Interview with Dawn Harry: Nini's Gifts and Garden Treasures

This store owner’s small marketing budget packs a punch.

Nestled just a few blocks from Lake Marie in Antioch, Illinois, Nini’s Gifts and Garden Treasures caters to those who fancy all things whimsical, specializing in eccentric fashion pieces, eye-catching home décor and fairy-inspired garden items, all while hosting workshops and parties. Owner Dawn Harry describes her one-of-a-kind local business and online shop with love.

“Nini’s Gifts and Garden Treasures started as a creative outlet for my longtime love of tranquil gardens, fashion and décor,” says Harry. Her imaginative aesthetic acts as the driving force behind her business, but she quickly learned that maintaining a strict budget and being inventive with low-cost marketing strategies were essential to meeting her personal financial goals.

After working in corporate America, Harry wanted to feed her artistic side while setting up and building a small business that would provide supplemental income after she finally retired. Drawing inspiration from entrepreneurs like Dick Portillo in Chicago, who started his highly successful restaurant chain Portillo’s with just a small hot dog stand, Harry understood that it would be an uphill battle, saying “It takes time and hard work to grow that way, but it can be done.”

She started from scratch, with only her personal bank account behind her. “Getting operating capital for advertising is the biggest challenge for me. I am self-funded and look for economical ways to get my business in front of people. Small, affordable internet ads, SEO optimization, social media and partnering with established local businesses for events have been the mainstays of my limited budget marketing.”

She keeps her social media presence vibrant but targeted—focusing on Instagram and Facebook—and taking time out of her busy days to keep her website’s blog updated with imaginative and helpful content. The internet and social media play a huge role in helping her keep her marketing costs low while still drawing in new customers, but Harry also partners with other local businesses to get more bang for her buck.

“I held a fairy garden workshop and invited an established local wine shop to do a wine tasting during the first hour of the workshop. My customers said it was a very gracious and relaxing way of being welcomed, and two ladies went straight to the wine store after my workshop and bought 12 bottles of wine between the two of them. Other customers said they have driven by the wine store and have never been in it, but now they will stop in to shop. It was a terrific win-win for both of our businesses!”

Another key to keeping her store thriving? Being extremely particular about who she works with. Harry purchases products for Nini’s Gifts and Garden Treasures from vendors all over the country and she’s learned that these partnerships can make or break her relationship with her customers. “Partner with great suppliers. Your business is only as good as your vendors. Choose vendors that care deeply about quality, pack their items so they don’t break during shipment and are reliable when it comes to being available to help you serve customers, especially at critical times like the holidays.”

There’s plenty to be said for creative thinking to get the most out of a small budget and keep a new business growing, but it’s the way Harry treats her customers that keeps them coming back for more. “Locally, it’s the personal connections with my customers that differentiate my business from others. It’s wonderful that new customers are new friends!”

Check out Nini’s Gifts and Garden Treasures’ beautiful online shop and follow her on Facebook to find creative ideas for your life and home.


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