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Brad Edwards wasn't about to let misfortune get him down--even when an industrial accident ended his career in the family's printing business, where he'd worked since age 13. The former mechanic and plant manager turned life's twist of fate into a new career as president of My Fortune Inc. His San Francisco-based company manufactures and sells clear acrylic glass fortune cookies as wedding favors, business promotions and corporate premium gifts.
The 39-year-old entrepreneur came up with the idea for a permanent, transparent fortune cookie while searching for a gift to thank his girlfriend, who loves fortune cookies, for her support during his recovery. He asked a glass blower to design a special fortune cookie, but when he learned that glass wouldn't work, Edwards settled on molded acrylic. He created a message for his girlfriend, had it inserted into the cookie, and presented his gift in a Chinese-food take-out container.
It was a big hit. When friends asked for acrylic cookies with their own personalized messages, Edwards knew his fortune was about to change. In 1993, he founded My Fortune Inc., investing $25,000 of his savings to incorporate his business, hire a manufacturer to develop prototypes, commission a graphic artist to design a logo, and locate a supplier of take-out boxes.
Edwards was excited about his prospects. "Here's a way people can send a personalized greeting to a friend, co-worker or spouse," he says, "and have it last longer than a typical greeting card." Edwards made the rounds to Bay Area retail shops, but the response was disappointing, so he decided to try mail order. He placed ads in local publications, provided a toll-free number (800-MY-FORTUNE), and offered his customized fortune cookies in their containers for $7.95 plus shipping and handling.
To help boost sales, Edwards handled his own promotions. He mailed a fortune cookie to a nationally syndicated business writer with the message, "He who reads your column is a smart cookie." The writer interviewed Edwards for an article, which resulted in thousands of dollars in orders. His next target: Fortune magazine, which placed a $2,000 order for fortune cookies filled with inspirational messages for its employees.
Sales began to climb, yet Edwards realized the only way to turn a profit was to reduce his production costs. "I researched the possibility of manufacturing them in-house," says Edwards. He eventually moved his operation from his apartment to the family printing warehouse. There, his employees use a machine to bend the sheets of acrylic into shape, insert a greeting into the cookie, and place the tissue-wrapped cookies in take-out containers. His efforts are starting to pay off. My Fortune Inc.'s gross sales reached $108,000 in 1995, and approximately $150,000 in 1996, with a gross profit margin of 30 percent.
In spite of the accident, Edwards is pleased with the direction his life has taken. "The business keeps me on track, doing something positive with my life," he says. "Little did I know that my misfortune would become My Fortune."
Sacramento, California, small-business writer Carla Goodman has written just about every type of thing there is to write . . . with the possible exception of fortunes for fortune cookies.
My Fortune Inc., 1403 41st Ave., San Francisco, CA 94122, (800) MY-FORTUNE.