December has been a rough month for me…fun, but tough handling customer service calls and sales. You see…I own and operate a business that makes the vast majority of its sales activity during the final three months of the year. For those who don’t know, I’m in the business of marketing and selling calendars. So it should not be surprising that the last few months of the year are basically make it or break it time for me.
Back in 1988 I was in my final year at the University of Minnesota when I took a class called writing for publication. Essentially the class focused on newspaper and magazine writing…and in order to get a grade it was necessary to “get published.” During the academic quarter I set out to write an article for the Minnesota Sportsman magazine entitled “Luck of the Draw,” an exposé of sorts describing how the Minnesota turkey lottery system works from within the DNR. I queried the editor (a fancy way of saying I bounced the idea off of him) and got the go-ahead for the article. Eventually the article was accepted, I received a nice check for $160, and I was officially an outdoors writer.
At that time I was inspired by another outdoors writer, namely Ron Schara of the Minneapolis StarTribune. I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained…so I took the time to write Ron a nice note stroking his ego, but also stating that I would like to learn the ins and outs of being an outdoors writer from the best. Well, about six months passed by and I did not hear from him…then lo and behold I received a call one day that forever changed my life.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking…but no…Ron did not want me to be a writer. Instead, Ron explained he had this little calendar company on the side and needed some research assistance. It would just be a little gig and we would see where it might go from there. Well, to make a long story short eventually Ron hired me to work for his calendar company…and several years later we actually started a business together known as Wild Ideas, Inc. It was in this business where we developed his outdoor information calendar which Ron now markets for both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
In January of 1996 Ron and I departed ways over a business disagreement, but I maintained doing much of what I had done for nearly eight years previously. Today, I own a business called Outside Connections, LLC and together with my close friend, Jeff Flood of Mankato, we engage in many exciting calendar projects. Currently we are the licensed calendar manufacturer for Ducks Unlimited, and have maintained this prestigious arrangement for over a decade.
Predominantly we produce and market imprinted promotional calendars to business and other interests who place their advertising message on the calendar buying them in bulk. We’ve worked with many major clients such as Federal Cartridge, Stroh Brewing, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, to name but a few. During my 16+ years now of being in this calendar business I have been invoiced for and purchased over $1,000,000 worth of calendar products that have been resold to my customers. We have paid Ducks Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited Canada together nearly $200,000 in royalties to help finance their important conservation programs.
I’m very proud of what I have accomplished in business mostly as a small, closely-held company specializing in marketing calendars. This past year, in fact, I actually assembled my first ever printed catalog of calendar products and had a huge marketing effort to boost sales. Guess what…it worked. My business during the past 12 months has doubled in sales volume to the point that I can hardly keep up. For much of the past 2 months I have literally worked 16 to 20 hours days…and the pace was becoming exhausting. Hence, my decision to postpone writing in my blog for a short period during December.
As I reflect back it has been a fun year in business for me during 2004. I’ve learned a lot in business…and I see much more promise for the future. This coming year I plan to hire an employee so next fall when my business keeps growing I can take a little more time off to do some hunting and generally enjoy the fall season like I want to do. In the meantime, I just want all my blog readers to know that I AM BACK…and ready to keep this thing rolling. Thanks for your patience while I’ve been away attending to some other important aspects of my life.
© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.