NEWS TOPICS and Internet and Startup and Small Business

Little Rox revisits '70s Pet Rocks fad

November 24, 2008
Type of business: Inspirational gifts

Phone: 696-1367

E-mail: rs@littlerox.com

Web site: littlerox.com

Location: 1501 W. Market St., 46222

Founded: April 2008

Owners: Ron Sukenick, Joe Newman and Bill Vernon

Owners' background: Sukenick, 59, founded The Relationship Strategies Institute, a locally based consulting firm focused on developing business relationships. He's also a professional speaker and author who spent 17 years in the music industry.

Newman, 74, is the CEO of the Indianapolis-based American Basketball Association and of the World Basketball Cup. Vernon, 38, is the president of local Internet design company Omega Design Studio, which put Little Rox's Web site together and maintains it.

Why started business: When a friend visiting from Little Rock, Ark., asked Sukenick what he should bring as a gift, Sukenick jokingly answered, "little rocks." But that off-handed remark got him thinking about rocks as gifts — much like the creators of the widely popular Pet Rocks of the 1970s did.

The result was Little Rox — 20 varieties of rocks, each tied to a character trait such as humility, honesty and tolerance, that he sells online for $15. Sukenick wants his rocks to change the way people look at the world.

Competitive advantage: There's not a lot of direct competition, aside from other inspirational gifts. Sukenick tries to make his product stand out by packaging the rocks in a small box with a booklet that tells the Little Rox story and a card with information about the character trait the rock represents.

Sukenick said that he thinks people will be attracted to the message behind them and also the way that they can buy it for someone to promote character in children or adults.

"I think that people want to feel good about what they do," Sukenick said.

Startup costs: $40,000

Funding source: Self-funded with one investor

Projected first-year revenue: $100,000

Potential problem and contingency plan: Not many people connect rocks with character development, and Sukenick said this could cause issues for his business. He hopes that better publicity will make that connection in people's minds.

Also, some of the organizations Sukenick pitched Little Rox to didn't respond the way he had hoped.

"Not everyone really gets 'character,'" he said.

First-year goal: The Boy Scouts of America and groups like them represent a great market for Sukenick. He envisions having Scouts sell Little Rox like they currently sell popcorn. He said that he is pitching the idea to them, but is uncertain how they will respond. Sukenick is also reaching out to church organizations and The Boys and Girls Club of America to promote the rocks.

Five-year vision: Eventually, he'd like to get national and international attention for the rocks and have them recognized as a good, wholesome gift idea.
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