I have always felt that I have been blessed in my life, falling in love at the age of 10 years old with baseball cards which started out as a hobby then turned into a successful part-time business which I have been involved in now for 34 years. It began for me as a kid by idolizing the biggest card dealer in the business in Brooklyn, NY, at a young age. I said to myself, “That will be me someday. One day, when I am old enough, I will be selling sports cards to sports fans and they will be buying my very own items.”
I have always been a thinker, a believer and dreamer drawn to television talent who were home grown and who were known as humble stars from my hometown of Brooklyn, NYC, including Jackie Gleason, Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond. As we all know, these are gifted performers/creators/innovators of talent who made it on the screen and stage straight from Brooklyn, NY, and followed their dreams to become mega entertainers.
In my teens, I was an all-star H.S. baseball player who would be constantly written about in the Daily News, Newsday, and NY Post after a good game performance. While playing H.S. ball I was buying cards, keeping my passion alive. I thought to myself, “I need to get acknowledged in the card industry just like I have been getting acknowledged in the NYC papers after a H.S. game.” I began to be different from my competitors in that in those days our sports card publications would have columns on card collectors who would find cards that were never seen before. I began discovering cards and submitting these unknown cards to the hobby papers and they would write about the finds, giving me publicity. It became natural for me receiving many acknowledgements which helped build my self-esteem in my early years.
When I was in my early 30’s I began to reflect to myself once again that I needed to brand myself and create a character that would help me be different from my competition, since the industry had changed over to the Internet & social media. The character I created was the card king. It was like a “Crazy Eddie” character but it involved Brian with a crown king and cash to pay for cards. I then invested some of my money into TV ads which were shown on YES Network and SNY TV. They officially put a label on me as the “NYC CARD KING” on a Mets Weekly episode and I began promoting myself to different regional media outlets by writing letters to the producers, and they found the card king character intriguing I guess. The producers would invite me to do an interview on sports cards. Heck, even the entertainment producer of the Late Show with David Letterman sent me an email saying he loved my skit character I created.
I even went further to create a sports radio show which I had no experience doing but I just did it, which I funded on the NBC affiliate KCAA Radio called “Card King Sports Show”, which also received some exposure.
My philosophy in business has been simple: Create (brand yourself), be different than your competitors and maintain perseverance (in something that you enjoy doing). That means never giving up on your dreams. If the media does not brand you, make an effort to brand yourself by creating your own advertisements on Public Access TV, or radio and newspapers. You will eventually get a gig somewhere as a starting point. I believe any occupational individual role you want to turn into a business, whether that be a plumber, a janitor, a sanitation worker, any job role out there, you can elevate yourself by branding yourself. For instance, one can be the “king of banking”, the “king of janitors”, the “sanitation king”. A person can brand him or herself to get noticed and elevate their business persona.
I teach my 9-year-old son Kylan Cataquet, whom has demonstrated to have a talent in drawing cartoon characters, to never ever say he can’t do it. “If one person has done it, you can.” I tell this to my son and will continue to tell both Kylan & Liam, my two sons, not to give up and promote themselves and be different from the next person.