How holiday businesses stay lucrative year-round
Name: Eli Oelbaum
Business name; Broadway Basketeers
Location: Lakewood, NJ
Years in business: I started in 1991
Busy season: What’s called “fourth quarter” or holiday season, which is about June to December.
But there are also other busy seasons: Valentine’s Day, Purim, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Rosh Hashanah. And there’s the general gifting for birthdays, shivah / condolences, corporate, and more
How did you get started?
I opened a party store and decided to sell baskets for Purim. We also started picking up corporate accounts, and the demand grew. Soon we were doing mass production of these baskets.
When do you start preparing?
Our packaging and containers come from the Far East, so those orders are placed in February/March. We produce all year long, but by the end of June, production picks up.
What’s it like at peak season?
Come September 1st, we start four solid months of non-stop production. The warehouse opens at 7:00 a.m., and there are always six to eight trailers picking up or dropping off shipments. It kind of feels like a spinning wheel — we’re working hard all day long, and there’s always another 10,000 to 15,000 more orders more to go.
What do you do with the leftover stock?
Seasonal packaging and designs are just put aside for the next year’s season. The custom-made food products can always just be used for a different basket.
When is downtime?
Pesach — we’re closed.
How do you make it work parnassah wise?
Parnassah comes from Hashem. He sends it in many different ways. While working hard is of utmost importance, having a business that is mostly Internet based makes it evident that it’s not in our hands. A slow spell can change dramatically with a chat request or an email from the other side of the world requesting a large quantity of gifts. We strive to do our best every day.
How do you staff the business?
We have good employee retention because we’re careful not to stress them out. Even during our busiest seasons, our office staff goes home at 5:00 p.m.; We outsource the phone calls and utilize online chatting. The warehouse is open from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. at peak season, but we divide the work between two shifts. This way everyone’s healthy. By now, operations are systematic and calm, everyone has specific responsibilities, and the company is like a well-oiled machine.
What do you make sure to do in your off season?
I encourage my staff to take vacations during the summer months in anticipation of what’s coming.
Things you didn’t know about the business before you started:
The reach of the Internet. Back when we first started, I prepared print ads and created catalogues. I spent a lot of time on photography and mailings, knocking on doors handing them out. With the Internet, our market opened up to literally the entire world.
Recommendations for someone who wants to enter the business:
You have to offer something unique, not products available on grocery shelves. And the heimishe market is even more challenging because there aren’t so many manufacturers for unique food products.
Most memorable customer:
One corporate customer wanted to ship baskets that included two expensive bottles of wine and one bottle of Scotch to all different countries around the world. The problem was that you can’t ship alcohol across borders. But of course, I didn’t want to say no to this client. I mentioned the issue to our mashgiach from the OK, and he suggested calling local Chabad houses. All the Chabad shluchim in those countries agreed to help out. We sent them the packaging and the money, and they purchased the alcohol locally, then packaged it all up and shipped the baskets out for us.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 892)
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