Starting a Business

butterflies when starting a business

Perhaps, for a few. . .but for most of us, this describes the fear and excitement that overtakes us when we talk about starting a new business.

You may have looked at — or even tried–many different business opportunities and have now decided that perhaps a gift basket business is for you.

Each person who arrives at this step of the process does so for different reasons, each reason unique to each person. Perhaps you are tired of working for someone else.  Maybe you want to stay at home with the children while still providing an income for the family.  Or you may have read the many books and websites extolling the virtues of making lots of money with little investment while doing the things you enjoy most.

Owning your own business is the very thread from which the fabric of the American dream is woven.  But such dreams also come with many challenges.

 

The gift basket industry is highly competitive and expert knowledge of the industry is essential for success.  Hundreds of new gift basket companies are started each year but only a few survive past the start-up state and fewer still are operating and flourishing after the first five years.

My company, Creative Gifts to Go LLC, is one that has made it to the 25 plus year stage.  Along the way, I’ve learned from mistakes as well as trial and error.  When I started this business, there was little information available and each of us had to learn the hard way how to avoid the landmines lurking around us just waiting to sabotage each step we mad.

This is no longer the case.  Gift Baskets have become popular not only as personal gifts but also as the “safe” gift for business people to give to their customers and clients.  You see them at WalMart, Costco, and all the other discount stores.  Even the more upscale department stores and specialty boutiques advertise, “We do gift baskets.”

But, as in many businesses. . .there are gift baskets and then there are “GIFT BASKETS.”

The ones you find in the discount and even upscale department stores are usually generic products packaged in an assembly line and shrink wrapped in a basket.  What we, in the business, call “GIFT BASKETS” are much different.

Carefully selected enhancements, hand-tied bows, and artful arrangements that shout “Wow, What a GIFT!” are what set us apart from the mass-produced store baskets.

It takes time and guidance to learn the techniques to build a “Wow, What a Basket!”  And building a business based on the creation of Wow Gift Baskets requires even more skills.

As shipping prices have increased, we’ve had to adjust to new techniques and skills so that our customers are not frightened by high shipping costs.

There are books on the web and even courses you can take.  Most are written by those who no longer operate an active gift basket business as they are pursuing a whole different business model with teaching and writing.  I, too, have taught at national gift basket conventions, write for industry trade magazines and even operate a digital magazine for the gift basket industry.  But the difference is that I operate a very active gift basket business and national gift service today and am sharing with you from the trenches.

As in most things, there is no absolute right way to do anything.  With Success Express, I’ll be offering you my knowledge and will lead you to other resources which will prove invaluable to you as you create your own unique niche in the gift basket world.

Select what will fit into your individual market and creative style and discard the rest.   As a result, you will end up with a gift basket company that can only fit you.

Today, you are a Business

Even though you may just be beginning your research for your gift basket business, as of today,  you are a business.

I can hear you now saying:  “But I don’t know anything about starting a business, yet?  I’m not ready for customers?  How could I be in business?”

You aren’t ready to open your doors yet.  That’s true.  But if you’re really serious about this, you’re on your way already.  We never learn everything we need to know.  I’m still learning and you will be too, even after you’ve been in business as long as I have.

Today, I want you to realize that the sad truth is that all the other gift basket companies are the only ones who care about how long you’ve been in business.  A customer could care less.

Let me tell you how I know this to be true.

I teach small business classes in my county and at national conventions and meetings.  In one of my local small business classes, we had people who were in all stages of starting and growing their business.  Some had been selling their products and services for years but the businesses just weren’t working.  There was one student, however, who had a unique idea — making and selling ukuleles.  Now I live in the mountains of northern Arizona — not too far from the Grand Canyon.  Definitely not a place you think of for ukuleles.

But this guy’s mother had married a Hawaiian who make the instruments, played them, and taught lessons.  He wanted to pass the skills that he had learned down to his step-son who could continue the tradition.  My student immersed himself in everything he could learn about ukuleles as well as about starting and operating a business.

He considered himself to be in the ukulele business from the very beginning.

He didn’t wait until he knew everything about the instrument or even everything about business.  He didn’t just sit and wait to find customers in this unlikely area of the country.  He became pro-active.  He found groups in town who were interested in the Hawaiian culture or just liked music.  He talked about what he was doing with everyone he knew and even those he didn’t know who would listen.  He showed them how easy it would be to learn to play and was wildly enthusiastic about the ukuleles he could make for them.

He entered a competition for a grant for new start-up businesses and won.

Within six months, he had a new business that was on its way and many of the other business owners in town, who focused on how long they had been in business in their marketing, were lining up to buy a ukulele and learn how to play it.

He was in business before he ever opened his doors.  Before he quit his day job.

He looked in the mirror and saw himself not as a man planning a business but the man in the mirror was in business.

He discovered that it is not how long you are in business.
It is what your business can do for others.

So, as of today, look in the mirror and see yourself as a person who is a business.

Now, let’s look at some of the ins and outs of running a business.  These are the things that will determine whether you want to go further and develop that business or forget about it for now.

Running a Business

Many years ago, I took a writing class from author Ted Schwarz.  One of the things he said was, “Today you are a professional writer.  Think of yourself as one.  Act like you are one.  When you send out a query letter, say that you are one.  And you will be one.”

And, that is what I am going to say to you today.   Think of yourself as a business owner.  Act like you are one.  Believe that you are one.  And you will be one.

Now that you are a business owner, there are a few things that you should realize before you proceed in developing that business that is still in your head.

Think about them and decide if growing a business is something that you really want to proceed with or if you want to put that dream back on the shelf and take off your business owner hat.

  • A lot of gift basket businesses fail
    Unfortunately the stats don’t lie. Most gift basket businesses don’t last past the first year and even fewer make it to the five-year mark.  Making it to twenty years is even rarer.
  • You may be slow seeing Profits 
    This is not a business where “if you build it, they will come.”  Profits come with hard work and lots of marketing.  I saw a profit the first year that I was in business, but remember I had created and sold other successful businesses in the past.
  • There’s no safety net
    Unless you have savings or a spouse that earns a good income or you continue working while growing your business, there aren’t a lot of safety nets should your business fail.  This is why so many start their business part-time and from home rather than dive deep into it from the beginning.  Consider what the results would be for your own personal life should you not be able to make this business work.
  • It costs money
    There has been a lot written about starting a gift basket business with no money.  It’s true that if you operate it as a home based business, already have the knowledge to know how to start and run a successful business, and don’t make any spending mistakes, you can start a gift basket business with less money than many many other businesses.But let’s face it.  It does cost money to make money.  I started my own business with a loan to myself for $5,000 but I already had a computer and  printer, and had started and sold other successful businesses.  You can start a business with even less than what I did, and I will be giving you some tips about running your business on a shoestring.  But you will have to be more creative, more resourceful, and much more careful with every dollar that you invest in your business.
  • Running a business can be stressful
    Being your own boss has advantages but it also can be stressful.  You will have to make decisions that can affect your bottom line and there will be months when it will be hard to show a profit.  If you are someone who is simply not made for that kind of pressure, a regular job may be a better bet for you.

It’s not all negative.  There are many positive things about owning your own gift basket business. Your hours spent being creative and all your hard work will be going directly into an asset that you own.  And the profits will be going into your bank account instead of someone else’s pocket.   There are other benefits as well:

  • You can set your own hours
    You will no longer have to punch a time clock.  As long as you meet the needs of your customers and your business, you can work at whatever time works best for you.  Some parents of small children like this because they can work around their children’s schedule.  You can work late at night if that suits you better than early mornings.
  • You’re much more flexible
    Just like setting your own hours, you’ll have more freedom to pick up the kids from school, go to the gym or run some errands. You need to still work the hours, but it often doesn’t matter when you work as long as you are meeting the needs of customers.  Cell phones make it easier for you to respond to customers no matter where you are.  When I started my business, it was before the age of even car phones and pagers.  If I wasn’t in, my customers could only reach an answering machine.
  • You don’t have to deal with  office politics
    There is lots of stress dealing with the drama of a job working for someone else.  This is your office and the only politics are those that you wish to create for yourself.
  • There is a potential for earning a lot of money
    The potential is there but it is not a guarantee.  There are those who have grown their business into a high-earning one while there are others who prefer to grow it slowly without dealing with employees and the stress of operating a large business. And then, of course, there are those who never make it.

As with anything in life, there are pros and cons.  The important thing is to look at both and decide if this is for you instead of going into it blindly.

Are you ready to take that step and say, “I am a gift basket business.”  If so, as the engineer of the Success Express, I am here for you.  Keep reading but also start doing.

Begin by making lists:

Lists of what you need to learn, what you are going to have to buy, who is your competition, and anything else you can think of.  These lists will come in handy as you create your basic business plan.

Sign up for our updates and I’ll be sharing more with you.

 

The Biggest Mistake that a Gift Business Can Make

The Biggest Mistake a Gift Business Can Make

Everyone in business — regardless of the industry or whether it was 1919 or 2019 — makes mistakes.

Someone once said that “The biggest mistake a small business can make is to think like a small business.”

That is indeed a mistake.  Unless we think big, we will always continue to remain small.  But personally, I don’t think it is the biggest mistake that a business can make.

To me, the biggest mistake, any of us as business owners can make is to:  Fail to take advantage of what we spent time and money learning.

Let me explain.

Each year, some of you spend a lot of money plus your valuable time attending trade shows and conventions.

You returned home with pages of notes, lots of pictures, and a multitude of ideas.  What did you do with them?

The biggest mistake you can make is to put them in a drawer or stow them away in the back of your brain along with all the ideas you have read and heard through the years.

Ideas are meant to be used.  To be massaged so that they fit your own individual situation and part of the country.

Not all of us have the same kind of business with the same kinds of customers.  Ideas that work for someone in California may not work the same way for someone in New York.  They may not even work the same way for someone in the opposite end of your state.

For example, I live in the middle of the world’s largest Ponderosa pine forest in Flagstaff, Arizona near the Grand Canyon where casual is the rule. Ideas and even gift types that are popular in more metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson, which has a whole different lifestyle, climate, and scenery, don’t always work the same way up here.

But that doesn’t mean that an idea can’t be massaged and made to work in a different way in my neck of the woods.

Ever since I attended my first gift basket convention many, many years ago in Sacramento, California, I have collected notes and ideas from all over the country.  Some of them could be easily implemented as presented while others wouldn’t work at all or had to be changed to make them work for me.

So take advantage of everything you learn whether at a convention, on a webinar, or in our magazine.  They may not work exactly as presented but can be the beginning of an idea that you massage to make your very own.

Failure to do exactly that is — to me — the biggest mistake a small business of any kind can make.

Until next time.

Your friend and mentor,
Joyce Reid

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Yes, You Can!

Believe in yourself and "yes you can!"

This quote from Henry Ford is one of my favorites.

     “Whether you think you CAN, or whether you think you CAN’T — you’re probably right.”

I love that saying, because it basically means that YOU play an active role in  creating your own future…

…and if you’re not experiencing the results that you want in your life and business, it’s just as simple as changing the way that you think & feel about whatever that may be.

Well, I think that’s pretty empowering!

Believe in yourself and "yes you can!"

And it also brings up this question: Which one are YOU?  I mean — are you a “think you can” or “think you can’t” person?

It’s true, but more importantly — How does that statement make you FEEL?​

a. Does it make you feel like you’re having a panic attack, and maybe think something like “Other people can do that, but there’s no way I can possibly have a year-round profitable business, because I’m (too old / too young / too inexperienced / insert your best excuse here).

b. Or instead — do you experience a sense of relief, and feel like if THEY could create a year-round business, and generate profits each and every year — that YOU could learn to do the same  thing too.

Well — I hope you’re thinking along the lines of “b” — and are ready to take matters in your own hands this year to FINALLY create the online income that you deserve.

I truly hope so.

Because I have been doing it for over 26 years — starting with the very first year that I started my business.  So I know that you can, too.

You are the person in total control of your life.  Now, having said that, I’m going to say something that seems to contradict that statement.

It’s true that outside events affect how we feel and what we do.  There are times when we have to do something that we don’t want to do.  There are times that there is no way that our dreams and thoughts can make a difference in what happens to us today.  An example is those who were enslaved and John McCain when he was a prisoner of war.

But it’s how we deal with those events and how we think about them that makes the difference in our individual lives. We can let them drag us down and destroy any chances that we may have of eventually overcoming them or we can let them empower us for the future.

If having no money to start a business is a fact of life, we can decide that it will never happen.  Or we can read and learn everything we can about running a business while saving enough to begin on a small scale.  Even on a small scale, the knowledge that we acquired while waiting and dreaming can make the difference between failure and success.

All of our thoughts have to be put into action or that is all they are — just thoughts.  My own business was once just a thought — an idea.  But when I took the next step and actually took action on that idea, a business was born.

Our thoughts are really our sub-conscious mind and is built on everything that we learned and experienced from the time we were very young.

My mother, who was raised in poverty, taught me as a child that I could do and be whatever I wanted to do and be. No money.  No problem.  We make do with what we have.  She made me a beautiful wool coat from my dad’s old navy blues.  My first-grade class was having a school play and I needed a long dress to be in it.  She made a beautiful one from one of her dresses.  No library for books and no money to buy them.  She helped my church create a lending library for both kids and adults.  And I dreamed as I read everything from Pilgrims Progress to Nancy Drew.

So I was lucky.  I thought.  I dreamed.  I planned.  And when the time came, with the inspiration of having positive thoughts instilled in me from the beginning, I made those dreams come true.  I could have married at the age of sixteen and been drained of energy by constant struggles as many of my friends in our low-income area were.

But that wasn’t my dream.  I went to college.  I married someone who was educated and had the same goals and values as I did.  I married someone who also encouraged me to be and become who I wanted to be.

Not everyone is that lucky.  Negative thoughts become the norm and affects everything that happens to us. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Sometimes we reach the point where we have to re-program that sub-conscious mind.  That isn’t always easy.  Replacing those old “I can’t do it” thoughts with “Yes, you can” will take work.  There will be times that you will doubt yourself.

First, you have to believe in YOURSELF and that might require a lot of trust and bravery on your part.  Next, you have to practice believing in yourself constantly.

What you do every single day matters.

One of the reasons that I am writing this article is that I have been working with someone very dear to me as she is going through a very tough and demanding personal situation.  I have seen how her thoughts have jumped from negative to positive and back again — and how those thoughts have affected her days and her nights.

She has told me that being able to talk about it with me as she tries to process the situation and what happened, as well as writing her thoughts in a journal, has helped the most.  She is taking action.  Exercising and eating differently is helping her lose weight and rebuild her self-esteem.  Becoming a positive instead of a negative person is helping her sleep and perform better at her job.

Sometimes our thoughts become overwhelming as they whirl around in our head fighting with each other.  This is when it can be beneficial to talk to someone that we can trust and who will encourage us and help us get back on the path of “Yes, I can!”

Regardless of what your situation may be today, it can be different tomorrow.  The results may be gradual.  They won’t come overnight.  But dreaming and planning with positive “I can do it” thoughts instead of those negative “I can’t” ones can and will result in a brighter future and life and even a business if that is what you want.

 

 

Look at Yourself if You Want Success

Look at yourself if you want success

 Look at Yourself if You Want Success

I don’t know if any of you follow Tiffany Lambert or not since she is more about Internet Marketing but her email today included something that is important to each of us as a business owner so I wanted to share it with you. As she said, many people just stop at Step #1.

Step #1: Inform yourself.

This is where most people buy products, learn strategies and stop. You need to educate yourself about your niche
and about possible methods of making money, but it goes further than that.

Step #2: Improve your attitude.

Lots of hesitation and low self esteem as a business professional and leader in your niche won’t help people become attracted to your marketing message. You need to work on confidently leading your subscribers and readers.

Step #3: Be an action taker.

This sounds like a given, but about 80% of people I know online moan about how they never actually implement stuff, so it’s a REAL big problem.

Step #4: Analyze your achievements.

I like bite sized achievements – things I did, or improved on – so I can feel accomplished. This is important to keep you motivated and hungry for the next step.

Look at yourself if you want success

Step #5: Look at your lifestyle.

Is it helping or hindering you? The space you live in, the people surrounding you, the schedule you have, what you eat or drink or do for fun – all of it can have a beneficial or harmful impact on your level of success.

Overnight Business Sensation?

Will you be an overnight sensation?

We open our business filled with excitement and expectations.  We love what we are doing and expect that everyone else will as well.  When we aren’t an overnight sensation, we become disappointed and disillusioned.

But let me tell you something that most of us have learned the hard way.  You aren’t likely to be an overnight sensation and that’s okay!

Running any kind of  business is one giant learning process, and success rarely comes overnight.

You need to embrace the uncertainty and strive toward learning something new every day (and take a break once in awhile for your sanity’s sake).

The only thing that will cause your business to “fail” is if you stop making and selling your products.

So this is the easiest part of running your business: don’t give up.

Even when you’re sad that you didn’t get a sale —never give up.

I’ve seen all too many businesses with potential for success die simply because the owner grew discouraged and gave up.

For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.

Sure, there are always good reasons for closing a business.  Illness or tragedy in the family.  Moving. Natural disaster among others.  But just getting discouraged is not one of them.

Your business is doing poorly.  You aren’t getting the sales that you need to survive.  Your products are getting old and have to be discarded.

So what do you do?

My answer to you is:  Discover what the problem is and FIX IT!  

Are you doing what you need to do to market your business?  Have you learned the techniques needed to make your gifts and gift baskets look professional?  Are you concentrating on a specific target market or are you casting your nets too broadly by trying to be the gift provider for everyone?  If you are an online business, does your website look professional?  Is it optimized for the search engines?  Are you using email and social media to market it?  How is your customer service?  Prices?

I could go on and on listing things that may be problems.  But if you don’t know what the problem is, it is time to have someone who will be honest with you to look at it with fresh eyes.

If your business is relatively new, perhaps you still have some learning to do.  That’s where Gift Business Owners and our Facebook page come in.   Ask questions.  If you are brave enough and want an honest critique, ask for it. But remember:  Every business is different.  Every town is different.  What works in one part of the country may not work in another.  Do you subscribe to our magazine which is filled with valuable information to help you grow your business month after month after month?  Have you taken the time to read all the old posts on this site as well as in the Facebook group?

If you have an older business that is suddenly declining, ask yourself if you are operating your business like a beginner.  Have you lost your enthusiasm?  Gotten bored?  Cut back on your marketing?

Honesty with yourself is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself when trying to solve a problem.  Determine the reason behind the problem and then decide what you have to do to fix it.

Then do it!

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?