Experience Cannot Be Measured by Calendar

Sam Angus sounds for all the world like an experienced businessman. The president of College Look Inc., a Santa Barbara company that markets gift calendars, talks knowingly of distribution problems and accounts receivable.

But every once in a while, his youth--he's 24--betrays him, like when he talks about sales of the company's 1986 line. "We'll probably max out at about $1 million."

Translation: By year-end, the company, founded in 1982, will have achieved annual revenues of $1 million. And that doesn't count an anticipated $100,000 to $200,000 in proceeds from a 1986 Madonna calendar, which is hot--and we mean hot--off the presses. It joins a line of five other calendars--Bear Facts, Cats, In-Danger (endangered species), Sharp Image ("a yearful of unforgettable masculinity" in the form of tame photos of good-looking guys) and Legacy (ditto for women's legs)--that will sell in stores for $7.95 to $8.95.

Next year, College Look's 140-person sales force will have between 25 and 30 calendars to peddle.

This is a far cry from three years ago, when student Dan Bienenfeld sold out 10,000 copies of a 1983, black-and-white Men of UCSB calendar. Sometime later, Bienenfeld and Angus met one night while studying for an exam. Having started as the classic lemonade-stand entrepreneurs, the two found themselves to be kindred spirits.

"We started rapping, and one thing led to another," Angus said. "We did the stock market together and opened a few minor businesses--catering and aerobics." The aerobics classes were taught in a church, and the catering was at college baseball games.

Family friends of Angus, who is from Malibu, provided backing for the gift-calendar business. After coping with a few problems, such as coming out several months on the late side with their 1985 line, Angus and Bienenfeld starting racking up big sales.

They join a crowded field of competitors--among them Random House, which publishes Sierra Club and other calendars, and Landmark General--pursuing an annual market estimated at $360 million.

For some, the progress at College Look might seem a little too fast.

"Bankers are getting skeptical, mainly because of our youth," Angus said. "They question our ability to handle it."

There's that age thing again. Bienenfeld, by the way, is 21. Both he and Angus are still enrolled at UC Santa Barbara, even though both decided to sit this quarter out. ("Once you get a taste of doing something for yourself, school becomes so much less stimulating," Angus explained.) In their rare spare moments, they are also preparing--at the request of a professor--a student survival guide geared to helping others make the transition from high school to college.

For anyone who thinks today's college students lack focus, consider College Look's long-range forecast: "Our long-term goal is to form a consolidated gift company and take it public. By 1990, our goal is to have a $50-million, full-service gift company. We want to be competing with Hallmark on their level."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World