Carrie (Anderson) Betz (BBA ’00) owns Cranberry Connections, a gift shop located in Wisconsin Dells. In her own words, she describes her business, its successes and challenges, and gives her advice. Betz graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Business with a major in marketing, an emphasis in entrepreneurship and a minor in organizational communications.
For as long as I can remember, cranberries have been a part of my life.
For six generations, my family has been growing them near Warrens, Wis. In high school, I worked at my parents’ cranberry museum and was amazed that the only thing people knew about cranberries was that they were typically served as a side dish at Thanksgiving.
My other passion is greeting cards and, more specifically, the connection they make between the sender and receiver. So it seemed only natural that I set a goal to open a Hallmark store in Wisconsin Dells that sold cranberry related products.
Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Business, I was hired by Hallmark Cards and moved to Kansas City to work at the corporate headquarters.
After three years, it was apparent to me that Hallmark didn’t think there was enough population to support a store in Wisconsin Dells. At this time, I decided that if I didn’t take the leap and start my own store, corporate life would get too comfortable. I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to follow my dream.
In August 2004, with the support of family and friends, Cranberry Connections opened for business. While it wasn’t the Hallmark store I originally planned, it soon evolved into a knowledgeable and clean gift shop in Wisconsin Dells, where shopping was fun.
As a business owner, I face challenges each day. In my opinion, there are three big challenges I face continually: lack of cash flow due to an imbalance of inventory levels; finding (and keeping) motivated people; and striking a balance between work and family.
In the past seven years, my business has been successful and I contribute that to a few key things.
First, I keep an open mind. I have found that things change quickly so I have to be willing to change. I believe the best way to stay competitive is to keep learning, so I try to take part in two webinars a month on varying topics that affect my business. I look for best practices from all sorts of industries to see what I can use in my own business.
Second, I have learned that it’s not about me. When I first started my business, I was concerned about product choice and thought if I carried a certain line, people would come in and buy. I was wrong. Products aren’t the key to keeping a lifetime customer, relationships are. I listen to our customers, make them feel appreciated and try to fill their needs. It’s the store experience that keeps them coming back.
Finally, and the biggest piece of advice I have to offer anyone thinking about starting their own business is to start small with low overhead. I recommend growing a business with cash as opposed to using credit cards or business loans.
Hope is not a marketing strategy, so I write my business goals down on paper and break them into yearly, monthly, weekly and daily objectives. I also make time to work “on” my business and not just “in” the business. If I don’t take time to look at the big picture, it’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities that need to be done.
With a very soft start to 2011, I became determined to increase traffic during the third and fourth quarter. I attended a conference, and instead of filing away my notes after the event, I put many of the suggestions into action and created more events and promotions than ever.
Looking back, the month of December was the best month the business has had in seven years. I have to admit, it wasn’t easy and I couldn’t have achieved my goals without our staff and the support of our customers. (I’m also a workaholic and put in crazy hours!)
I have always believed you have to give to get. This year we donated over 1,500 gift certificates in the fourth quarter to some of our customers’ favorite organizations and causes.
Instead of donating a gift basket to local fundraising events, we donated a $10 gift certificate to each of the attendees. This resulted in over 200 certificates redeemed in December and more local patrons choosing to shop at Cranberry Connections. As a business owner, it was delightful to see so many people enjoying their Christmas shopping.
Besides promotions and events, social media has contributed to our store’s continued growth. Our 2012 goal is to create a community of over 1,000 fans on our Facebook page.
In addition, I have discovered email marketing can be a game changer. For a small monetary investment, it is a fantastic way to stay connected to our customers.
Owning a small business has been rewarding and I look forward to learning everyday, growing in the business this year and creating a unique store experience for our customers for many years to come.
HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT CRANBERRIES?
- The tiny, tart berry serves as Wisconsin’s state fruit.
- In 2010, Wisconsin produced 3.96 million barrels of cranberries, representing nearly 60 percent of the nation’s crop and securing Wisconsin as the number one cranberry producer in the nation for the 16th consecutive year.
- Cranberries are Wisconsin’s largest fruit crop, account for almost 85 percent of the total value of fruit production in the state, contribute nearly $300 million annually to the state’s economy and support approximately 3,400 jobs.
1010 WI Dells Pkwy South
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
Cranberry Connections is located in Lake Delton on Hwy 12 between UNO’s and Culvers. Open 7 days a week Sunday through Thursday 9:30-7pm, Friday & Saturday 9:30-8pm.
You Tube: To view Business Video Profile Click Here
Business Video Profile was produced by Drop Frame Productions. Kurt graduated from UWO with a Radio, TV, Film degree in 2000.