When Connie Fledderjohann first came in to West Company she was looking for help with Facebook. “When we opened her page I remember thinking; 800 fans? Maybe she should be helping me with Facebook,” says Heather Gurewitz, Women’s Business Center Director. As it turned out, using the program was not Connie’s challenge. Instead, Connie, a photographer on the Mendocino Coast was suffering the challenge of selling photographs in a saturated market. While beautiful, those that were “liking” and valuing her photographs weren’t purchasing.
Connie first decided to start her business in part for her love of photography, but also out of concern that the retirement savings she had accumulated during her working years would not be enough. She was concerned that she would “outlive her money” and, knowing that her cost of living was higher than her Social Security, she decided to take action. Realizing that if she didn’t grow sales, she wouldn’t be able to support herself, Connie came to West Company for help.
West Company has seen many photographers over the years. As a destination for art and natural beauty, Northern California has no shortage of photographers. Instead of focusing on selling the actual photographs, which despite a new sales campaign weren’t taking off, Connie was brave enough to tackle a new question: how do you change your product into something that people will buy?
“One day Connie came in and she had these laminated cards that looked like a business card but they had a gorgeous flower image on the front and an inspiring quotation on the back. I asked her what she sold them for, and she said ‘I just give them away to make people happy.’” After further discussion, Connie realized that she could achieve her goal of making people happy and generate income for herself at the same time, and thus Happiness Cards was born. These packs of 30 or 40 cards can be given to friends, shared with strangers, or used to brighten someone’s day with a beautiful flower photograph and an inspirational message.
Connie worked with West Company to develop her pricing model, business goal, and an online selling and distribution method for Happiness Cards, as well as a marketing campaign to reach her now 1000+ Facebook fans. “Wow, I feel like I just got $1,000 worth of help today,” Connie said after a particularly useful session learning to set up her website and PayPal buttons.
In just a short time, Connie has already been able to fulfill her goal of “spreading happiness” through steady sales growth of her Happiness Cards.
Entrepreneurship among Americans, like Connie, who are 50 and older has almost doubled in the last twenty years, and today accounts for almost 25% of all new businesses started, according to research from the Kauffman Foundation. Older entrepreneurs start businesses at a higher rate than younger entrepreneurs; more tech companies, for example, are started by entrepreneurs over 50 than under 30. Many “encore entrepreneurs” are seeking to supplement their retirement income or to rebuild nest eggs lost in the Great Recession.
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