Turning small business owners into stars has become a winning formula for television producers, but some businesses featured in them are cashing in, too.
Sales explode after just a few episodes air, transforming these nearly unknown small businesses into household names.
In addition to earning a salary from starring in the shows, some small business owners are benefiting financially from opening gift shops that sell souvenirs or getting involved in other ventures that spawn from their new-found fame.
Duck Commander, seen in Duck Dynasty reality show, is having trouble controlling the crowds in front of its headquarters in the small city of West Monroe, Louisiana.
“Sometimes it’s hard getting from the truck to the front door,” says Willie Robertson, who owns Duck Commander with his father and stars in the A&E series with his extended family.
It’s a big change for a company that sells duck calls out of a part-brick, part-cinder block warehouse on a dry, dead-end country road. Duck hunters use the whistles, which mimic duck sounds, to attract their prey.
Since Duck Dynasty began airing in March 2012, Willie Robertson finds at least 70 people waiting in front of the warehouse every morning asking for autographs and photos. Neighbors have complained about the mobs and the police have been called.
Despite the trouble, the show has been good for the family business. Sales of the company’s duck calls, which range from $20 to $175, have skyrocketed. In 2011, the company sold 60,000 duck calls. In 2012, the year the show began airing, the company sold 300,000.
“We saw a big difference as the Nielsen ratings went up,” says Willie Robertson.
Their income from doing the show may be going up along with the ratings. Duck Dynasty is the most watched documentary-style reality series on TV right now, according to Nielsen, which provides information and insight into what consumers watch and buy. April’s one-hour season three finale was watched by 9.6 million people, making it the most watched program in A&E’s 29-year history. The Hollywood Reporter reported that the cast of the show is demanding a raise to $200,000 an episode to do a fourth season. Both the network and Willie Robertson had no comment on the report.
Cameras follow Willie Robertson and his family as they make duck calls, hunt or go camping. One episode showed Willie Robertson trying to prove to his dad, brother and uncle that he could spend a night in a tent during a camping trip. (Willie Robertson ends up bringing a big recreational vehicle and is ridiculed for it. “Once you bring something with wheels that’s enclosed, you’re no longer camping. You’re parking,” says Willie Robertson’s brother, Jace Robertson, in the episode.)
Duck Commander hired five more people to keep up with rising sales. Every duck call has to be put together by hand.
“It’s like a musical instrument,” says Willie Robertson.
“Each one needs to be blown into it to make sure it works.”
To stop the crowds from disrupting business, and to make extra cash, Willie Robertson opened a gift shop inside the Duck Commander warehouse.
“It keeps the people out of my lobby,” he says. The shop sells duck calls, Duck Commander T-shirts and bobble head dolls that look like Willie Robertson, his dad, uncle and brother, complete with their long beards.