2019-09-01 18:56:15

Todd Hallada has been passionate about sports collectibles since his dad gave him a Timberwolves player card when Hallada was 9.

Hallada, 34, turned that interest into an eBay online-sales gig as a student that he shelved after college, during a several-year stint in operations at Land O’Lakes.

Hallada left “LOL” in 2015 and invested $40,000 in savings to launch 2Bros Sports Collectibles, an online business and retail store (opened in 2017) at Northtown Mall in Blaine. Todd wanted a business that also could employ his brother, Tom, 32, another sports-collectible buff. He was having trouble getting work, despite an educational background in IT.

The Halladas, who use wheelchairs, have demonstrated an ability to build a taxpaying business that has provided them financial independence, fulfillment of their passion and allowed them to live with their father in their own house.

They refuse the Social Security disability payments to which they are entitled as a result of the muscular dystrophy they have coped with since they were infants. They were raised to take advantage of their smarts and ability.

“There were people who said this can’t be done,” said Todd Hallada, who communicates using voice-activated technology. “I work until I get things done. It can be harder with a disability. We cannot fail. Failure means we would have to go to a group home. We hire my dad to help us at home.”

2Bros employs six people, including the brothers and their father, Tim, 59.

2Bros has gained traction every year, after a slow start in 2015. It is heading toward $1.5 million in revenue this year. Todd Hallada, the CEO, is a pragmatic optimist and expects to hit $5 million in annual sales in three years.

The Hallada brothers this summer were one of eight national winners of the eBay Shine Awards for Small Business.

Justin Bennett, a small-business and personal-finance consultant who works with 2Bros, is more than impressed.

“They are growing their confidence and business,” Bennett said. “I’ve been working with Todd for a year. I still pick up my jaw off the floor some days. They do not let their physical disability, or their circumstances, keep them from doing good work, helping and inspiring others.

“Todd is determined. Any obstacles, he says, ‘OK, how do we do this.’ He’s got that creative, entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve read that about 80% of businesses fail in the first five years. They are growing and putting ideas into action.”

Tim Hallada, a teacher at a Christian school, used to bring his boys to the Metrodome for Twins games.

Money was tight at the Hallada house in north Minneapolis. But there was faith and purpose.

Todd and Tom’s mother, who died of cancer in 2010, instilled in her sons the belief that they were smart and blessed with spirit and the capacity to achieve and provide for themselves and others. She home-schooled them through high school. She was their caregiver.

Todd’s mother encouraged his business-sports interest. Todd started trading online to make money as a teenager, after he was turned down for summer jobs by big-box retailers.

“I think it was my limited physical ability,” Todd Hallada said. “Mom always encouraged me to pursue [sports cards] as a business.”

The Hallada brothers have turned it into an enterprise that pays the bills, keeps a roof over their head and employs three other young people who earn at least $15 an hour.

Todd Hallada earned a business degree from the University of Minnesota. A finance professor asked him to withdraw from a class because there would be too much writing. Hallada had a classmate in every class who would take notes and share them.

“When other kids were out on the weekends, I would study,” he said. “I had that teacher eating out of my hand. He gave me an A.”

Todd went on to earn a master’s degree from Bethel University. His brother earned a degree from North Hennepin Community College and Metro State University.

Todd Hallada has been selling on eBay for nearly 20 years.

“Selling on eBay has always been the largest part of our business,” he told the Shine Award judges. “EBay has a very strong core group of customers that will only go to this marketplace for their sports-card needs. … Selling globally has actually given us the ability to sell soccer and hockey cards because there is a high demand overseas. We ship significant amounts of cards internationally every week. …

“When I think back to how this business started with three packs of cards and $50. We put so much time and effort into such a small inventory. … We can honestly say we built our business to the scale it is today, 99 cents at a time.”

2Bros has risen to be one of eBay’s top sellers of sports cards. Some still go for 99 cents. Only the volume generated has allowed 2Bros to acquire cards for as little as a nickel apiece. That’s a nice gross margin.

The early success at the Northtown store, which sells sports cards, bobbleheads, framed jerseys and other sports novelties, has inspired Todd Hallada to open a kiosk at the Mall of America this holiday season.

“Tomorrow is not guaranteed,” he said. “We don’t know if we will be successful, but what has gotten us to this point is our mentality.”

 

Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at nstanthony@startribune.com.

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