When the bobbleheads began spilling off the kitchen counters, Phil Sklar knew it was time to come up with a plan.
By then, the figurines had filled the living spaces in the condo he shared with his childhood friend and partner-in-collecting Brad Novak. Everywhere they turned, pint-sized heads, numbering in the thousands, stared back at them. Brainstorming led the duo to a surprising idea: the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum. By the time the niche museum opens in fall 2016 in downtown Milwaukee, they expect to have amassed 10,000 springy specimens.
It’s not just amusement driving them, but a calculated business decision, based on the experience they had several years ago. They tried to get a bobblehead made to recognize a Special Olympian well known at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, their undergraduate alma mater. None of the main bobblehead producers were interested in a one-time job with a limited run of a thousand.
So they came up empty-handed in one sense, but they gained an idea for a business opportunity. “We filed away the fact that it’s difficult to get that process going for someone looking to have a bobblehead made,” Sklar says. Since then, they’ve produced more than 50,000 custom bobbleheads for 50 teams and individuals, as well as worked behind the scenes doing market research, testing their concept and building a website. Six months before they announced their plans to create a destination for all things bobblehead, they took a deep breath and walked away from their corporate-track jobs.
Meanwhile, they’re having fun. Avid sports fans, they’ve memorialized two viral images from the 2015 NCAA basketball tournament — the Villanova Crying Piccolo Girl and the ankle-cast-clad Georgia State coach falling off his rolling chair as his son shoots the winning basket. For Notre Dame fans, they’ve even created a Rudy bobblehead (of the real “Rudy,” Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (ND ‘76) — not actor Sean Astin, in case you’re wondering).
Says the laidback Sklar, “We took a hobby and passion and turned it into a business.” Nods of approval all around.