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Presents of Mind

How an entrepreneur's thoughtful creation grew to become the hip gift that just keeps on giving
November 1, 2002
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/56348

What: Assorted gift boxes with fun, hip themes
Who: Kate Dyer-Seeley and Karen O'Hollaren of Urbanabox
Where: Portland, Oregon
When: Started in 2000

Bored by the idea of giving her husband a traditional gift basket to celebrate his promotion, Kate Dyer-Seeley made her own by filling a sleek, plastic box with treats including brainteaser games, mints and other cool, fun items. When her husband took it to work, the box was such a hit that Dyer-Seeley, 29, and two friends, Karen O'Hollaren, 30, and Erin Cox, decided to make a business out of it together. (Cox left the company a year later.)

Initially, they worked out of Dyer-Seeley's garage, and each invested $1,000. The three friends also attended gift shows to discover other amusing products-such as scented candles, games, gourmet food products and CDs-to include in the Urbanaboxes. For example, two current box styles are the Swank box, which offers a stainless steel shaker, martini olives and a jazz CD set, and the Baby box, which includes a lullaby CD, a baby massage book, a cotton blanket and calming tea.

The gift boxes, each of which are priced at $10 and up, have been a hit with corporate clients, who account for 80 percent of the company's total sales. (Consumer sales from the Urbanabox Web site make up the other 20 percent.) "We really felt there was a niche market for the urban professional," explains Dyer-Seeley. The boxes fill an essential corporate gifting need because, as she puts it, "there really aren't a lot of alternatives other than gift baskets or flowers."

Thanks to viral marketing, sales exceeded first-quarter projections by 300 percent, and year-end sales are expected to exceed $300,000. Looking forward to future growth, the partners branched out in February with a new line: customized boxes for PR and advertising agencies that can be filled with marketing materials.

Groovy Moves

What: Job board for teens and college students
Who: David Hunegnaw of GrooveJob.com
Where: Columbus, Ohio
When: Started in 2001

David Hunegnaw was working in business development when he began to receive daily calls from headhunters trying to recruit him away from his current job. Their offers didn't intrigue him as much as the actual recruiting process, and after spending half an hour on the phone with a recruiter one day in 1997, "I decided that [recruiting] was for me," remembers Hunegnaw, 35. The next day, he incorporated his own recruiting service, Hunegnaw Executive Search.

Realizing that the industry was changing with job boards such as HotJobs.com and Monster.com leading the way, Hunegnaw got the bright idea to launch a different kind of job board that specifically targeted the potential employees who are typically ignored by the big boards: teens and college students seeking part-time work.

Today, GrooveJob.com lists more than 20,000 jobs and has registered 125,000 students nationwide. It continues to succeed by targeting the restaurant, retail, hospitality and banking industries, all of which rely on part-time help with up to 400 percent turnover rates each year.

So how does Hunegnaw attract teens and twentysomethings to his Web site? In addition to offering an array of job listings, GrooveJob.com gives its visitors another compelling reason to log on: free ACT, GMAT, LSAT and SAT practice tests. "We've also got other tools that teach students how to dress, how to interview and how to build [their] first resumes," explains Hunegnaw, who expects GrooveJob.com's year-end sales to hit $2 million.

Free for All

What: Free product samples given to vacationers
Who: Brian Martin of Market Connections International
Where: Montclair, New Jersey
When: Started in 2001

Who hasn't taken a trip and forgotten to pack a tube of toothpaste? Brian Martin, a former brand manager for Wyeth Consumer Healthcare (marketer of such products as Advil and Chapstick), saw this recurring problem as the perfect opportunity to get consumers to sample new products.

"Why not get them at a time when they're open to trying new things; when they have the time to consider new ideas and are in need of these products?" explains Martin, 29. After all, it's a lot harder to get a consumer's attention when he or she is at home.

Martin's company distributes free gift packs filled with sample health and beauty products to hotels, national park campsites, resorts and cruise lines nationwide. It's what you might call a "win-win-win" situation: Guests are more than happy to receive the gifts, properties like distributing them (at no cost), and manufacturers are able to distribute free product samples for less money.

Luckily for Martin, lots of vacationers neglect to pack essential toiletries-2002 sales are set to surpass $2 million.

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