The Story of Joseph and Mary
Baby babble first and foremost is a blog about baby gifts and babies so most posts will deal with those topics and be written by Phyllis and her design team. From time to time I will also contribute posts focusing on the business side of our company based on my 25 years experience as President and co-owner of Silly Phillie.
I’ve decided to start by telling the story of ”Joseph and Mary”, not the biblical couple but the husband and wife who owned a small gift shop in Manhattan near the office building where I worked in account management at the Benton & Bowles advertising agency (B &B is frequently mentioned in Mad Men, the fabulous AMC drama). Joe and Mary are important to our company not so much for the business they gave us, but because they helped focus us on the right strategy that led to the success of our company. They were mentors, consultants, and eventually friends even though none of us knew it at the time.
Silly Phillie's first Product 1984
It began with a frenzied, chance encounter one day during lunch as Phyllis was driving me back to to work at B&B. Phyllis had already designed our first product, a personalized infant and toddler bathrobe with a seasonal holiday theme. Our strategy was to sell that robe via mail-order so we were not thinking much about selling to retail stores. But when Phyllis noticed this small gift shop she stopped the car, grabbed two samples and said “I’m going into that store and coming out with an order”. And that she did! She sold five dozen robes which we shipped the very next day because our basement was filled with them and it was getting close to the end of the holiday season.
Now comes the best part of the story. Two weeks later on a late fall weekend afternoon I’m outside our home with my two young sons (one still in a carriage) when I see a car heading down the street stopping at every house before pulling up to me. The driver, map in hand (that was before Mapquest and GPS ) rolled down the window and asked if I knew where he could find Silly Phillie. Taken aback, I suspiciously asked who they were and why they were asking for Silly Phillie. He explained that a nice young lady had sold them robes and he wanted to buy more because they were selling like hotcakes in his Manhattan gift shop. Relieved and delighted, I introduced myself and welcomed Joe and Mary Harari into my home.
Over scotch, coffee and cake we talked for more than two hours. Joe and Mary, experienced gift industry retailers as they were, advised me to have Phyllis design a line of classic layette items that we could sell all year round and recommended a sales rep they knew (Shelly Miller) who could help us gain retail distribution nationwide. Joe and Mary left that evening with five dozen additional robes and a friend for life. When Phyllis returned later that evening from a sales event she couldn’t believe the story but we immediately began to implement a strategy based on Joe & Mary’s advice. The rest as they say is history.
The lessons here for any small business are:
- Always pounce on opportunities
- Listen to your customers advice
- Remain flexible and be ready to adjust strategies
- Include your phone number on all sales orders and invoices!
Sadly Joe Harari passed on a while ago but Mary is still very much with us although she is retired from retailing. Every now and then we speak and reminisce about that faithful Sunday afternoon. Mary still calls me several times a year to order our infant bathrobes, always in size 24 months. Mary has been giving a Silly Phillie bathrobe as her personal baby gift of choice for more 25 years, dating back to that day in Oct 1984 when she and Joe gave Phyllis an order for five dozen of them.
We will forever and always be indebted to our friends Joe and Mary Harari.
Leave a Reply