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This free online business workshop will help you: understand how a strategic plan can strengthen your business, draft each section of a strategic plan, and put it all together with provided worksheets.
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When the hospital she worked at was bought out, Christine Osborne, an occupational therapist and marketing director, went home one day and told her husband, “My creativity’s gone. I can’t do it again for another company.” The antidote for Christine and colleague Dan Morrisey was to open a retail toy store that showcased the “wonder and magic of fun.” Since those early days in 1990, Wonder Works has become a model citizen of the Charleston community with 4 locations that greatly enhance the enjoyment and success of locals' lives.
Everything about her Wonder Works toy stores is one-of-a-kind. With an amazing and knowledgeable staff, over 2,500 hand-picked toys, creative free events that draw thousands and thousands of people in the community, and providing children with a platform to follow their dreams and charitable endeavors, Wonder Works creates an experience like no other for its customers. The mission of Wonder Works is four-pronged: to inspire its employees, customers, community and charities.
Wonder Works was named the 2013 Small “For Profit” Business of the Year by the Coastal chapter of SCORE.
And in 2013, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., announced recently that Thursday, May 16 would be “Christine Osborne Day” in Charleston, due to all the contributions she has made over the years to the Charleston community, its children and its local charities. To celebrate the honor, the four locations will collected even more donations for the four charities the store works with the most: Happy Wheels at MUSC Children’s Hospital, Abby’s Friends, Hugs for Hope, and Keys for Hope.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Knowing very little pertaining to “retail,” Christine Osborne and her former partner, Dan Morrisey, reached out to volunteer SCORE mentor Bud Garforth in 1990, and he helped them lay the groundwork for the store's continued success. “We took his advice and contributing elements to the next level, and now have a business model that is so unique … and full of momentum,” said Christine.
Bud’s advice became invaluable from a business standpoint to include exceptional customer service tips, of which Wonder Works is known for in the region. For the first 3 years, Wonder Works did not make a large business decision, without first consulting Bud. Without Bud’s guidance, Wonder Works would currently not be in its present position with 4 successful stores. The groundwork and support provided was crucial in establishing Wonder Works mission and branding within the community.
The decision to begin growing the business came early on with a store catalog, then a physical store expansion into a location two doors down (tripling the selling square footage). Then the team decided to open a second location. With each growth initiative their SCORE mentor, Bud, assisted Wonder Works in reviewing the pros and cons of each choice, while sharing his “retail insight.” Bud’s ability to listen, provide necessary support when initiatives did or did not meet their intended targets, was a constant light. Christine says, “The unending support in these early years was EXTREMELY formative in helping develop Wonder Works into what it symbolizes for the community today…a place of wonder for individuals of all ages, where hopes and dreams do become reality.”
In 2010, new mom Cindy Prince created LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls as a reusable, energy-saving alternative to dryer sheets to help protect her family's health and the environment. The product quickly caught on with friends and family who also wanted to limit their exposure to toxic chemicals, reduce laundry time, conserve energy and save money. In no time, the high quality dryer balls were a hit with retailers and customers across the country.
Within 2 years in business, LooHoo had over 50 retailers carrying their product, including major outlets like Whole Foods. The business and founder, Cyndi Prince, have been featured in InStyle Magazine, Green Child Magazine and as a cover story in Maine Biz. In addition to being chosen as a Top Ten Green & Healthy Gift Idea by FOX channel 23's Good Day Maine, Cyndi was also chosen as a Leg Up winner by Spanx founder Sara Blakely. The win allowed LooHoo brand to be exposed to the millions of Spanx customers across the country via the company's catalog, website and social media channels.
The next goal for LooHoo is to target business customers like hospitals and nursing homes. Cyndi has plans to increase production capacity by 4x which she says would allow her to employ 20 people.
What's Great About My Mentor?
Cyndi met Portland SCORE mentor Nancy Strojny at a women's networking luncheon and a strong mentoring relationship quickly ensued. During the pair's monthly meetings, Nancy provides support and guidance on various challenges such as defining the long-term goals of the company, changing the layout of the website, dealing with legal issues around trademarks, changing the company name, developing a new brand, pricing, and recently, creating strategies for working with larger retailers. Cyndi says that Nancy is "an invaluable mentor who is committed to her success." She says she "continues to receive advice and expertise that helps her business grow and move in the right direction."