Thursday, December 26, 1996
During the weeks before Christmas, the baking starts, the last-minute presents
are bought and wrapped, and the houses are cleaned for the arrival of company
in homes all over the world.
COUPLE'S HOLIDAY HOBBY TURNS INTO YEAR-ROUND BUSINESS
By Kelley Reese
But for one Denton County couple, the busy side of Christmas is all business.
And now, on the day after Christmas, Craig and Sheri Marshall's lives return
to a normal pace.
"Because what we do is specifically a holiday thing, the month of December
is really crazy, with the last weeks right before Christmas being super,
super busy," Mr. Marshall said. "And even though we've already booked a
lot of performances for next year - and people who haven't booked will call
right away - the pace of the business slows down considerably once we hit
The couple's business is a unique idea that started as a seasonal gig nine
years ago for a quartet of a cappella singers. It has turned into a thriving
enterprise run from the couple's Lewisville home that will gross about $250,000
What they do is appear at Christmas parties dressed in Victorian-era costumes
and sing original arrangements of Christmas carols - thus the name of their
business: The Living Christmas Card.
This year, The Living Christmas Card added guest artist appearances at symphony
Christmas concerts to their roster of performances, Mr. Marshall said. Because
those appearances were a tremendous success - the group sold 300 compact
discs from two performances - the couple plans to market the group to symphonies
all over the nation.
"We really didn't know how the guest performances would turn out, but they
went really, really well," Mr. Marshall said. "They went so well that we
got a standing ovation in the middle of a performance. So, I think with
the right marketing we can definitely have our quartet on the road with
" Right now, the couple dispatches more than 80 singers in quartets to three
markets - Dallas - Fort Worth, Houston and Detroit. But in 1997, they plan
to expand to Fort Lauderdale, Nashville, Boston, and Stockholm, Sweden,
because singers who have been with the company have moved to those areas.
"I am convinced that this business will be successful in any major metropolitan
area," Mr. Marshall said. "Any city of decent size anywhere in the world
could support it, and since we've done it a few times we know how to jump
start the business in a new area and be able to make the investment back
in the first year."
And with a new self-produced compact disc being discussed with a major recording
label for national distribution, a video, and talk of publishing the company's
arrangements, the business has definitely become profitable. But like most
entrepreneurs, the couple has re-invested everything they've earned so far
back into the fledgling company.
Mrs. Marshall recently left her teaching job to help the business grow and
to care for the couple's 21-month-old daughter full time. However, Mr. Marshall
is keeping his day job with the University of North Texas' One O'Clock Lab
Band as its manager.
"It gets really busy sometimes trying to do both, but I don't ever really
think of any of it as work because I love what I do," Mr. Marshall said.
"I enjoy making beautiful music and touching people with it, and I enjoy
being able to be involved with the uNT jazz program. So I make time.
He added however, that it helps that the university slows down and closes
during The Living Christmas Card's busiest month.
"December for us is always very hectic, but we've learned to make family
time for the holidays before we get real busy with the performances. And
we do our shopping early," Mr. Marshall said. "Then we just plow through
the month until it's time to board a plane and go see our relatives for
our own celebration."