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Lucky, Good … or Both?
When asked to reach back to the
beginning of his career, McAlister laughs
and says, “My dad always said to me, ‘It’s
better to be lucky than good.’ In the early
1980s, I owned an importing business in
Boston. We were importing for retailers
like CVS and Ames. One of my contacts
at CVS left for a new company in West
Chester, Pa., and a few months later I got
a call from that company.”
The company was a then-little-known
startup called QVC. “My old CVS con-
tact was one of the first three employees
there and recommended me to the
owner. I became the exclusive importer
for all non-jewelry and non-clothing
product lines,” McAlister says. “In the
beginning, it was so small — it was only
on the air for three hours at a time, and
they’d buy 10 pieces of this product or
During his five years with QVC,
McAlister’s role expanded. He became
the first-ever on-air guest on the network.
It did not go smoothly.
“My first time on air, I was displaying
a sponge that would suck up 30 times
its weight in liquid,” he recalls. “Well,
somehow I spilled a bunch of liquid, and
it went all over this crisp white dress
shirt. The cameramen were laughing so
hard they just stayed on the shot. So then
I started laughing, the show host started
laughing, everyone on set started laugh-
ing. The good news was that there were
probably about three people watching.”
But, as McAlister says, “the more you
do something, the better you get.” So not
only did he improve on the air, he also
became a master at bringing successful
products to the network. “Within two
years, my orders went from 10 pieces of
a product to 20,000,” he contends. “My
business got so big that, after five years
together, they bought me out.”
What he learned during the process
was invaluable — not just from successes.
“I learned what worked by learning what
didn’t sell — and so did the network,”
McAlister says. “I learned how to write
scripts, how to present, really how to do
Top Dog Direct’s hit products are familiar
to TV viewers and retail shoppers. From
the Sobakawa pillow to the BeActive
brace, Top Dog’s success continues.