Name: Andrea Cwik
Business: Bliss & Bale
Location: Mountain View, CA
When Andrea Cwik worked in corporate communications in Silicon Valley, she saw individuals and work teams regularly send and receive gift baskets. She learned that most of the items in these baskets ended up in the trash bin. Why? They were low quality or simply impersonal. Andrea had a big idea: What if she made gift boxes filled with things people actually wanted? Like fresh, local food items, beautiful artisan-made goods and even fancy tequila? ¡Sí, por favor! Today, as founder of Bliss & Bale in Mountain View, CA, Andrea loves helping her customers give personal, curated gifts to anyone from their mom to a corporate client. Goodbye, trash bin!
We spoke with Andrea about why she loves working for herself, and why she believes customer service is a really big deal.
Hi Andrea! Tell us all about your gift business, Bliss & Bale.
At Bliss & Bale we help businesses gift better. My customers are usually corporate clients or medium- to small businesses looking to gift their clients in a memorable way. I also have an ecommerce shop filled with a wide variety of gift boxes for every occasion and recipient.
After years of working in the corporate world, what motivated to start your own business?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I’d been wanting to start my own business for a while. I didn’t know exactly what that would look like, but then I saw there was a big need in the market for really good gifts. In the gift basket industry, the baskets were filled with things the recipients didn’t actually want, so there was a lot of waste. I saw an opportunity to be environmentally conscious, and I wanted to give gifts people wanted to keep and not toss. I learned I could customize these gift boxes to a client’s brand, making the gifts and the giver more memorable.
I do this by hand selecting every gift and getting to know most of the vendors who supply the items I place in the boxes. Customization is huge for gifting, and it requires thinking about the recipient and the giver. For example, if we’re working with a photographer, we might send a box of cookies with the photographer’s logo on them as a thank you for booking packages or we might send a box to other vendors who referred business. I also work with really big clients like Apple, Google and Facebook.
What did it take to turn your idea into a real business?
I did a lot of research about starting a business and getting the right resources in place to set up my ecommerce shop. I went to the NY Now Convention, which is where I met many of the vendors I currently work with. I’ve also spent a lot of time selecting the products, curating them and getting the word out about my business.
The first marketing I ever did for Bliss & Bale was a giant email blast to all my personal and professional contacts that said I’m starting a new business and here’s my website. From there, things grew by word of mouth, and some bloggers approached me to feature me on their blogs. Instagram and Pinterest have been important marketing tools for me, as well.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you were starting out in business?
I wish that I’d put more time into the setting-up processes, especially with accounting. As a creative entrepreneur, the numbers were never the first thing that I would take care of. I’d leave it to the end of the year and then try to work backwards, which isn’t a great method.
What has been most satisfying about starting and running your own business?
I love being able to create my own schedule and set my own hours. I have three small kids, and I need a lot of flexibility to be an active mom and still run a business.
I’m excited about the continued growth of my business. A year ago I was still working at my corporate job. One year later, I’ve now gone full-time with Bliss & Bale, and my business has doubled. I’m finding myself evolving from solopreneur to hiring my first employee. We ran the business out of a room in our house for the first two years, but it grew so fast that it was just taking over everything. We remodeled our garage and made an actual studio for me.
What has been most challenging or surprising about starting and running your own business?
At first, the biggest challenge was getting the word out and getting the marketing done. That first email I sent out only got me so far -- after those orders were done I thought, “Now what do I do?” I decided to focus on networking events that were highly targeted to the clients I wanted to work with, and that decision helped me grow Bliss & Bale. Showing up in person, bringing my product and building up relationships really mattered.
How are you gearing up now for the busy holiday season ahead?
I have to increase my inventory, and now I’m realizing I have to increase staff, too. Predicting what I need and when I need it has been the second most difficult thing for me as I grow this business. In the past year, my business has grown so much, and I’m still learning what the inventory should look like from season to season.
What do you hope to gain from attending QuickBooks Connect?
I’m so excited for the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs, to connect with other business people and to learn from the keynote speakers there. Of course, I’m excited to get my product out there and meet new clients!
Tell us one more thing we haven’t asked you about.
For me, customer service is first and foremost, and, sadly, it’s absent from some companies these days. When customers support a small business, they want personalized attention. I try to provide it for each and every customer by working with their budget and their brand. I take care of everything from building the gift boxes to handwriting the notes to shipping the gifts, often on a really tight deadline.
Now it’s your turn
QB Community members, how long did it take you to turn your idea into an official business? What steps did you take to make it happen?
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