Mt. Pleasant, SC
When the hospital where she worked was bought out, Christine Osborne, an occupational therapist and marketing director, decided to pursue her passion by opening a retail toy store.
Osborne and co-founder Dan Morrisey (who passed away in 2007) had no retail experience, so before opening Wonder Works in 1990, they sought the help of SCORE mentor Bud Garforth.
Garforth showed Osborne the importance of creating systems for the business and asked tough questions that forced her to think through her ideas. As the business grew, first adding a catalog and then more locations, Garforth listened to Osborne’s plans and advised her on the pros and cons of each decision.
Most importantly, “Bud set the standards for how to treat employees, customers and the people around you,” says Osborne. “Your business is not about you—it’s about how you can get your mission, vision and passion out to your employees, and incorporate their passion.” Garforth helped her create a personal development plan to empower employees. “Find out what their passions are and ask how they want to share your vision with people. Who knows? They may come up with a different idea that expands your mission tenfold. Your business is a melding of your employees and your ideas—and when that happens, magic happens!”
Magic is what it’s all about at Wonder Works, where every store is unique and a mix of hand-selected toys, fun-loving staff and exciting events attract thousands of children. The company’s mission—to inspire its employees, customers, community and charities—has been so successful that in 2013, the mayor of Charleston declared May 16 “Christine Osborne Day” to honor her contributions.
Now with four locations and 20 to 25 employees, in 2013 Wonder Works enjoyed sales of $3 million, representing nearly 30 percent annual growth. Osborne recently added ecommerce to her website, is building a central warehouse and corporate office, and is considering a fifth location.
As Wonder Works grows, Osborne continues to rely on SCORE. “You can’t think you can do it alone,” she says. “Getting advice from somebody that’s been through the trenches is the best thing you can do.”
Mass Mutual is not associated with, and does not endorse, the business featured.