MONEY Magazine May/1997

MONEY Magazine May/1997

Cover Story

MONEY Magazine Home Business Awards, 1997

Proudly presents Sheri and Craig Marshall of The Living Christmas Card

Winner - Most Innovative Home Business in America

Craig and Sheri Marshall, The Living Christmas Card, Lewisville, Texas

Arranging custom holiday concerts

Purchase Date:
December, 1987

Back in 1987, music teachers Craig and Sheri Marshall, 33 and 34, were merely singers in the band: members of a friend's mom-and-pop a cappella caroling business called The Living Christmas Card. The business - if you could call it that - seemed more like a hobby. It had only one leather-lunged quartet, it charged only about $100 per performance, and advertising was by word of mouth. Yet when the owner offered to sell out, they jumped. "We saw that the formula was reproducible," recalls Sheri. Now the Marshalls' company has 80 singers in four cities - Dallas, Detroit, Fort Worth and Houston - who perform during the Christmas season for clubs and small parties and occasionally at the local symphony. Fee: a much healthier $200 to $400 an hour, half of which goes into the Marshalls' pockets.

Right now, the business remains part time. Craig still holds his full-time job as manger of the University of North Texas' nine jazz bands. Sheri devotes two days a week year round to marketing and scheduling; the other five days she cares for their two-year-old daughter Sara. Sheri's efforts consist mostly of sending press kits to booking agents, mailing letters to current clients and researching new markets. In March, the couple completed a 10-minute video of performance clips they can use to introduce themselves to clients and agents in far-flung cities.

The Marshalls hope to increase their reach to three or four more cities by the end of this year. And they have their eye on more than just live performances. Last year, they invested $24,000 worth of profits in producing 2,000 CD's of 24 Christmas carols; they sell the disks for $15 each at Dallas/Fort Worth area book and music stores and at their symphony performances. The couple haven't yet made back their investment, but they are ever-hopeful. In fact, this year they aim to snag an international distribution deal with a classical record label.

No matter how successful they become, the Marshalls vow they won't leave home. "Now I can answer the phone when Sara is napping or while I'm getting ready to go out on a job," says Sheri. "It would hinder our success to have a separate office."