Life is not always fun and games, but it is for Art Clem, Owner of Art Clem Enterprises, a mail order non-electronic toy and game company, based out of Cleveland.
Mr. Clem has owned and operated several businesses over the last 20 years, including Collector’s Choice which sold comics, collectibles, and other games, as well as the retail store, Dicehead Games, but in 2005, he decided to sell his retail store, and as he describes it, “jumped
into the Internet with both feet.”
According to Mr. Clem, Art Clem Enterprises sells anything from wooden pre-school games all the way up to $350 pewter chess sets and everything in between.
He was recently chosen as the CSCC SBDC’s Business of the Year, and is being nominated to win the SBA Business of the Year for the state. Clem was nominated based on the
following criteria: staying power, growth in number of employees, increase in sales, current and past financial performance, innovativeness of products offered, response to adversity, and contributions to community-oriented projects.
“Some of my fondest memories are of game time when I was a kid,” stated Mr. Clem. “And, then when my boys were growing up, we did a lot of bonding playing board games. My son invited some of his friends over to play games as a teen, and I actually developed friendships with some of his friends. That’s the thing about it — you can connect generations just through playing board games. Just the other day, I let my granddaughter beat me at Monopoly.”
Mr. Clem stated that one reason he decided to move from retail to the Internet was because it allowed him to expand beyond the most popular products that most stores can carry due to space limitations. “We started with a very small selection of unique products, but we now carry upwards of over 6,000 products.
“We’ve had phenomenal growth over the past five years. It started out
with just myself and one other employee, and now we have 15 employees.”
Mr. Clem’s business is located in the Small Business Incubator located on the Cleveland State Campus. He was
referred to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in 2000 while taking some classes at CSCC.
“I went back to school to brush up on some business courses, and became aware of the SBDC and Small Business Association (SBA),” stated Mr. Clem. “If I had to do it all over again, that would be the very first thing I’d do would be to visit the SBDC. Not only that, but I would also try to get into the Business Incubator because it’s very inexpensive and is a cheap entry into a business location, but even more valuable than that is the free resource of invaluable advice that you can get if you simply ask. It’s hard to put a price on advice from seasoned business people.
"Their focus is to help you succeed. Most of the time you go to an accountant or a lawyer, there is usually a cost involved, but with the SBDC, it’s all free advice.”
Brenda Sheehy, Small Business Director, said, “After having talked with Art Clem for a few minutes, it is clear that he is a true entrepreneur and will be forevermore. For most of his life, Mr. Clem has owned one business or another until he found his present “niche” and what a profitable niche he has found. He had a vision. He wanted families to reconnect and reunite through play rather than experience the isolation that comes from most electronic game
usage. Mr. Clem wanted to reestablish family values through real live interaction within families and circles of friends. And so he did.”
Mr. Clem said, “The SBDC offers many free workshops, and I would definitely recommend those. Right now, I’m working with Brenda (Sheehy) on a loan proposal, and dealing with her has been excellent. She gives good advice on what the bank is going to be looking for and is helping me in developing a business plan. She gives advice on what financial information to pull together and how to package it in a presentable format.”
Ms. Sheehy stated, “Mr. Clem singlehandedly grew his business from a start-up to an internationally acclaimed business. We here at the SBDC congratulate Mr. Clem on being named our Center’s SBA Business of the year. He now enters the pool of other TN businesses, one of which will be named Tennessee’s SBA Business of the Year.”
When asked how it felt to be nominated as the SBA’s Business of the Year, Mr. Clem said, “It
was definitely a surprise. I guess it’s sort of humbling. I never really thought of myself as superstar business person, but now that I’ve sort of slowed down a little bit and thought about it, and looked back at what I’ve accomplished over the past five years, I guess it is pretty phenomenal. Usually, I spend most of my time looking forward, instead of backward, but it was definitely an honor. I feel like I owe much of my success to the SBDC.”
You can purchase Mr. Clem’s products through Amazon.com or Buy.com. For more information on Art Clem Enterprises, visit the website at www.worldatplaygames.com For more
information on the SBDC, call 478-6247 or visit the website at www.tsbdc.org.