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February 7, 2017

I love business, always have…most likely always will. I love the creativity behind it, the adventure, the construction, the connecting with hundreds, if not thousands, of people around the globe. The most successful business venture that I’ve been involved with to date was a chocolate manufacturing company.

My best friend and I started this company on a shoestring out of the kitchen of our rural home back in the mid-90s. We both had a love for great food, art, and sharing fun times with friends.

Long story short, we travelled the world promoting our handmade confections and grew the company to include 10,000 wholesale accounts and 3,000 retail customers. Our top year, we grossed 1.7 million dollars. Pretty amazing, considering our best selling item cost $1.90 wholesale – which means, we were pumping out a tremendous amount of product per year!

I am sharing this with you to point out a couple of things that made us successful that you can implement in your business:

 

Be Creative!

I truly believe what got us in the door right off the bat was the creativity of our product line. All too often I see people “knocking off” other people’s ideas and in the long run…it shows! The best way to define yourself is to add your flavor, signature, and true ingenuity to your offering. Authenticity shows up like a glowing ray of sunshine – and people LOVE the sun!

 

Authenticity - how I made 1.7 million dollars

 

 

 

Be Personable!

This sounds obvious but in this day and age, so many people are going the digital route for everything. But guess what? People are still people. We are creatures that respond really well to the warmth of touch, sweet laughter, a glisten in someone’s eye, etc.

Taking the time to meet with your potential clients in person, whether that be at a live event, a community workshop or a sales call appointment makes a big difference. Having that face to face interaction was a big part of what catapulted us to the top.

 

Keep Showing Up!

Even when we gained momentum and could’ve easily “rode the wave” of good fortune, we kept showing up. We continued to do direct mailings – created fun postcards, seasonal flyers, rack cards with extra, enticing info for the customer, etc.. We didn’t let up on our assertive travel schedule and attended trade shows specific to our field, networked at the live events, and built relationships with our client base and fellow manufacturers.

Being a consistent face in your business circle establishes you as an authority and lays a firm foundation of credibility, trust, and moreover builds beautiful friendships that go the long haul.

Product Integrity Matters!

Through the years, we had many opportunities to save money using less expensive ingredients, thinner packaging, and cheaper display and marketing materials. We never compromised on the original vision…ever. The consistency of quality that our customers could rely on made us stand out in a very competitive market.

Sure, we probably lost a small segment that would flip suppliers to save a nickel per item. However, the mainstay customers that cared about their reputation as much as we did ours, came back year after year knowing their high expectations would be met, if not exceeded.

 

Diversify!

Initially, we started selling to upscale gift and gourmet stores. This strategy worked awesome for a chunk of years. As we continued to climb the ladder, we branched out into high-end department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s – Taylor making custom packages to ensure their end-user would feel they found a unique and special “find.” We grew a private label branch to meet this need, which opened up a big corporate amenities line contributing greatly to our 4th quarter sales.

Allowing yourself to “step out of the box” when it comes to your line and demographics expands your reach, provides security in diversification, and continues to put your name on the map in the market.

 

Stay ahead of the competition!

We did this by constantly brainstorming and reading industry based articles, putting a twist on a top-sellers, listening to our customers, and building new products and packaging to meet their needs. We weren’t afraid to do a short-run to test out a new idea. It was a goal to “WOW” tradeshow attendees each new season with something fun and exciting that they could take back to grace their shelves with. And, we knew when it was time to bring in a business coach when we needed support for ourselves and our team.

Keeping up with the trends, having your finger on the pulse of your niche and ideal customer avatar, and collaborating with other professionals can do wonders for keeping your “horse in the lead.”

Stay tuned for more tips from my business adventures! If you have ways that keep your business thriving, I’d love to hear – Feel free to share in the comments below.

Until next time…breathe joy,
Kc