The Small Business Development Center at Troy University takes pride in nourishing the dreams of young entrepreneurs, no matter how unique their idea might be.
Dothan resident Dalton German was just 16 years old when he launched Odd Articulations, a custom oddities shop specializing in fully assembled and posed, or ‘articulated’ skeletons. The market might sound macabre, but business is booming: German now banks a six-figure revenue each year at only 22 years old.
“I absolutely love what I do. I hope to inspire others and show that no matter how weird your dream might be- if you work hard, you can achieve it,” he said.
It all started when German discovered an insect he’d never seen before and decided to investigate.
“I found the Instagram of a man who made scientific dioramas for his local natural history center. He wanted a mole cricket for display and offered to trade some natural history items for one,” he said.
The trade was settled, and the man sent Dalton a 300-piece groundhog skeleton in return.
“I knew nothing about skeletal anatomy, but I was determined to turn this bag of loose bones into a skeleton,” German said.
Armed with a bottle of Elmer’s glue, a blow dryer, and pictures from Google, he created what would become his first articulated skeleton.
He learned to love challenging himself with new animals and methods. When a fan offered to purchase a few of his pieces, German took the offer only to better afford “cooler skeletons.” As sales continued to climb, the student began to worry about the hidden complexities of owning a small business — a burden that can often consume a young entrepreneur and stifle their potential.
German’s parents suggested he speak with a friend of the family, Mr. Harry Grier, who served as a business advisor with Troy University’s SBDC. Grier’s advice proved essential for the young entrepreneur, saving him valuable time and eliminating the stress that came from his business’s speedy inception.
German was able to avoid the common pitfalls of many new small business owners by simply visiting his SBDC advisor. First, Grier wasted no time in providing useful guidance on bookkeeping procedures that would allow Dalton’s business to grow more easily. Next, he significantly decreased German’s taxable income by recommending insurance and a Simplified Employee Pension IRA, a strategy that boasted dramatic results.
German was able to increase his profit four times over by the following year: the company netted $22,000 in 2018, which surged to more than $80,000 net profit in 2019.
“Having a knowledgeable advisor to bounce ideas and questions off of has been great for my business. It has allowed me to lower my taxable income, correct accountants’ mistakes, and save money by using the free consulting services provided instead of having to pay for those services from elsewhere,” he said.
Odd Articulations continues to be successful, closing sales in each of the continental United States and drawing nearly 60,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram alone. German’s skill set continues to grow, with his shop now offering services to pet owners and custom-molded replicas for educators or collectors of the macabre.
“We have proudly exported our replicas to four continents. Many replicas are used by schools or zoos to help educate the public about the beautiful anatomy of these animals,” German said.
He has big plans for his company, a platform he hopes to dedicate to environmental conservatory efforts. He purchased a nine-acre plot of land last year and has begun building a larger facility to accommodate more projects. The company’s upcoming growth goals also include hiring a few employees to better distribute the workload, instead of relying on independent contractors. In the distant future German dreams of opening a nonprofit museum of osteology to educate and inspire his community.
German’s story reaffirms the Troy SBDC’s commitment to supporting the dreams of their clients and learning the inner-workings of each unique industry.
“I’m very grateful for all of the opportunities I have due to this obscure profession I accidentally stumbled across. Without it, I would not have been able to afford to attend college at Troy University, travel the world, or have as much free time to spend with family and friends,” he said.
“Dalton German knows better than most that a spark of imagination and ambition can change your life, and we know his business will continue to positively impact his community as a whole for decades to come,” said SBDC Director Juliana Bolivar.