Learn about Florida Entrepreneur Heather Westbrook:
After 15 years in the corporate world of business development and marketing, Heather Westbrook, owner of Blue Sky Collection, found herself without a job. She was also completely disenchanted with the experience and wanted a fresh start. In August of 2009, she took the leap and started her own business.
“I was more than ready,” she said. “I had money saved and didn’t see failure as an option. The original idea was to be an online gift boutique. Sort of like an online gift shop for high-end items. I did that for about three years before more and more people started asking about personalized promotional items. Once I added that service, that part of the business really took off. I do anything from print to apparel to items for trade shows. If you need something personalized, I can do it.”
According to Westbrook, her decision to get into the business in the first place came from her obsession with gift giving. She was always very particular about the gifts she chose and became passionate about finding unique items. It also came from her experience in Marketing as the person purchasing promotional items within numerous industries. Personalized gifts and promotional products seemed to go hand in hand. As Westbrook shared, competition is everywhere. Nevertheless, she's established herself as a reputable business that delivers on its promises and offers a personalized experience for each customer.
"Honestly, there's someone that does what I do on every corner," she said. "Some do it on the side and are successful with that approach. Others drop it after a year. I've seen the bigger ones over promise and under deliver. If I say I’ll do it, I don’t miss a deadline. I also develop a very specific proposal for everyone I work with. I'm like a personal shopper. Customers will tell me they want something different or unique and give me a price point to work with. From there, I work to find what they want. Customers also appreciate that I’m competitively priced."
The majority of Westbrook's clients discover her through word-of-mouth. She works with a lot of people in the construction industry. They do recruiting events, golf tournaments and ground-breaking events that require swag, handouts and other giveaways. Through the extensive networking Westbrook did in the early stages of her business, she's in a position to reap the benefits of referrals and has a robust product catalog capable of satisfying any request. She thoroughly enjoys what she does and appreciates that no two days are the same.
Looking ahead, Westbrook is focused on repeating the success she experienced in 2018 which, according to Westbrook, was her best year ever. She'd also like to continue finding new clients to help with their unique promotional needs and keep growing as a person.
What advice does Westbrook have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Be frugal and don’t spend a ton of money up front on things like online advertising without doing your due diligence," she said. "Make sure if you hire someone to do your website that you have complete control and that you own it and can make changes later. That's very important. Try to remember to have fun, manage your time wisely and have a plan when you go to a networking event so that it’s beneficial. Lastly, do what you say you’re going to do. Don't ever waiver from that."
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