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To Grow Your Business, You Need to Keep on Learning

by Taylor Sisk, Staples® Contributing Writer

Molly Ziske got the inspiration for her new business, Love Delivered from Home, when her children began looking at colleges. Knowing they’d be away from home and might be homesick, she wanted to find a way to send some love that would also be fun and helpful. The idea took off, and today the St. Clair Shores, MI–based business sends care packages filled with candy, toiletries, school supplies, cleaning/laundry products and other essentials that a college student might want or need.

Love Delivered from Home is a business that continues to evolve. To help that effort, Molly entered Staples’ Make Your Idea Happen contest in May 2014 and was a runner-up. She used some of her contest winnings to buy a camera, which has allowed her to shoot new product pictures, and used a bit more to have new promotional materials produced. And she has plenty left, she says, to invest in her business going forward.

Molly talked with us about what she’s learned in business, and what she’s continuing to learn. 

What makes your business different from other enterprises like it?

When I started researching care package companies, I found that most of them were food-centric. That prompted me to do some research with college students across the country, asking them what products they would love to get from home. I found a few categories stood out: candy and snacks, school supplies, toiletries and money. When I asked parents, cleaning and laundry supplies came up. I combined what I found out were popular items along with what I found I could get from reliable suppliers and put together a list of care package contents: candy, snacks, school supplies, travel-size toiletries and laundry products. We use name-brand products when possible, so the care packages are of the highest quality. That and the variety we offer allow us to have something for everyone.

So how are things going?

Business is steady. I rely very heavily on my promotional materials. I leave those in student centers and student unions — that type thing. I want to get a mailing list of families with kids away at college and mail out offers to them. So far, it seems like my best schools are in Michigan — the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan. I guess people want to do business with an in-state company. But I’ve sent packages to schools all over. Moving forward, the biggest thing is getting someone to design my Web site for me. That’s really important.

What challenges you the most, and how do you handle it?

My biggest challenge is marketing my product. People constantly tell me that once I get word out to a mass audience, I’ll be swimming in business. Right now I use social media — I love Facebook. It gets people talking and involved.

I love it when people are talking about my product because they’re happy with what they’ve purchased or because they love my social media marketing. I’m always asking opinions, taking them to heart and changing my product offerings based on what people say. For example, I had posted a few times on my Facebook page about different candies and someone messaged me that I offered too much chocolate, not enough non-chocolate stuff. From that, I changed up my product offerings to appeal to more people.

How do you define success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?

Success, to me, is when every customer is happy and I’m able to give back. One of my biggest goals is to be able to donate to charity or a cause that means a lot to me. I’d like to get some books into Detroit Public Schools. I attended Detroit Public Schools and know that having enough good books has always been an issue.

Looking down the road, where would you like to be in, say, two years?

I’d like to be the first college care package company to come up in a Google search. That would be big. And I just want to have people order a package and say it was shipped in a timely way, the person loved it — loved everything that was in it. It’s just a matter of continuing to get more exposure.

What’s your advice to someone who has a unique idea and wants to build a business from it?

If I could talk to myself a year ago, I’d say do more and more research. I did a lot, but you can’t ever do too much. Keep doing research on product delivery systems and on your customers — in my case, on college students and their likes and dislikes. And if you can, find someone who’s done what you’re planning to do, who’s been through it. You’ll probably learn things that you hadn’t even thought of.

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