In 2010 when the economy was slowing down and the work at her job started to decrease, Nancy Overton turned to what she has always loved to do: baking. With a little encouragement from friends, she started her gourmet cookie company Sweets Ndulgence out of her own kitchen. She’s been a loyal Nashville Wraps customer from the start, and we wanted to shine the spotlight on her this week because she has some wonderful insight for other small businesses – and also because she’s just so sweet!
Building a Business
Many of our customers have started out with their love of making sweet treats and the dream of owning their own business, and have learned the “business” side of things as their orders grew. Nancy, on the other hand, has a background in accounting, and she has completed a graphic design program, allowing her to handle pretty much every aspect of the business herself – even creating her own logo and identity materials, as well as her own website and social media. So I asked her to give us a few “insider tips” into starting a small business.
“I worked in the accounting field for many years prior to opening Sweets Ndulgence, which helped me out a great deal,” Nancy says. “Having that experience gave me the organization skills and knowledge to maintain my books and manage my cost, which is very important for any small business owner. My tip to anyone who wants to be a small business owner is to learn all that you can about all aspects of the business. Take a few classes if necessary, as it will pay off in the end. You may hire someone else to do your accounting, design work or marketing; however, you should have some knowledge about how it all works.”
Making it Personal
She told me a little bit about how she created her brand: “I wanted my company’s name to be personalized without having to use my actual name. I scribbled many ideas out until I came up with the “N” in Sweets Ndulgence. That allowed me to make it personal using my initial and also gave a unique spelling to the name. Once I had that figured out, the next step was to make the “N” a bit more artsy so it became the fancy dessert stand.”
The Perfect Packaging
Choosing Nashville Wraps for packaging was her next step. “It was very important to me that I was able to purchase from a local supplier who not only had a variety of merchandise to choose from but also had great customer service and fast shipping!
“I use several of the gourmet gift boxes in my standard “red” color, black and white. The colors really work great for anyone and for any occasion! The red organza wrapper makes the small tray into a beautiful, luxurious-looking package. I tie the boxes with paper raffia and use the cello bags tied with pearlized raffia for party favors. I find everything well-made and cost effective. I really like the look that comes across as clean and professional without being overdone. I often get compliments on my packaging!”
Home Base Advantage
Nancy’s cookie business is based in her home just outside Nashville, which has worked well for her. “Because I operate out of my home under a Domestic Kitchen license, there are certain rules and regulations that must be followed in order to obtain a license. There are limitations to what you can produce and sell from a Domestic Kitchen, but there are also great advantages if you are able to use your own kitchen to begin a small food business. I have a good-sized kitchen and ample space for 2 small commercial convection ovens which made this perfect for me. I have flexibility and very low overhead cost that I would not have with a brick-and-mortar shop.”
Spreading the Word
Since many small business don’t have the resources for a big advertising budget, I also wanted to get Nancy’s take on alternatives to traditional advertising. She says, “In the beginning I tried several different methods to promote Sweets Ndulgence, (ads in local newspapers, ads on local online news pages and local tasting events). I also always brought fresh baked cookies to share with others whenever I had the opportunity. Others have also spread the word via their websites and blogs. I have found that word of mouth is an amazing thing especially for someone in the food industry! Someone sharing my cookies with others or just telling them about the cookies is the best advertising anyone could ask for.
“I have never considered myself a sales person, but I have realized that if you really love and believe in something then you don’t have to really sell it – it will sell itself. I have taken boxes of cookies to Nashville Lifestyles magazine and the ladies at Style Blueprint and this resulted in Sweets Ndulgence being included in both of their November 2011 Holiday issues.”
And Most Importantly: The Cookies
Speaking of the cookies, they are of course the main reason for Nancy’s success. With melt-in-your-mouth flavors like Orange Blossom, Blueberry Lemon and Chocolate-Dipped Cherry, and made from scratch using the best ingredients like real butter, eggs, and fruit, Sweets Ndulgence cookies are anything but ordinary. Nancy focused on developing her own unique, delicious flavor combinations to make her cookies memorable. She also specializes in custom-printed cookies for corporate events, trade shows or parties (see her baby shower cookie favors, below).
“I love that I have created a business by myself from the ground up doing something that I love to do and being able to make others smile!” Nancy says. Her best advice for others starting up their own businesses: “You should really love what you are going to do and not expect it to be easy. It is a lot of work. If you are going to work from your home, make sure that you have good time management skills.”
And, I might add, when you need gift and gourmet packaging, pop over to NashvilleWraps.com!