Lani Harr, founder of Girlfriend Grams, was nice enough to join us for one of our entrepreneur interviews.
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Working in tandem with her business partner Deanna Strickland, she's got a great thing going with their Girlfriend Grams product line.
Tell me about your current business, Lani. What are you doing exactly?
Girlfriend Grams is an online gift boutique geared toward women. Our corporate office is located in San Diego, California.
We offer fun, unique gifts that you won't find anywhere else. Girlfriend Grams include traditional gifts such as the Birthday Gram, Get Well Gram, Housewarming Gram, Bridal Gram, etc., as well as the not-so-traditional Breakup Gram, PMS Gram, and Chocoholic Gram.
Each Gram is packaged in a keepsake Girlfriend Gram box and includes our signature message in a bottle, as well as an assortment of fun, unique items.
When did you start the business?
Girlfriend Grams has been a dream in the making for several years, but we officially launched the Grams as a unique company in 2007.
What were you doing before you started Girlfriend Grams?
Prior to founding Girlfriend Grams, my partner Deanna Strickland and I were the founders of a very successful in-home party company called Girls Night In.
Girls Night In had thousands of consultants throughout the country selling Girls Night In products at in-home parties. Our product line included purses, jewelry, clothing, spa products and home décor.
Girlfriend Grams were first introduced to women throughout the nation at our Girls Night In parties. The phenomenal response to the Grams in these test markets showed us that Girlfriend Grams was a product line that could stand on its own.
When Deanna and I both became new moms, we decided to redirect our energy (or at least our remaining new-mommy energy) into Girlfriend Grams.
We slowly ramped down our focus on Girls Night so that we could concentrate solely on Girlfriend Grams.
Where did you get the startup money for Girlfriend Grams?
Credit, credit, credit…and more credit.
Do you have competitors?
Anyone selling gifts, including online florists, could be considered a competitor.
We compete against other companies by offering a product line that customers cannot find anywhere else.
Luckily for us our customers are our best advertisers. Word of mouth has been a HUGE factor in our success. We also have a fantastic customer return rate as well as Gram recipient to customer conversion rate. Approximately 60% of Gram recipients go on to purchase a Gram for someone else within 3 months.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
It's much harder but also much more rewarding. The hours are longer but because we're so passionate about what we do it doesn't really feel like "work".
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Looked for funding rather than bootstrapping the entire thing.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Attending tradeshows to get the word out about the Grams. Because word of mouth is so important to us, we strive for maximum exposure.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Be sure you know your customers. We have done extensive test-marketing to make sure that our product adds value and is something that is repeatable, meaning that people will continue to come back and order from us.
It sounds like Girlfriend Grams is a great product and that you are doing everything necessary to make it a success. Thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us.