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Level 5

How Sharon Coleman Built Lemon and Honey Gifts in 5 (Not So) Simple Steps

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Who: Sharon Coleman

What: Lemon and Honey Gifts

When: September 2018

Where: Mill Valley, CA

Why: A two-time cancer survivor, I knew all-too-well going through chemo can be grueling and scary and lead to all sorts of unpleasant side-effects like nausea and mouth sores. I wanted to help others as they go through chemo by sharing carefully curated gift boxes lovingly packed with helpful, purposeful products.

How did Sharon launch her business?

Step one: Check out the competition

Once I hit upon the idea, my first step was market research. Was anyone else offering gift boxes for cancer/chemo patients? I discovered a handful of competitors but quickly realized none had my unique business perspective as a cancer survivor.

Mindset: “We’ve all been touched by cancer, but I sat in the infusion chair many times myself. I knew that would set my business apart.”

Step two: Collect inventory

I started collecting products that were meaningful to me because they’d helped me when I was going through chemo. My big win was when cookbook author Rebecca Katz agreed to have her books in my gift boxes and helped me get wholesale pricing through her publisher. That’s when I knew the doors were starting to open.

Mindset: “My home office looks like stock-shop right now. I’ve got products all over the place!”

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Step three: Nail down design, logo and packaging

I worked with 99Designs to find a logo and create all the branding for my gift boxes. My designer is in Indonesia, and I just love the cheerful, bright, happy colors and images she’s come up with. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the “unboxing” experience and how to make it feel warm and loving, like someone’s actually handing you a gift. I want the moment to be personalized and meaningful.

Mindset: “There’s one store about 45 minutes from my house that sells satin ribbon in the exact shade I want. It’s crazy for me to drive that far, and I could probably find a shade that’s just a little bit different. But I pay so much attention to detail, and I can’t bring myself to use a ribbon that’s not quite right!”

Step four: Build a website

I needed a storefront platform, and Shopify has template websites that you can choose from. I selected a template that was clean, simple and one I thought would showcase my collections nicely.

Then, because I don’t know coding, I hired BlueTech to customize the template. They set up my sales channel integration, email subscription, social media linking, shipping and payment gateways. Now, because search engine optimization is so critical for my business, I’m talking with BlueTech about possibly getting their help with that, too.  

Mindset: “I’m trying to do as much as I can myself, partly because I need to save money for inventory and supplies but also because I’m eager to learn so I can troubleshoot effectively. I also realize that, at some point, I need to leave it up to the professionals. Why recreate the wheel, right? It’s all a balancing act.”

Step five: Launch!

Confession time: I launched Lemon and Honey Gifts last week accidentally! My web designer inadvertently hit “publish.” You know what? It’s totally okay. I could have come up with a million excuses why I wasn’t ready, why something wasn’t quite perfect. It’s much better to launch than to not launch!

Mindset: “I was so excited to get an order on my first day in business! I knew a little bit about the person who would receive the gift basket. She hasn’t been doing so well, so I put in a few extra products for her. I’ll have to figure out how not to do that, because it will cut into my profit. But I couldn’t help myself!”

What’s ahead?

I have to figure out how to share my business on Facebook without getting flagged … I will be homing in on how to market to hospitals, doctors’ offices and so on … I’ll be donating gift boxes to cancer fundraisers, silent auctions and the like … and I’ll be looking into strategic partnerships to help build my brand.

Mindset: “This is such an exciting time in my life! I love what I’m doing, and I love the feeling I get when I’m putting together a gift box. Everything about this business is like my precious little baby right now. I’m just hoping someone will contact me to let me know they like the box they received!”



 QB Community members, have you ever thought about the critical steps you took to bring your business to life? Tell us all about your process in the comments below!

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