Knock Knock; Who's There? A Clever Gifts-and-Cards Start-Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Raina Kelley

Millions of people dream of starting a small business, but 36-year-old Jen Bilik wasn't one of them. Instead, she wanted to write a memoir designed like an illustrated, annotated yearbook. So in 2000, she moved to L.A. for a change of scenery and to pursue her dream. Two years later she was no closer to finishing, but she'd made some money the old-fashioned way: Manhattan real estate. Bilik sold her two-bedroom co-op for a profit of nearly $1 million and put the proceeds into a gifts-and-cards start-up. The result: Who's There Inc., dba Knock Knock (get it?).

The solely owned company makes clever, well-designed gift and stationery products, such as Pro-Con notepads, the Yes, You're Probably Dying Diagnosis Wheel, multiple-choice greeting cards for all occasions and her signature flashcards on such topics as slang, therapy and sex ("Banging: entertaining, exciting, fun. That lawn bowling tournament should be banging this year").

The product line (the greeting cards are up to 300 from nine when the business started) is sold in more than 2,500 U.S. stores, including national chains like Borders and Urban Outfitters, as well as online at knockknock.biz. "She keeps coming up with ideas that are unusual," says Kevin Brynan, owner of the New York boutique MXYPLYZYK and one of Bilik's first customers. "If you take a walk through the National Stationery Show and see all the mass-produced stuff, you'll know how hard it is. …