Anyone operating a gift-basket service should be prepared to spend much of the holiday season working long hours, especially during the weeks before Christmas. "The demand for our baskets is steady all year long, but it's during the last few months of the year when things really heat up and we work very, very hard," Nichols says.
Still, operating a gift-basket service offers a variety of distinct advantages. The market for gift baskets is sizable, with repeat business being not the exception, but the rule. Start-up costs can be as low as $3,000.
It's possible to make substantial profits running this business part time, as Masterson did. "I ran this as a part-time homebased business for my first two years and had some success that way, but once I realized I really enjoyed the gift-basket business, I decided I needed to move things up a notch," Masterson says. "So I quit my day job as a nurse and moved into a retail spot with a showroom and a warehouse. That definitely took the business to a whole different level, converting it from a hobby into a full-time `real job.' " Sales also reached a new level: Mountain View Gift Baskets brought in sales of more than $100,000 in 1997.
For gift-basket entrepreneurs, the rewards are more than financial. "Being creative, seeing your visions come to fruition, and [seeing] the responses of [people] who receive your baskets--that makes all the difference," Nichols says. "When you get a call from someone who tells you how happy one of your creations made them, it just makes you feel so darn good."