Category Archives: Small business

Celebrating 20 years in Business

It’s been 20 years since I started this little business called BasketWorks, and I want to thank everyone who has been part of our success. This isn’t the Oscars, so I won’t name names; you know who you are.

But many of you might not know how BasketWorks got its start. I could see the dead-end sign at my bookstore job, and I needed something more flexible so I could take care of my then-toddler son and better manage my Crohn’s disease.

I had always wanted to own my own business, and I’d worked at a florist’s shop during college and graduate school, so I had some design experience. Since I’ve got a naturally artsy-crafty bent — and I’ve always wanted to own my own company — the gift-basket business grabbed my attention. I attended a conference, wrote out a business plan (and revised it several times) and went for it. BasketWorks was born in March 1997.

While I’ve received several awards for my basket designs through the years, I’m most proud of the work we’ve done to give back to the community, particularly the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and the Northbrook Chamber of Commerce, where I received the volunteer of the year award in 2014.

To celebrate BasketWorks’ 20th anniversary, I crocheted 700 hearts for the Peyton Heart Project and sent them to clients and friends in our database. The Peyton Heart Project works to raise global awareness of bullying and suicide prevention, as well as to remove the stigma that envelops mental-health issues. These handmade hearts, which are left in public places, feature an attached note with a positive message to let people know that their lives matter.

This project is particularly important to me; I have long battled depression and people close to me have lost loved ones to suicide. If you didn’t receive a heart and would like one, please contact us with your snail mail address, and we will send it.

I love what I do for a living. I love helping my clients improve their business relationships, and I love making it easy for folks to recognize their friends’ and families’ important life events. Thank you for choosing BasketWorks for your corporate and personal gifts.
Sincerely,
Lise & the team at    72dpi logo

Enjoy the process

Recently I had the opportunity to bid on a big project – 3000 – 4000 pieces, which is really really big for me!  My response was ‘Wow!  Great!  This is going to be fun!”

Then I heard the kicker; we needed to turn this entire project, from proposal to shipment in 5 days.  OK.  I can do that.   (Not sure how I can do that, but that has never stopped me before, and I always get the job done).

I went into full court press on this one.  I talked to the client about my concept.  I called my vendors to check on immediate availability of product and supplies.  I talked to UPS about special pickups at a different location.  I found an immediately available location to rent for a week.  I estimated very carefully how long it would take an untrained person to put a package together to my standards, and therefore how long the project would take to complete and how many labor hours I would need in 3 days.  My spreadsheet was a thing of beauty.

Of course, I didn’t get the job.  I was very disappointed, because I was quite psyched for the challenge of it all.   But after a pause I decided I was o.k. with not getting the job. The client seemed very impressed with my ability to create a viable proposal in just a few hours and was happy with what I presented.   I hold onto the hope that there may be a future opportunity from that same client.  Even more important, I had a terribly good time in figuring all this out. It was like buying a lottery ticket – while I was planning and dreaming  I was really enjoying myself, even if there was no payout at the end.

And that is definitely worth the time invested.

Smiles all!

Lise

Housewares Show!

This weekend was the International Housewares Association Show, which is conveniently held here in Chicago (completely for my benefit, I am sure).   I attend every year, trolling the aisles looking for a new idea, new trends, new products.   Unfortunately, the gourmet section of the show was virtually non-existent this year – so nothing new and exciting there!

That said, I did find some things I am feeling enthusiastic about.   One vendor had three!  A cupcake maker that will make a single cupcake, from virtually any cake batter, in the microwave oven in under 2 minutes.   A popcorn popper that will do 2-3 cups of popcorn in the microwave without oil.  And a cup that will make a slushie in your hand in no time at all.   I haven’t ordered these yet, but I am sorely tempted – very high on my super cool list.

A few people sent me on product hunts – I found several different melamine trays and bowls for one client – amazing the patterns that are available!  And I have a full list of really nifty ideas for one of our real estate agents!

Themes and trends – copper is still going strong, both as an accent color and as a material in cookware.  The sea and beach themes are big – whales, octopuses, sea shells and lighthouses.  I have read that the ‘colors of the year’ are pastel blues and pinks, but that certainly wasn’t evident at the show.

I will be at the show one more day – Tuesday is a short day- looking to see if there was anything I missed the first time through and filling in a few of the areas I know I missed.  Then it is down to reading the pile of catalogs and making the ideas turn into reality!

Smiles!
Lise

Updates and changes…

Sweet Home Chicago gift package in new gift box!

Sweet Home Chicago gift package in new gift box!

So much has changed since I last blogged with regularity.

  • My Gorilla post  about depression was published on Huff Post and shared thousands of times.  It was even published in the NAMI magazine.  I continue to get positive feedback as it slowly spreads and helps people effectively communicate how they are feeling.
  • BasketWorks became BasketWorks, Inc.   For anyone not sitting at my desk there are absolutely no changes.  Well, my business card changed, but only a little.  From this side of the desk, there is more paperwork and many, many questions directed to my account and lawyer.   I am glad they are patient with me!
  • I designed a new theme gift box for our Chicago gift packages.  I am really tickled with how they came out!  Keep your eyes here for a new Chicago Tote bag – also a BasketWorks design.  We are working on getting them made now!
  • I’ve joined the National Concierge Association.  A professional association of Concierges and the businesses that work with them, being accepted to this organization was quite an honor for me.
  • We are bringing back our paper newsletter.  We plan on publishing quarterly – some reprints of blog posts, some new material.  Please send me your snail mail address if you would like to be added to our list.
  • My eldest son is already a sophomore at Knox College and absolutely loving every moment of it.  This tiny school has proven to be the exact right fit for this kid who definitely marches to his own drummer!
  • My younger son completed his Eagle Scout this summer and has grown taller than me.  He loves picking me up and toting me around the house.

I am sure there is more, but I am going to go with this…under the promise to blog twice a week, I don’t want to bog myself down with seeking perfection.

Well….

Well, I’ve been gone for quite awhile, but I am back again.    I am told that blogging is beneficial in a myriad of ways:

  • It is good for sharing my assorted thoughts and ideas.   I enjoy streams of consciousness  as much as anyone, but that is a scary thought,  I am reasonably confident that you don’t want to know what is going on in there.  Trust me on this one.
  • It is good for increasing traffic to my website.  I haven’t seen that, but then again, I haven’t kept up my end of the bargain with keeping this blog current.   So given that, it isn’t fair of me to make a determination one way or the other.
  • It is good for creating a relationship with my readers.  Now this I take objection to.  I just cleaned out over a thousand comments for this blog.  Every single one was from a spammer – not exactly the readership I am seeking.  That said, they do think I am pretty fabulous – check out these quotes;

“Everyone will cherish this release, it’s most valuable.”   There are variations on this telling me that “everyone will enjoy this piece.”

“This really is nice compose, I will shaire the idea for this frinds”  Occasionally I have “nice produce” but for some reason, “frinds” is always misspelled the same way.

  • It is a great way to introduce folks to new designs and to make special offers to readers.  I think this falls into the same category as my second item above.

I promise to do a better job at updating and posting, aiming for twice a week.   I just hope that I am not alone out here with the people who seem to be obsessed with outlet prices on bags and sunglasses!  ( I am sure they are very nice people, but I’m not so sure they are looking for anything that I have to offer).

In any event, all this said, I will see you again early next week – let me know if you are here!

Lise

Harvest celebration

And now comes the crazy…..

Its the last week of October.  In my land, that means the crazy is now upon us.   The work week starts stretching from 5 days to 6 to 7.   The work day stretches from a 9 hour day to 12 to 15.  Meals get skipped.  I start watching the Waltons, Little House on the Prairie and The A Team – favorite quote: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

And you know what?

I love every minute of it.

It is crazy.  It is stressful.  It is physically and emotionally exhausting.  I love every minute of it.  Ok, maybe not every minute…11pm, I’m closing in on not loving it so much.  December 23rd I’m about done.   But generally speaking this is my time.

So come ride the wave with me.  Over the next several weeks I will be posting some of my new designs, as well as information on new programs we are starting – I hope that something catches your eye.

Smiles!

Lise

June Newsletter

Well, we missed one.  The May newsletter was a casualty of the season this year.  On a personal note, both of my sons are graduating this year – my eldest from high school, my youngest from 8th grade.  That has created a whirlwind of ceremonies, events and assorted celebrations.  We’ve had a fabulous time, but things do manage to slip.For BasketWorks, May was crazy busy, more so this year than ever before.  Mother’s Day and attending the Sweets and Snacks show keeps me busy most years, but this year we also changed the hosting service for our website (no more downtime, hurray!), added new designs to the site, cleared out excess inventory and had our first survey on our Facebook page.

I hope that your spring has been as much fun as mine has been, and that your summer is full of fun, family and friends.

Lise

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Every week I order product.  Generally, I am simply reordering those products that we use all the time – containers, shred, ribbon, etc.  No big deal, no significant decisions or choices to make.

But often I am selecting something new and trying to guess what my clients will prefer.  Sour Jelly Bellys or the traditional 49 flavor assortment?  Ginger cookies or Lemon snaps?   Snickerdoodle coffee or hazelnut?  Or just a morning blend?

With that in mind, we held a survey on ourFacebook page, where we asked for YOUR input on what our next Bath and Body scent should be as we expand our line.   The winning scent in our survey was Lemon Cream, with 31.9% of the vote.  We are sending a $50 gift certificate to Petra S. as a thank you for participating.  I am planning on asking your opinion monthly and giving one respondent a $50 gift certificate – one more way we’re listening to our customers.

We will be posting our next survey next week and it will run for two weeks – be sure to watch for it!

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An Extra Boost..

Last summer at the Chicago Gift Show, we met the folks from An Extra Boost of… and absolutely fell in love with their oversized mugs.

We took their Extra Boost of Comfort and Extra Boost of XOXO and created four different styles – soup, coffee, chocolate and tea.

Take a look, let us know what you think!

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yellow rib gel gem 4

Clearance Sale

We like to keep all of our inventory fresh (not just the food!) and we realized we have been carrying some of these items for a while.  So we decided to discount them to make space for new items.   We have mugs, glass houses, art kits, dog bowls, holiday ornaments, gel gems – the list goes on.  We have about a dozen items up now, adding more daily!  Check out our Clearance Page here for all our discounted items!
Remember that after we receive your order we will manually combine all clearance items going to a single address and reduce shpping prices to reflect the actual weight of the complete order.
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by phone 847-559-9379 or 888-794-4387
by email  info@79gifts.com
our website: www.79gifts.com
on Facebook: BasketWorks.Chicago 
at my Blog: www.79gifts.com/blog/
LinkedIn
Twitter 
Google+ 

We’re Hiring!

help wanted

 

Know someone in the Northbrook area looking for a flexible part-time job?   We are looking for a self-directed, hands-on individual to build, package and ship gift packages for our growing business.

The position is for 20-25 hours per week, and includes stocking product, managing inventory (receive, track, organize), shipping packages, building some standard packages, local deliveries, filing, light cleaning and the occasional personal assistant duty.   The primary requirement is a willingness to work and follow the directions – I can teach the rest!

We run a serious business, but I am flexible with employee’s hours and days – I will work around college schedules, school schedules, volunteer schedules…..lets talk.   We are looking for a permanent employee, so folks home for the summer from college are not a good match.

Caveats – the job is standing 95% of the day, going up and down stairs multiple times a day.  We carry around boxes – usually around 15 lbs, but can be as heavy as 30 lbs.  There are 2 dogs and a cat on premises, as well as teenagers.

Interested?  Call me at 847-559-9379 or pop me an email at info@basketworks.biz.  Please forward, share and otherwise distribute this to those you know!

Smiles!

Lise

Journey to Space….

inside
After picture – see below for before!

So, last April, it became painfully obvious that our 400 square foot work space was no longer going to cut it.   I had 3 to 4 people working in here at once, and while we were all quite chummy, there are limits to what can reasonably be accomplished when space is that tight.  Add to that the chaotic condition of the garage and you have a recipe for disaster.   So I undertook to expand my space.

We considered digging out additional basement – not only was this cost prohibitive, there were definite structural issues for our 60+ year old hose there.  We looked into renting space, but if I wanted to stay within half an hour of home, I was looking at annual rents of over $25k a year – plus utilities and build outs.  So the most reasonable option was to refinish the garage.

We started by renting a moving pod and emptying out the garage.  First time in 16+ years that it had been completely empty.  Found things that I had forgotten about, found things from the previous owners that i never knew were in there.   (I did however finish my oldest son’s baby book – BEFORE his 18th birthday.  I count that as a win!)    In any event,  that process has been a large impetus for our clearance sales….

We had the garage rewired, brought out phone and internet, new lights.  Insulated the entire thing and HVAC.  I painted it all a bright white.  Laid a new attic floor as well as a new concrete floor.  Moved shelving around, bought some new shelving.  Sandi built a handy-dandy box holder on wheels for me.  Rigged up a pulley system to store our packing peanuts above the garage door, and while we were at it, we insulated the garage door.    Of course, the garage door opener went kaput during all this, so we installed a new one.

Then came the hard part. Moving everything back in.  I was bound and determined to make decisions about what was coming in – sorting through every box, selling, tossing or giving away things that were no longer needed.  (A work still in progress….).  The result?  Our new space has a work desk for shipping baskets – building too if need be.  The attic is full of silk flowers, carefully labelled so we can find what we want.  We added a computer desk so that we can create shipping labels on the spot.  Because we are climate controlled, we are able to store foodstuffs without a problem.

The difference is amazing.  While I still spend the majority of my time in the basement, my guys are able to work upstairs and not crash into each other.  We actually have a space for staging packages waiting to ship out.  All lovely and beautiful.  If you are in the neighborhood, stop by and see it!.

I know that in the newsletter I promised more pictures here, but that just didn’t work, so I have created a full album on our Facebook page – check them out!  (This link will take you to the first picture….)

In any event, it has been quite the journey and I am glad we finally made it!

Smiles all!

Lise

inside garage

Before

Spring Cleaning

table

Table of books and containers to go away

I’m not a big one for spring cleaning.

Let’s be real.  I’m not a big one for cleaning, period.   However, several things have come together to make spring cleaning a thing around here this year.

I need to get rid of the moving pod that has been taking up space in my driveway – so I need to sort through everything in there.  And then I need to make a place to put anything I am keeping, so I need to sort and clean out other spaces.  Sandi asked me for a list of all the books I have from my favorite author – so I cleaned out the bookshelves and got rid of 20 or so books (this is a major accomplishment for me….).  And I found a bunch of fun new items at the Housewares show that I want to bring in, but I need space, so I am listing excess inventory on Amazon. (check that out here).

Neat & Tidy bookshelf

Neat & Tidy bookshelf

Now that all said, what it means in practice is that everything is a bit more of a disaster.  While the bookshelves are a thing of beauty, there are several stacks of books waiting for a new home.  There is a stack of stuff to be listed on Amazon or Etsy, stuff waiting for me to sort…..stacks everywhere.   Slowly but surely I am working my way through everything, and that does feel good.

So if you are looking for a deal, check out my Amazon, Etsy or Clearance page – generally there are different things on each page.   I hope you see things you love.  If you see many things you love, I am happy to combine shipping for you.

Now….if only it would FEEL like spring.

Smiles

Lise