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To the Letter

Testimonials lead to a world of opportunity.

Tara O'Keeffe's rancher father had long endured splits and cracks in his hands and feet, motivating her to create O'Keeffe's Working Hands Creme. Impressed with the product's healing powers, independent pharmacies carried it. But when O'Keeffe, 48, tried to get the cream in retailers nationwide, buyers only cared about which major stores already stocked the product.

Undaunted, O'Keeffe collected letters from grateful individuals. She shared the testimonials at a trade show, where a Walgreens buyer was impressed by the binder that contained 1,000 letters.

Before long, the buyer had placed O'Keeffe's product in every store--allowing her to begin advertising nationally. "We became a brand in consumers' minds," says O'Keeffe, who saw sales increase 20 to 25 percent and projects 2003 sales to reach $2 million.

Though major chains now stock her product, the testimonials are still vital when meeting buyers. "It proves a need for a product," says O'Keeffe, who donated some cream to soldiers in Iraq. When it became the soldiers' most-requested product among the items they were given, she donated 10,000 more tubes--a gesture sure to win even more loyal customers.

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This article was originally published in the October 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: To the Letter.

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