The Genesis and Evolution of an Idea
Once upon a time there were three friends, two guys and a girl, who had been meeting every Monday morning at 7am for breakfast at a local restaurant. The objective for this brain trust was to think of money making ideas! While meeting together for approximately one year, several viable ideas were discussed, including a public buy-sell market for exchange of used possessions i.e. now eBay, and, an instore kiosk to dispense new release videos i.e. Red Box both brought to life twenty years later! Remember, this was back in 1990 prior to widespread use of internet or cell phones.
Being prohibitively costly to finance a project like eBay, the group realized we had to settle sights on something far less ambitious. Eventually, one of the guys mentioned that it would really be nice to have something to remind his children of home once they had grown up and moved away. Expanding on that thought, the idea of a collectible series of ornaments commemorating significant sites in hometown, Roanoke, VA, met both the mission statement and the financial constraints. When deciding on the first ornament in the proposed series, it obviously had to be the Mill Mountain Star as Roanoke is known as “The Star City of the South.” The same guy worked for a promotional gifts firm and had access to a manufacturing company. Based in the USA, this firm was capable of designing and manufacturing custom pieces. Only 300 Star ornaments were shipped on our first order. A very small ad was placed in The Roanoke Times. We also participated in a local seasonal market sponsored by the Junior League without a sample, no less! Still, that first season we managed to sell enough to make the effort worthwhile. Then we got very ambitious!
After seeing our ad, one afternoon an older gentleman walked into of our shipping “department” asking “Is this where I can get some of those Stars?” He explained his girls owned and ran a local retail store called “The Gift Niche,” a very popular location on the Downtown City Market. “Would we consider having them sell Stars for us?” Quickly a meetup was arranged and details hashed over. A very successful evolved over the succeeding decade; many Saturdays during the holidays we would get a call saying “Come quick as you can, we’re out!”
We thought to grow the business by expanding to other cities. The first incarnation of the partnership lasted five(5) years and had setup distribution in Richmond, VA, Lynchburg, VA, as well as in North Carolina and Florida. The business was not producing enough for anyone of the group to quit their day job, but, the logistics issues were getting increasing unwieldy to manage. Unfortunately, the project was abandoned in 1995.
Convinced that the collectible ornaments idea could create value, a second partnership was formed among four(4) people having different talents. Six(6) additional Roanoke ornaments were produced, as well as four(4) pieces commemorating the history of Colonial Williamsburg. Through a good friend we were introduced to the Colonial Williams Foundation who subsequently placed our Williamsburg pieces in all their retail locations. This offered a delightful opportunity to visit Colonial Williams annually during the height of the Christmas Season!
We further expanded our product line and markets by introducing a collectible series of lighthouse ornaments. During the six(6) years of the second partnership, we produced two(2) Virginia lighthouses and five(5) coastal lighthouses along the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Fast forward to Spring, 2013. The collectible ornament project had been dormant for several years. One of the original partners and her brother invited a few friends to join them on a motor trip to Chateau Morrisette. Having hired a limo service everyone could sit together and chit chat and/or enjoy adult beverages. This group effectively became the Board of Directors for the third partnership. While en route to lunch we actually used Google searches to research the internet for pieces not yet produced.
And so the story goes, now in the decade of the 2020s. We have a new retail partner, Two and a Half Sisters at 1405 Grandin Road, Roanoke, VA. Also, a presence on the internet to sell our items 24×7. Amazing! As our Mother would say “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a business that takes orders while we sleep?” Exactly.