Card Shark

Mastering tricks of the card trade set a franchisee up for success.

By Sara Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When CardSmart started franchising in 2001, it provided entrepreneurs everywhere with the chance to own their very own card and gift shops. Denise Williams, 49, was one of many to act on the opportunity. In February 2004, she opened the doors to Lavenders' CardSmart store, which features merchandise ranging from the franchise's infamous half-price cards to soy candles and silk plants. Customers have responded well, and her customer database has already grown to 6,000 loyal followers--including a New Yorker who visits the Fountain Valley, California, store twice a year to stock up on cards.

Williams is just as enthusiastic about the store as her customers are. As a former florist and Hallmark store owner, she treasures the opportunity to celebrate and share special occasions. Because of this, she puts careful thought into her products and regularly attends national gift shows to find the perfect items sure to capture the right emotions.

And when Williams isn't selling or looking for cards and gifts, she's giving them--through the franchise's CardSmart Cares program. This year alone, she donated hundreds of cards to the National Guard and troops abroad, to a charity called Grandparents as Parents, and to a local muscular dystrophy campaign. "Cards are based on human emotion," she says. "You have to give them and you have to receive them to really enjoy them."

And just like a card's magic lives beyond the initial reading, Williams' future is bright--she expects 2005 sales to approach $500,000, and she plans to open a second store in just over a year.

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