The Gift Basket Business — Misconceptions

In some ways, it seems like yesterday.  In others, it seems like an eternity.  For me, the fall of 1992 was the beginning of a new business, a new lifestyle and a whole new perception of operating a homebased business.  I thought I knew everything.  After all, as a SCORE small business counselor, I had been counseling other startups.  I was the expert.  I had started and sold other businesses.  This gift basket business couldn’t possibly be any different.

Was I ever wrong.  Looking back 26 years later, I realize that I knew much while knowing very little.  I had a lot of misconceptions way back then.  Some of them are probably familiar to you:

  • The gift basket business is like any other business.  The gift basket business is very different from any of my previous businesses and requies new and different skills to succeed.  Nothing takes the place of the learning curve that comes from actually operating a specific type of business.
  • Designing and producing gift baskets is easy. They couldn’t be too hard for a creative person to make, could they?  I’m still laughing at that one — and still constantly learning new techniques to create gift baskets that don’t look like they came from Walmart.
  • The 99 Cent Stores have great bargains in gourmet foods that are perfect for gift baskets.  Buying the wrong kinds of foods from the wrong suppliers is a mistake that many, new to the business, make.
  • I needed a lot of different products to make lots of different baskets.  Buying “cute” and “fun” products is another major mistake.  These two words don’t appeal to the corporate market who preferred elegant and gourmet.  And one of the most important techniques to learn is how to use a few products to create a lot of different designs.
  • My major market would be all the people who wanted to buy a personal gift.  It doesn’t take long to learn that corporate is where the money is.
  • People in my area won’t spend more than $40 for a gift basket. I underestimated myself and my customers with this assumption.
  • The extra bedroom is big enough to house this business.  As I look around my 2500 square foot home that is now almost a warehouse, I shake my head in wonder at how naive I could have been.
  • My life wouldn’t be any different.  A neat organized house is now a thing of the past.  Grinding wheat and making bread are memories.  A Christmas tree?  Where would I put it?
  • Since I love shopping, that would be the best part of the business.  That was the reason for a lot of excess inventory that needs to be cleared out now.  “Just looking around” is a thing of the past.  Who has time? Shopping for me now is trade shows and wholesale internet sites.

And I could go on and on and on.  Many of the things that I counseled others to do apply to this business industry as well.  But there were new things to be learned, new techniques to become accomplished in, and a whole new mindset about life and business to be realized.

Would I do it again?  You bet!  The past 26 years have been some of the most exciting in my life.  There will always be challenges.  There will always be new things to learn.  But when it’s all over, I can say, “I dreamed, I risked, I built, and I succeeded!”

Will you say the same?

Networking Field Guide for Introverts

Business Networking Field GuideDoes the idea of attending a networking event conjure up feelings of anxiety, nervousness, deep inside your stomach?

Does your heart start pounding when you walk into a room filled with people that you may or may not know?  Who do you speak to? What do you say?

Well, hold onto your stomach, get rid of those preconceived ideas about what networking is, and read on.

Your networking survival kit is here.

Face-to-face contact is still the #1 silver bullet for creating lasting relationships as well as growing a business.

Even if you hate the idea of networking, by the time you finish reading the tips in this ebook, I hope that you will realize that it can be an enjoyable way to meet new people and begin new friendships.

Networking is simply connecting with people.

Even if you are an introvert.

Once you place your order, we will contact you within 24 hours with the ebook.  Thank you.


Price: $9.95

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A Time of Business Renewal

snow-bushThere’s a bush by my front door that always takes the initiative and covers itself with bright yellow blooms as soon as we have a few days of spring here in Flagstaff.  And it always realizes that it celebrated spring too soon when we have another late snow storm, as we did the other day.

But that doesn’t stop this energetic little bush.  The snow melts and provides water to its roots and it just keeps on blooming until the bright yellow flowers are replaced by green leaves.

Why am I relating this story to you?  You probably have a bush similar to it in your yard.

But this is my special bush.

Each year, it reminds me that there will always be challenges to overcome.  On the morning, when I first discover its brilliant yellow flowers bursting forth, there’s a new skip in my step and a smile on my face.  I know that, even though, there may be a few more snowfalls, spring is on its way.

I know that it is time to dig out my business plan and review it to see how challenges of the past year have affected my business.  Since it’s always around tax return time, when this bush proclaims new life, I’ve already been forced to review the accounting figures for the past year.

This is something that all of us need to do at least once a year.  Most people think of January 1st as the time to review and renew.  But, in our industry, after the closing of fourth quarter, with its hectic holiday business season, we’re usually too tired and don’t have enough final figures to do this properly.

Then comes spring with flowers popping up, green leaves opening on the trees, and sunshine.

Most of you probably don’t think of weather in relation to business.  But I do.  For me, winter is a time for taking advantage of all the seeds I’ve planted during the summer and fall.  This is when the work load is heaviest and the profits are greatest.  By spring, I’m tired.  I’m ready for the sunshine.  I’m ready for a chance to review the past year and make whatever changes need to be made.  I’m ready for renewal.

How about you?

There’s no way around SEO

You’ve built your website, added a shopping cart and gorgeous pictures, and waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Where’s all the traffic.  Why haven’t they found you?

Regardless of how beautiful or efficient website you may have, there’s simply no way around it.  The internet is not a place where “if you build it, they will come!”

Search engine optimization is one strategy that you can’t ignore.

It’s not all that difficult — rocket science and brain surgery are much more difficult and takes longer to learn.  But you have to be careful who you learn from and what you learn.  There are all sorts of “tips” and “tricks” that folks online guarantee will quickly take you to the top.  But beware.  If you use the wrong “tips” and “tricks”, you might get your listings listed on the back pages of that favorite search engine — or even nowhere to be found at all.

It doesn’t take “tips” and tricks.”  It takes a bit of knowledge and time.

In some future posts, I’ll talk about some of the things you should do to increase your standings in the search engines.  Equally important, however, are some of the things you SHOULDN”T do.

1.  Forgetting the title tage for each page.  The title tag appears at the top of the browser and tells the search engines what the page is about.  Forgetting to include it is just like your forgetting to sign a letter you send out to your customers.

2. Using the name of your business or the url name as the title tag for each page.

3.  Stuffing the title tag with a list of words such as:  gift baskets, gourmet gift baskets, holiday gift baskets, gift baskets for kids, mother’s day gift baskets, and on and on.

4.  Using the title tag to welcome your customers.  It’s great to have a friendly website but the title tag is not the place to tell them how glad you are to have them there.

5.  Keywords meta tags, that are well written and contains just one or two keywords, is the way to go but unfortunately most search engines ignore them.  But a keyword meta tag that includes a long string of words or trademarked names of other businesses can get you penalized.

6.  Typing your keywords over and over again at the very top or bottom of your page  is an old trick that can hurt you.  How many websites have you seen that have every state in the Union listed as places they deliver to?

7.  Hiding words by using the webpage background color for the color of the text.  This little “tip” can get you banned from Google.

8.  Using keywords, that have nothing to do with your website,  to trick the search engines into sending traffic to you.

These are just a few things that can create problems with the search engines.  Seach engine optimization is very straight forward and doesn’t require tips and treats.  We’ll be talking about this more later.  In the meanwhile, make sure that you aren’t making some of these seach engine killing mistakes.

Beware – You Can Create A Whole New Person on the Internet

As more people lose jobs or income, more and more scams–or less than honest opportunities– are appearing on the internet.  As a professional writer, who personally knows a lot of other writers, let me say that you should NEVER believe everything you read.  As someone once said, “Don’t believe most of what you read, and only half of what you see!”

Talented writers, professional motivational speakers, and website entrepreneurs can be very creative.  They can even create a whole new person and make you believe that they exist.  Unfortunately, anyone can say anything on the internet as long as it doesn’t lible someone else.

What does this have to do with gift business owners who are Creative Gift Entrepreneurs?  A lot!

How many times have you received emails telling you how wonderful a particular product or service is and how great the person behind it is?  We all have at one time or another.  Most of us regularly receive emails offering to put us on page one of the search engines if we only hire them to optimize our website.  Or how about the minister wanting to buy large quantities of a particular gift if you’ll only let him know how to pay you?  There are many scams– and the internet is a gold mine for scammers and those who are less than honest.

Innocence or Deceit — Which is it?

A person, who wants to impress potential customers,  can even create a whole different personality and resume for themselves in order to lure you into their web of deceit.  Sometimes it’s very innocent as in the example of the gift basket entrepreneur who has created a “twin” to handle the marketing aspect of his business or the business owner who has created an “assistant” to handle the customer service and email responses.  There’s nothing wrong with either of these creations.

But other times, it’s not so innocent, particularly if the person is trying to take your money for a product or service that doesn’t exist.  The statement “Buyer Beware” is very true of any internet website or email wanting to sell you something.

How to Protect Yourself?

How can you protect yourself?  It can be difficult as folks, who do this, are truly creative entrepreneurs.  Their background and experience and even testimonials can sound so convincing that any of us can be easily fooled.  But, unless you are personally familiar with a particular person, product, or service, ask someone that may be more familiar with what you are considering.  Does their resume include speaking and writing experience?  If so, ask for references and check them out.  Do they include testimonials?  If so, ask for names and phone numbers and check them to see if they actually exist.  Even then, a reference may be a “friend in on the kill.”

If it is a website, check the domain name and see when it was first registered.  You can do that easily at whois.com or any other website where you can buy domain names.  If it is brand new, I would be a little suspicious.  It could be legitimate or it could be someone out to make a fast buck before disappearing.

If it is an opportunity or product related to your own industry, it’s easy enough to ask others who are familiar with the industry what they know about a particular person, product, or service.

But, as I said, anyone can say anything or even create a whole new persona on the web.  I could tell you that I’ve published ten books about the gift basket industry and they’ve each sold over a million copies.  That would be a lie but you would have to do some research to discover that it is untrue.  I could tell you that I’ve been a speaker at The Basket Connection Convention in Orlando and again in Atlanta and that I was a regular staff writer for our trade magazine, Rave Reviews, since it began.  That would all be true and could be checked out with anyone who is familiar with our industry.

So, if you are considering spending money for a product or service that you are unfamiliar with, check it out.  It could be the best thing since sliced bread or it could be someone anxious to take your money in exchange for little or nothing.