These gifts from Anna’s were not wrapped

We just ended another season of gift giving a few months back and are well into the new year.  While we bake and ship cookies and brownies throughout the year, the Holiday Season is by far our busiest time.  We are very thankful for all those customers who have made sending gifts from Anna’s Gourmet Goodies an annual tradition.

While I believe our cookies and brownies are among the best available anywhere at any price, we’re really in the business of creating a gift experience that makes people happy.  In the process of building, growing and operating Anna’s Gourmet Goodies, I find that I end up receiving more gifts than we send.  However, they’re not wrapped and don’t come in a box with ribbons and bows.

The rocks ‘rock’

I shared the story of how we incorporated the Kindness Rocks Project into our company and like a boomerang, the effects just keep coming back around.  Recently I stopped into one of our favorite charities, The Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen to drop of some ‘extra’ cookies we baked.  I had given them one of our rocks earlier and Michael greeted me with an unusually big smile (can’t say I’ve ever seen him without a smile).

He said that they loved the rock so much that an artist from NC State University painted the message in large letters on the hallway leading into the kitchen.  It’s where the volunteers come past to help serve up some 300+ meals to guests who otherwise, might not have a hot lunch that day.  It might not seem like much to those of us who don’t worry about our next meal, but it probably qualifies as a small miracle for the guests at The Shepherd’s Table.  And having been there many times, it is evident that those volunteers are indeed, people with kind hearts.

And if that was not enough of a gift that came from a rock, I received an email from one of our regular Holiday Gift customers.  They shared the story of finding Anna’s Gourmet Goodies a few years ago from the Dish This! catalog.  This customer was recovering in the hospital and while thumbing thru the catalog, found our company.  They decided to order gifts for their customers and were happy, not only because they were a big hit, but with how easy the process was to order.

Late last year, this customer’s parent was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  It seems that we sent them a rock with the message ‘Be Here Now’ on it.  They placed it on a small table outside the parent’s home as a subtle reminder that whenever they come or go, to be thankful for that moment.  What a beautiful gift I received from this story.

Help from my friends
If you’ve read a copy of my book, “Outside the Oven”, you might remember the Forward, written by my friend and former manager at SciQuest, Jack Spain.  He was not only kind in his description of my talents and abilities but shared his thoughts on themes that we both have in common as it relates to both life and business.

Finding people to work is a challenging task for businesses of all sizes.  Thankfully, we’ve had the right people show up at precisely the right time, every year.  Jack has been working with us during the Christmas holiday for several years.  Early in the fall, I received an email with his availability and his request to reserve a few days to work at Anna’s Gourmet Goodies.  What a gift it is to find people that appreciate our company values, look forward to working and take the initiative to schedule time with us.

I’m in the ‘Club’
One of the other ‘benefits’ of running a small business is that you have the opportunity to wear many, many hats.  Fortunately, my life and business partner Debbie takes care of a magnitude of details at Anna’s Gourmet Goodies, but I own the technology part of the company.

We’ve been using software from Endicia to ship packages via Priority Mail for more than 10 years.  We spend a fair amount of money with this company and for the most part, have been happy with their software.  Until this past summer when they released an update that completely broke the address validation feature.  All software has bugs, but this was a potential disaster heading into our busiest season.

Looking for an alternative, I reached out to my friend Joe Bumgarner.  We worked together at SciQuest and he is now in charge of Business Development at OE Enterprises, an organization that provides vocational opportunities for adults with various disabilities.  One service they provide is shipping fulfillment.

Joe agreed to show me their software solution.  I drove out to their offices in Hillsborough where I took a tour and Joe demonstrated how they use their software to print shipping labels.  Standing there, he looked at me and said, “You’re about to be ‘Jeffed’.  I turned around to see one of the participants in their program approach quickly with a big smile on his face.  He bent over, gently took my hand, and rubbed it on his forehead.  He smiled again, waved, and went back to his work.

Joe explained that Jeff was non-verbal.  Growing up, his inability to communicate left him frustrated.  The staff at OE worked with him to greet people with a handshake but he insisted on greeting new people his way.  OE helped Jeff transform into a happy, productive member of their team.  His gesture to me was his way of saying ‘Welcome’.  What a gift it was to meet Jeff, join the club and be reminded of the importance of communicating with other human beings.

I gave up making any type of New Year’s Resolutions years ago.  Instead, I’ve adopted the principle of selecting a single word for the year based on the book One Word That Will Change Your Life.  My word for 2020 is ‘grateful’.

Like any business, Anna’s Gourmet Goodies is always looking for new customers and to grow our revenue and bottom line.  Prices for most everything we buy have not been going down and expenses seem to be always ticking upward.

But it does not escape me that the financial rewards of Anna’s Gourmet Goodies are only one aspect of the business.  The experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve been given are gifts that aren’t wrapped and cannot be measured on a Balance Sheet.

Tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that, when we pack up boxes of our cookies and brownies, rest assured I’ll remember these and the many other gifts I’ve received over the years.  And, I’ll drop a little bit of that gratitude inside every package.

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