In retrospect, the fire may have been a blessing for the company, says Ghegan. "This sounds a little Pollyanna-ish, but the fire really affected the way we did business. We were underinsured, so we didn't have the ability to restructure the way we were before. Instead, we turned our attention more to marketing."
Looking for new ways to grow, King and Ghegan contacted 1-800-FLOWERS and negotiated an agreement to help develop the 1-800-BASKETS product line. The relationship and the product line prospered. After two years, however, irreconcilable differences over the quality of the product line arose, and the relationship ground to a halt.
A later partnership with FTD involving eight Blooming Cookies products in an FTD test catalog did well--until FTD was sold and the new owners decreed that FTD would strictly sell flowers.
It hurt to lose FTD, but King and Ghegan were narrowing in on a problem. "We were aligning ourselves with people who, for all practical purposes, were competitors," says Ghegan, "and we weren't clear about what a partnership ought to look like.
"When we started talking to Kodak, it was probably the first time we actually aligned ourselves with a company we [could work with] in a very symbiotic way." The partners expect the link with Kodak to exponentially multiply Blooming Cookies' ability to grow--through sublimation imaging technology.
A quantum leap beyond the hand-painted art that adorned Blooming Cookies' original customized gifts, a Blooming Cookies customer now has the option to provide a personal photograph--over the Internet--that will permeate the ceramic surface of the cookies' flower pot. The method also means faster service--same-day production if the order is placed by noon.
Today, everything is coming up roses for these tenacious Southern belles, who just may have redefined the image. "We had an industrial engineer here today working with us on how to set up the company to grow the business to $10 or $12 million," says King, who estimates 1998 sales at $3.3 million. "We're at the point where we know we've got to go to the next level, and we want to make sure we're ready for that."
The byproduct of their success story? There's been some letup in the entrepreneurs' schedules. Says Ghegan, "We're working on our golf games again."