Cast a Line and Connect the Dots

My husband isn’t one to enjoy casual networking, he still can’t believe lunches and latte conversations lead to meaningful new business. The issue for him is the time and patience it takes. By the time new orders, or something significant happens, he’s lost track of how that connection appeared in the first place. But I haven’t forgotten, I know we had that line in the water for some time. In my career, I’ve seen how genuine, patient, follow up can lead to new sales, strong partnerships and important visibility. I’ll share a few examples for the non-believers.

First, I was asked to speak on a panel recently on the topic of women in business. This wasn’t a hospitality targeted event or a corporate gifting audience, we were speaking to women working in all stages of their careers - full time, contract, just starting out, mid-career, with families, and seasoned empty nesters. I agreed because I was committed to sharing my story in the off-chance it might resonate with a woman in the crowd. After the panel, I received a message via LinkedIn from an attendee who said she thought her CEO would love knowing about our artisan gifts. She connected me with the CEO’s Chief of Staff, and I followed up. They then connected me to another individual, more follow up. Fast forward, and we’ve now delivered repeat orders to that global client, all based on the fact that I spoke on a panel months ago.

Second, even though our main target is corporate, we do sell gift boxes to individuals too. You never know who those individuals are giving a box to, who else they know, and/or where they work. Our marketing “speaks” to corporate, however, individuals order off the website from our full Gift Box Collection. In one example, customers have loved our gift boxes so much that they referred us to their favorite luxury vacation resorts. After several emails and phone calls, the resort executives then ordered our gift boxes for their VIP guests.

Lastly, years ago I read the book, Small Giants, and loved it. I enjoyed it so much, I took a train to New York City to hear the author (an editor at Inc. Magazine) and a featured CEO from the book, speak at Columbia University. Before the session began, I introduced myself to the speakers and invited them to come speak in Central Pennsylvania , where I lived at the time. I went home and followed up on my request. We worked on the details, and Bo Burlingham and Norm Brodsky came to Harrisburg to speak to entrepreneurs in Central Pennsylvania. Somehow, I managed to get two editors from a major publication to speak – no speaking fees – in our small city. It was a big success with entrepreneurs attending from all stages of growth. Later, I took the train back to Manhattan, to have lunch with Bo, ask questions and hear more of his insights on writing content. Looking back, that was a big moment in my life, when you realize what you can accomplish when you set your mind to something.

In our current business endeavor, we are lean and I don’t have time for days full of coffee meetings and casual lunches, I’m not suggesting that. I am saying that creating opportunities for selective outreach, with genuine intention, and persistence can be productive if you’ve laid the groundwork.

You can create your own path forward. Find your spot, set the environment, and cast your line. You might be amazed what it nets over the coming months.

Below is my signed copy of Small Giants (of course!) and a picture of our event coordinator (Jeanmarie Kline) , myself (the one with the rebel blonde streak), Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham. Still a favorite photo of mine!

Three Questions to Consider When Engaging with Artists

Working with artists can be inspirational, however, as a business owner it’s important to understand the questions to ask this creative group as you commence business activities. In building our relationships with artists across the country, we’ve come to learn a few key questions to explore in the beginning to manage expectations on both sides and avoid unpleasant consequences on the back end.

Understanding the motivation behind each artist, and their personal preferences and timelines, is key. For example, in ceramics, some may consistently be creating new pieces, however, the kiln size and how often they fill and fire a kiln may vary. Some fire monthly, others only a few times each year. This may impact their ability to deliver pieces on a shorter turnaround. There is a definite timeline from shaping clay on a pottery wheel, to kiln, to delivery to your door. This question is the same for other artisan areas too, like custom woodworking and forged metal pieces. If you work with artists, make sure you know their timeline, and that your business model is in sync with it - and your customer delivery commitments.

A second question is, can the artist duplicate a piece close enough to the original you already have on hand?  Consider that glazes and finish processes change, so ask about those things every time you order. Yes, the whole idea of an artistic piece is that there isn’t an exact duplicate of it - even when it’s fired in the same kiln, at the same time. That’s what makes each one beautiful.  On the flip side, the pieces need to be close enough to the original, in your opinion as the business owner, so that what a customer sees on your website or social postings matches what they receive in their gifts. It’s a delicate balance that requires attention.  


The third key question you should not assume you know the answer to is, does the artist even want to duplicate the piece?  And if so, how many times? Some artists don’t want to work on multiple pieces in what feels like a production line. They find inspiration staying in the new creative mode and will limit reproduction intentionally. That’s important to know up front. Their pieces may be special edition or limited quantity, which is fine, as long as that’s clear from the start.

We enjoy our artist interactions, and the beauty of their work is central to our business. That said, understanding the nuances of our network is not trivial and it ties directly into who our own best customers are. For us, it’s those who appreciate a gorgeous piece of artisan work (meaning: no two will be identical), and that hand-crafted takes time (meaning: order in advance to be sure). If both of those elements work for our customer, then they are sure to give gift boxes that are personal, hand-crafted, and beautiful.