Martha Mann Smith
Baskets of Joy

The start of a new business can be the result of many different things.  For Martha Mann Smith, located in Oklahoma, Baskets Full of Joy began as an offshoot of gifts she and a friend made for a church bazaar.

They baked bread and added it to baskets they created with jam, coffee, and candies to be sold at the bazaar.  People began asking if she would create one of these baskets for a birthday, get well, Christmas or other occasion.

Martha was at Basket Market (wholesale division of Hobby Lobby) one day when she found a flyer for a gift basket convention in Dallas.  It  was too late for her to attend but the flyer sparked her interest in doing some research about the industry and the possibility of a local gift basket business.  She attended the convention the following year and was “hooked.”

In 2002, Baskets Full of Joy was launched.

Starting a new business was a learning process for Martha and she began slowly.  She had been a stay-at-home mom until she reentered the work world in 1989 in the area of church administration.  She was still working a forty-hour work week and raising three active teen-agers when starting this new business.

Martha retired from her full-time job seven years ago and is now operating Baskets Full of Joy full-time.  The business began with local church members who wanted her home-baked bread gift baskets but around 75% of her orders today are from her website. And, of course, she uses pre-packaged products and not home-baked ones.

Her most popular gift baskets are “Made in Oklahoma,” get-well, and birthday.

Martha’s designer bows and custom imprinted ribbons, as well as personalized enclosure cards with a company’s name and logo on them, impress her corporate clients and encourage them to return for more.

The primary thing that makes her business unique is that she takes the time to talk with  each and every person who places an order, asking questions that help her make a truly customized design.  She makes every customer feel like he or she is Martha’s top priority.

Knowledge of her business was word-of-mouth in the early days although she regrets that she didn’t market to corporations from the beginning.  Today, her most effective marketing is with Facebook, email marketing with Constant Contact, and her website.

As do many of us, she still operates from a home studio with help from her husband, Bill,  who provides support with delivering and inventory rotation.  During 4th quarter however, she uses contract “elves” and a courier.

After 18 years in business, her advice to others is:

  1. Be sure you are properly licensed. If you don’t have a license for alcohol DON’T SELL IT!
  2. Be a sponge! Learn all you can from those who have been in business awhile. We have probably made the mistakes you are headed for!
  3. Be professional at all times. Don’t mix your FB, Instagram or website with your personal pages.
  4. Keep your business finances separate from personal.
  5. File all necessary tax returns on time. Hire a good accountant from the beginning.
  6. Get to know fellow gift basket professionals. You can collaborate, as well as keep one another accountable.
  7. Join a good networking group.
  8. Don’t expect to make money right away! Do your homework and market research before saying “you are a gift basket company.”
  9. Don’t use many “over the counter” foods. Steer clear of dollar stores as much as possible. It’s okay to use a few gourmet candies that they carry, however, watch the expiration dates. Set yourself apart from the hobbyists and offer foods that can’t even be bought at stores like Ross, TJ Maxx or Home Goods. It’s okay to use containers that you find locally,
    however, using ones from a wholesaler is preferable because they are more unique. Do not reuse containers from Good Will, Salvation Army and other resale places.Watch your inventory costs and expiration dates!

Martha has a life outside of her business.  She and Bill celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in August 2020 and are hoping to be able to take a long-awaited cruise in July.

The three children, who were teenagers when she opened Baskets Full of Joy, are now adults who are married.  They have gifted Martha and Bill with seven grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

Even though she has retired as a church administrator, she is still active in her church, where her family has been members since 1978, when they moved from Indiana to Oklahoma.  Martha coordinates the food purchasing for the church’s weekly Mobil Meals program and, before Covid, Martha purchased and helped prepare weekly meals for their homeless and indigent friends around their church.

They still have family in Indiana and are looking forward to traveling once again.

A life-changing experience for Martha has been the fact that she is also a trained Stephen Minister.  These are lay church  members trained to provide one-on-one care to those experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness, or relocation.

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