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Business growth: From the garage to $100k monthly turnover

As people returned to old hobbies during lockdown, Cameron Knapp’s Cards Plus trading card and collectables business thrived. Here’s how he’s continuing to make a niche interest a big success.

At a glance

  • Cards Plus started as a side business in Cameron Knapp’s garage, and was turning over around $3,000 to $5,000 each month.
  • Stock soon became a barrier to growth, so when he had the opportunity to secure a large stock order, Cameron jumped at it.
  • With one day to pay the invoice, Cameron turned to Prospa and, with a small business loan funded within 24 hours, was able to secure the stock.

Cameron Knapp remembers well the afternoons of his childhood spent buying and swapping trading cards at Takapuna’s Card Crazy. The feeling of opening a pack of cards and finding that one gem was like unwrapping a Willy Wonka chocolate bar and finding the golden ticket.

“We could easily spend a whole afternoon there. It was a really big hobby for me for about five years,” Cameron says.

Like all childhood hobbies, it didn’t last forever. But then, about four years ago, Cameron again became interested in his old passion and started a group on Facebook where he was selling small, inexpensive boxes of trading cards.

“It was good fun and there was a great sense of community,” he remembers.

Cameron’s garage was HQ, and he was working full time as a finance broker alongside running the Facebook group. Then during COVID, orders went into overdrive.

“The trend just went wild, worldwide. Boxes of cards previously valued at $50 were selling for 10 times that amount,” Cameron says. “People were bored over lockdown and looking for other things to spend their ‘beer money’ on. It was as if all the people who’d been into trading cards as kids were returning to their old hobby – but with more money.”

Over lockdown, that “good fun” started turning over more than $40,000 a month.

“I was basically working two full-time jobs,” Cameron says.

And the garage was no longer cutting it – it was time to consider opening a store.

Opening a store

“Our store manager needed to be in Christchurch and we had a lot of interest and support from the community there, so it worked out well that the shop would open there,” says Cameron.

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Store manager (and box breaker extraordinaire) Harrison Sterling in the Cards Plus store, Christchurch

“And Prospa was able to help us get set up and make sure we had enough stock to open with. Having enough stock was a constant challenge. We’d get stock in and it would sell out before the new stock arrived. Getting capital from Prospa really helped us bridge that gap between stock arriving, selling then being topped up.”

Once the store opened, turnover reached $75k then plateaued.

The barrier to business growth

“Getting enough stock at a reasonable price continued to be our biggest obstacle to further growth,” says Cameron. “But then we had an exciting opportunity: a big order of quality stock. Anticipating to be invoiced at the end of August, I was planning for that large payment. But the invoice arrived much earlier than we expected and I had one day to pay, or I’d lose the order.”

“Prospa came to the party again. I spoke to our relationship manager and the loan was processed in under a day so I could pay for the order,” Cameron says. “If I hadn’t been able to pay, then maybe I could have taken half the order. But then that supplier would always be second guessing whether I could take on future orders. I didn’t want to be passed by for future opportunities just because we missed this one.”

With a large volume of cheaper items in stock, Cards Plus could reach a wider customer base and keep up with the fast turnover of product.

“We put notes on our Facebook page an hour before a new order becomes available to buy from our website and have seen the website crash with the number of people trying to order. We’ve experienced $15,000 worth of stock selling out in 15 minutes. So stock availability is crucial to growing the business. And the Prospa loan allowed us to meet that challenge.”

“I can use the funds to buy stock, then reinvest the profits in more stock and so on. Over 12 months, the costs of funds per order becomes minimal. It’s really perfect for fast-moving consumer goods.” – Cameron Knapp

Using a business loan strategically

Cameron, with his expertise as a finance broker, doesn’t see a business loan as a one-off solution – he uses the loan strategically, multiple times.

“I can use the funds to buy stock, then reinvest the profits in more stock and so on. Over 12 months, the costs of funds per order becomes minimal. It’s really perfect for fast-moving consumer goods,” he says.

“I think one of the most common mistakes small business owners make when they’re looking for funding is to go to the bank and, when it gets too hard or the bank says no, they give up. Then they miss opportunities. One of the best things about dealing with Prospa is the ease.”

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Cards on the table for the future

Cameron is looking at opening a second store in 2022 and at streamlining the way Cards Plus helps its customers access grading services.

“Collectors can send their cards to graders in the US to be valued but it can be very expensive and slow,” he says. “We can reduce that cost to customers by putting orders together and sending them in bulk. It’s also another income stream to support running the shop.”

With the store now serving as an order and distribution centre, Cameron’s garage is back to being a garage. And while he has a desk at the store where he can work, his favourite thing is to be in the shop when kids come in to buy and trade cards, just like he used to do all those years ago, breath held to see what rare collector’s treasure might be waiting inside a new pack.

“I never thought it would get this big. I thought it would just stay a little sideline where I could help get more cards into New Zealand where it’s harder to find these things,” Cameron says of the business growth he’s achieved in a few short years.

“I don’t think it would have blown up the way it has without COVID, but now it looks like it’s here to stay.”

Need flexible access to funds that could help your business grow? Speak with one of our small business lending specialists.

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