I realize now that many of the ideas and reasons for starting my new business were unrealistic.  There was much that I didn’t know or even think to expect.  As I said earlier, I don’t intend to whitewash this business.  It can be a lot of fun and there are lots of pros for it.  Likewise, there are negative aspects which should be considered.

The Pros and Cons

I’m going to address this as if you are planning to be a homebased business which is realistically the best way to go.  We’ll discuss the pros and cons of homebased versus storefront later.  But, as a homebased business, you’ll save a lot of overhead that a storefront will have.  One of the advantages of this business is that you can set your own schedule and plan your time around other things that you would normally be doing.  I can dry the clothes or cook dinner while making gift baskets.  The gift basket business allows me to juggle my time so that I can spend time with my family and make the baskets at night or on the weekend.  This can also be a disadvantage as children, spouses, and housework can be equally demanding.

Unless you have a large basement or other area that can contain a growing business, be prepared for the growing business to take over your house.  You may begin in an extra bedroom or in a corner of your house, but if you are successful, it will expand like a balloon and you’ll find that you have baskets, inventory, ribbons and paperwork everywhere.  Your bathtub will become the place to store finished baskets.  Your dining room table will no longer be useable or even visible.  One very successful gift basket company owner began in her laundry room, graduated to the garage, expanded to an add-on workshop, and is now operating out of a shared retail space.

My husband and I live in a large house with about 2400 square feet.  Fortunately, the children are grown and no longer living here.  I began my business in one of four bedrooms.  My business now occupies two bedrooms (a third one is sometimes used to store finished baskets), our 15 x 22 foot living room, the garage, and two outside storage areas.  I also used to rent a small retail space — first in an antique mall, then in a florist, later in a gift store and now no longer rent retail space.

Your business will take over your life.  As a true entrepreneur, your business will consume almost every waking moment as well as your dreams.  You’ll no longer shop for clothes or gifts for others.  You’ll find yourself looking at things in a store very differently.

As you wander through a store, you’ll suddenly see a colander as a container for a pasta basket, a bait bucket for a fishing basket, and a flower pot for a candy bouquet.

Silk flowers are no longer for the dining room table but are purchased for enhancements for that springtime gift basket or the sunflower summer one.  The child’s wagon becomes a “Welcome Wagon” for a housewarming gift or a container for a new baby gift.

You’ll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea (better write it down before you forget it!)

You’ve probably heard or even read that you can make lots of money in this business.  That’s one of those sugar-coated truths.  You can make a lot of money in this business BUT it doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t come easily.  It takes a lot of work, a great deal of knowledge, strong business and time management skills, and even luck.  Many spend the first few years without ever taking a penny out of the business.  All of the profits are plowed back into the marketing, inventory, advertising and more.  If you are looking at the gift basket business as a “get rich quick” business, forget it.  Keep your fulltime job and learn how to invest wisely.  You’ll end up a lot richer.

Most of us in the gift business are here because we love it.  We wouldn’t be happy doing anything else and we are willing to work hard to make it work.  Many gift basket company owners work at another job in order to support this business until it takes off — and this can take years.  It’s the kind of commitment that is hard to understand.  It’s the magic of he entrepreneur.

One misconception that many creative beginners in this business have is that all they need to succeed is to be able to make a beautiful gift basket.  Some even think that all they have to do is buy a bunch of similar products, put them in a basket or box and call it done.  Creativity is important, of course.  You probably wouldn’t even be considering the gift basket business if you weren’t somewhat creative.  But it takes much more than that to succeed in this business.  Making the gift basket is only a minor part of what is essential if your business is going to blossom and grow.

I had never even made a gift basket before starting this business.  This is a skill that can be learned.  Other skills can be learned as well but you should be aware that they will be needed if you hope to grow this business.  Marketing, managing time wisely, networking, advertising, accounting, computer, graphics and internet knowledge are all valuable assets to have.

Don’t be discouraged, however, if you don’t have all these skills.  They can be farmed out to others or even acquired.  As an employee or mother or housewife or whatever station of life you happen to be in, you probably have many of these skills without even being aware of them.

Attitude and patience are very important in this business as well.  Everything will not always be sunny.  You have to be able to take disappointment in stride and bounce back.  There will be grumpy customers and perhaps your family and friends will not always be supportive.  You have to believe in yourself and your ability to succeed.

I mentioned earlier that you can make a lot of money in this business.  Oftentimes there are tradeoffs, however.  That big mega order for 200 baskets that have to be shipped out in one week may require long back-breaking hours to get it out.

Many of us have put in all-night stints to make sure our customers were not disappointed.  I haven’t had a Christmas tree (or even been able to see my living room) since the first year I began my business.  That’s not all bad though.

I don’t have to cook Christmas dinner as we celebrate at my daughter’s homes.  Christmas cards are completed either before December or by my husband.  Any cookies or holiday pastries fill the freezer before Thanksgiving or they don’t get made.  Since I don’t have a young family, this is not much of a drawback for me, but it could be a problem for some of you.

Pros and cons. . . there are many on both sides of the slate.  But this is true of any kind of business.  Take a long deep look at yourself and if you still want to own your own business while having fun (most of the time), then read on.  This may be just the business for you.  It was for me 30 years ago and still is!

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