In early October, Ottawa’s Sam Holman tried to auction his business on eBay at a starting price of US$3.5 million. The listing sparked loads of media coverage, but no bid for the Original Maple Bat Co., which did US$1.3 million in sales last year. PROFIT spoke to Holman two days before the auction ended.
PROFIT: Did eBay contact you after listing your business for such a big amount?
HOLMAN: I had a call from a gal in their publicity department, thanking me for all the publicity I’d generated for them.
PROFIT: Have you ever used eBay before?
HOLMAN: I’m a first-time seller. I don’t know the rules.
PROFIT: Your business seems to be successful. Why are you selling right now?
HOLMAN: Any profit I’ve ever had, I’ve ploughed back into the business. In six of our nine years, we grew by 30% to 35%. I could never convince banks to finance that. My age (61) deters investors, too. But it’s not only money the company needs; it needs a vision and other products. No bat manufacturer sells only bats — the business model has to be more than bats. My brother suggested the eBay thing, because we weren’t making the right connections. But we’re making them now. It’s incredible.
PROFIT: You have many rivals out there, and some of them are huge. Why haven’t they acquired you?
HOLMAN: They don’t compete with me at the Major League level, but they can fill local markets that I can’t. They’ve never had to acquire me because I haven’t been able to hold market share. I used to have 100% of the market for maple. Now, I have a very small share — maybe 2%.
PROFIT: You’ve offered to stay on and help a new owner, but many entrepreneurs regret staying involved after selling. What makes you different?
HOLMAN: They’ll keep me for my presence in [Major League] clubhouses, but not in production. I don’t mind becoming a doddering old man. If the transition works out for the buyer, then it will be a match made in heaven.