Almost everybody dreams of transforming a hobby into a business. But few succeed on the scale of Dan Janes, an inveterate artisan and self-described “pretty good pool player.” His Towson, Md., company, Joss Cues Ltd., is widely recognized as one of the best makers of cue sticks in the world.
Joss cues are tooled from an array of exotic woods, and–depending on the customer–precious inlays such as gold and diamonds. They command prices that begin at a few hundred dollars per cue and quickly climb into the thousands. Customers include collectors, world-class billiards players, and movie star Tom Cruise, who used Joss cues in his role as an expert pool player in the 1986 film “The Color of Money.”
“They’re one of the elite cues in the industry,” says Harold Simonsen, publisher of Pool & Billiard Magazine.
Pool is growing in popularity. The Billiard Congress of America says more than 37 million Americans played the game in 1992, up from 21.5 million in 1984. But there weren’t a lot of world-class cue makers around in 1968, when Janes, bored as a salesman and itinerant pool player, decided to put his artistic and mechanical skills to work to create the perfect cue stick.
“It’s a dying business model, but these guys do it the best,” says Greg White, whose company, Launchscore.com, offers small business advice and market research tools to small entrepreneurs. “This kind of craftsmanship only exists in extreme niches, and pool cues definitely fit that category.
With $1,500 borrowed from a finance company and with his pool-playing friend Bill Stroud as a partner, Janes purchased an ancient manual lathe, a butcher’s band saw, a drill press, Read the rest of this entry »