Teen forced to close fair booth
Wednesday, August 03, 2005 - Bangor Daily News
Entrepreneur couldn't afford $5,000 for liability insurance
BANGOR - Sometimes an early start can help, but it doesn't always make the first part of the road toward success any less bumpy.
Ben Bustard, 17, found that out this week when he tried his hand at selling homemade toys at the Bangor State Fair.
The budding entrepreneur from Bucksport came up with the $100 he initially was told he needed for $1 million worth of liability insurance, but he shut his booth down Tuesday after the projected cost rose to several thousand dollars.
"It's frustrating because it's a product that I know sells really well," Bustard said Tuesday afternoon.
Bustard was selling Marshmallow Shooters, a type of blowgun made from PVC pipe that shoots small marshmallows, similar to the way a cork flies out of the end of a popgun.
He said that last Friday, the first day of the fair, he made about $700 by selling 70 of the toys for $9.95 apiece.
Fair officials initially let Bustard sell the homemade items while he was waiting for insurance approval.
After failing to get insurance through a rider on the city's policy, and then finding out his business could not be insured through his parents' homeowner policy, Bustard was faced with either paying a $5,000 premium for his own policy or having to close his booth. He chose the cheaper option.
"As a high school kid, I can't afford a $5,000 premium," he said.
Mike Dyer, director of the city-owned Bass Park, where the fair is held, said Tuesday that the shooters were not on the city's "do not insure" list, so he sent it to the city's insurer for approval.
The insurer, however, determined that a rider for Ben's business on the city's policy was not acceptable.
"It's the ultimate business lesson," Dyer said of the experience.
According to Bustard's father, Ken Bustard, the insurance cost was aggravated by the type of device his son was selling. Benjamin came across the shooter design on the Internet and, after building one, decided it would be a popular thing to sell, the father said.
"The challenge is that it is not an established product," Ken Bustard said. "The insurance thing made the whole thing impractical."
Benjamin bought the PVC piping in bulk, went through the necessary licensing paperwork, and invested $2,000 in making 500 of the toys, according to his father. He hoped to gross $5,000 over the nine days of the fair.
"He would have done well," Ken said. "He would have averaged 100 or so [sales] a day."
Benjamin said that "99 percent" of the response to his product was positive. After shutting his booth down Tuesday, he took a shooter with him when he visited a friend at a local hospital, where again the device proved to be a hit.
"Now I have nurses asking to buy some," he said.
The young businessman plans to do more research on insurance companies to see if he can find one with a cheaper premium.
He also plans to sell his remaining inventory by word-of-mouth and maybe at other upcoming fairs.
"It was difficult [to shut the booth down]," Ken Bustard said. "People really liked it."
He should move down south. This is maine right? Or Canada?