes. And he says, 'You can't leave the restaurant during lunch.'"
But his father came around. "We sold 2400 cheesecakes in four minutes." After ten years, he says they've sold over a million cheesecakes.
A select few of today's entrepreneurs advance to the next level of interviews, and Mark Kapoyen gets to make his pitch all over again. If QVC calls, he's ready to go on television. "This was my vision. I mean even at the time we were making it, my vision was QVC. I used to practice in front of the television," he says. "I would watch QVC and on a commercial or if I didn't like the person presenting, I would put it on mute and I would pretend."
"We do have a tendency to change people's lives when their product is successful on QVC. They can go from somebody with a product and a dream to somebody with a very large company," says Montross.
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