Inspired by Inspiration
The story begins with masterminding.
As Sue Dickinson and Leigh Kraushaar, co-owners (along with Kristen Novak and Marsa Truscott) of Bee Inspired, explain it, masterminding is a concept that involves coming together to help one another solve problems and accomplish goals. In this particular case, it has helped them take a fledgling business begun in Novak’s basement to an international stage.
The concept of the business: provide people with a year’s worth of inspiration in daily doses via positive, uplifting statements written on a tiny scroll of paper that’s been rolled, tied with a bow, and packaged in a box with 364 brethren.
The challenge, from a production standpoint: find a company willing to tackle the task of hand rolling and tying hundreds and thousands of pieces of paper.
The solution, according to Dickinson: making “Google my best friend for about two months” in 2009 shortly after the four signed the papers to make their company an LLC. “I did a lot of research looking for a business partner domestically and overseas.” Loaded with patience, persistence and the website Alibaba.com, Dickinson put up broad searches looking for “someone to do the rolling and tying,” because no machines could do it. Receiving hits from all over the world, but virtually none from the United States, they eventually settled on a company in India that also supplies and prints the scrolls.
“Everything was done via the Internet,” Dickinson explains. “We have had someone visit onsite and see where this is being manufactured. So we know it’s being done right—by adults. It’s all good [and has] worked very well.”
The rolled and tied scrolls are air shipped to Lansing (the women say they don’t have the luxury of long lead times that would enable them to save money by shipping on a vessel). There, the scrolls, along with boxes purchased and shipped from a company in Chicago, and cards purchased from a Lansing company, are delivered to Peckham for final assembly.
Dickinson and Kraushaar say that the FTZ helped as far as “getting things here faster,” and making their work easier. “That has been very comforting,” Dickinson says, “having the FTZ here, because I know the people involved. It’s been a huge benefit.” However, because the FTZ has only been around as long as Bee Inspired, the women say they couldn’t comment on what it was like before. “We don’t know anything different.”
Heading up Bee Inspired’s current lineup of product is the Signature Box, which was featured in one of Martha Stewart’s magazines last autumn, and has been “flying off the shelf” ever since, according to Kraushaar. The next most popular box is the Success Box, “geared toward starting a new career, or a new chapter in their life.” Other boxes include Bee Inspired to Bee in Love, and Bee Inspired to Bee a Mom (which comes in blue, pink and yellow).
When one does the math (365 messages per year x five boxes), it becomes apparent that before anyone in India, Chicago or Lansing can do their part, there’s much work to be done. “It’s a lot more work than you think it is,” Dickinson says, “because we really put a lot of effort into the selection for the content. The four of us review every single written word that goes into every box. We look for certain characteristics in a statement, including who said it, the message, [and] the words that are used.”
In addition to inspirational quotes from famous people, Bee Inspired solicits quote suggestions on its website, and its owners always keep their ears and eyes open for appropriate content. Once the committee of four approves a quote, they next decide into which box its scroll should go. And if it’s the Signature Box, another step remains: “The Signature Box has a slightly different feature,” Dickinson explains, “in that after the statement, there is an action suggestion…under it that suggests one thing you can do that day to bring that quote into your life actively. So that takes a lot of effort, because not only do we review the quote, but we come up with the suggestion among the four of us.”
The women of Bee Inspired estimate that between the four of them, they spend in excess of 100 hours per week growing their business, and at this point, they all still wear all the hats, and are active in every area of the business. This dates back to the day the first overseas shipment arrived at Peckham. They examined hundreds of scrolls to make sure they were consistent and made a list of changes they needed. Their supplier did everything they asked and succeeding shipments have been “exactly what we wanted,” according to Kraushaar.
She says that with the help of the FTZ, companies small and large can feel confident about doing business overseas, “whether it’s clearing their labor guidelines or effectively communicating.” She suggests that any company should carefully review its contracts to get a good sense of what they are committing to, and make sure that it’s not “over-committed to the extent that if something [goes] wrong, it wouldn’t be devastating.”
Two years into their business venture, the woman of Bee Inspired have not only avoided devastation, they have also successfully grown their company by making wise use of resources they’ve found as close as Lansing and as far away as India. Along the way, with the help of Lansing’s FTZ designation, they’ve inspired thousands of people.
Sue Dickinson, Co-Owner
Leigh Kraushaar, Co-Owner
Kirsten Novak, Co-Owner
Marsa Truscott, Co-Owner