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?