Bummed that you can't find your favorite childhood TV show on a paper plate? Cry no more. There's still hope.
Jennifer Sherwood has a law degree and Adam Schlain has a finance degree, but the couple's real expertise lies in rare party supplies.
"Plates, cups, napkins, blowouts, banners, little mini tamborines, everything a kid needs for a birthday party," Sherwood says.
It's called HardToFindPartySupplies.com, based in Newport News, Va. As the name suggests, Sherwood and Schlain will give you a fighting chance to find a rare item that's no longer stocked at Target or Walmart.
"If a little girl wants Snow White, her mom wants to give her Snow White. But just try to find that in a store, you can't," Sherwood says. "Anything that is more than a year old just cannot be found anywhere."
Soccer moms, collectors and fans of everything from He-Man to Power Rangers, Disney Princesses to Finding Nemo, have plenty to choose from.
Sherwood and Schlain have stockpiled hundreds of thousands of paper plates and other obscure party items in the past 2½ years.
"Other people, they go out there and invest in the stock market," Sherwood says. "We invest in paper plates."
Because of an eye for rarity and the ability to buy in bulk, they can sell some items with a huge mark-up.
"For one product, we paid 5 to 10 cents an item for pieces and can sell it for 15 or 20 dollars," Schlain says. "We have gems, items that are extremely valuable, and the profit margin is really big on them."
Business is booming, all run online through the company website and eBay.
"Six months into the business, we were doing $6,000 in sales every month," Sherwood says. "Thirty months into the business, we are doing $40,000 in sales every month, and it just keeps growing."
HardToFindPartySupplies' eight employees ship more than 100 packages around the world every day.
"We started off with $20,000 worth of inventory in one bedroom," Sherwood recalls. "Then it took over the next bedroom, and the next bedroom, and the next bedroom. Floor to ceiling, 80% of our house was filled with party supplies."
Now, the business operates out of a 4,000-square-foot office warehouse that Sherwood and Schlain can navigate with ease, recalling exactly where the earliest edition of the Winnie the Pooh plates are.
Where do they get it? "All over the place," Sherwood and Schlain said in unison. The couple won't share secrets that could give competitors an advantage.
"Where we get it? That's probably what we are most protective of," Schlain says. "We don't want to encourage people to compete with us."
Schlain says he travels all over the country hoping to score big and rare. The latest jackpot was Little Bear, a product they expect will do very well.
"We have to go back to our childhood and think, 'What really evokes our emotions?' "Sherwood says. "If you have a child and you read them Little Bear and they fall in love, now they are two years old, and where are you going to find Little Bear party supplies?"
Other hot product lines include How to Train Your Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Disney's Little Einsteins, Blue's Clues, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Godzilla, many of which manufacturers don't make any more.
"Six months - that's the average amount of time a popular theme is on the shelves at major stores; after that, you just can't find them anywhere else," Sherwood says.
Hearing Sherwood talk about one variety of Snow White plates is like listening to a mother describe her youngster. This business is her child, she says.
"We are building an empire," Sherwood says. "This is our baby. This is our family's future."