Technology makes the world more efficient. To Heidi Kallett, it also makes memorable moments more “mass produced” and less personal. Kallett told WashingtonExec about her decision to become CEO of The Dandelion Patch, a local fine stationary boutique based-out of Vienna, Virginia. Kallett also explained why she has been able to thrive and expand given the current consumer market, as well as her company strategy that keeps customers coming back.
WashingtonExec also asked Kallett about The Dandelion Patch’s corporate packages and its commitment to helping the local community.
Since Kallett took over as CEO, The Dandelion Patch has expanded to Georgetown, Leesburg and Reston.
Heidi Kallett: After my presidency with the Junior League, I knew that I loved working WITH and FOR women. I also knew that I was good at moving a large group of people towards a common goal. It was early 2005 and technology was (in my opinion) beginning to make life more efficient, but also more impersonal and more “mass-produced.” I created The Dandelion Patch with one mission in mind: to make life more personal. And since our opening in 2005, we’ve become intimately involved with thousands of weddings, celebrations and milestone events through our custom invitations, unique gifts and fine stationery selections. I know that most people see us as retail brick and mortar stores– but REALLY we’re about a movement towards gracious living.
WashingtonExec: How has the Dandelion Patch changed and grown under your leadership?
Heidi Kallett: When I purchased the company in 2005, it was a single-store hobby in a non-retail environment with just over $100,000 in annual sales. Today we have four locations (and a 5th scheduled for an opening in spring 2012!), about 40 employees and total revenues approaching $4 million. So yes, we’ve changed our impact. But actually, we’ve never changed our goal to spread the importance of making life more personal. And we do that one customer at a time.
WashingtonExec: Why do you think the Dandelion Patch has been able to thrive and expand
locations while other stores have closed?
Heidi Kallett: When the recession hit– certainly we were not an exception. After the fall of 2008, we created and implemented an 18 point plan that included — of all things– moving further “upstream.” We found that our bridal business was firmly in the moderate price point category, but that many of our customers that were stretching to meet our products’ pricing were never purchasing the additional add-on products that make the business model more profitable. By offering more exclusive and custom products at a higher price point, we became less susceptible to price wars. Our model became more about service and value than discount and promotion. We recognize that we cannot be all things to every customer, but we also realize that the market opportunity is strong for one leader in the “personal expressions” arena.
WashingtonExec: Dandelion Patch is a local business. How are you and your business
involved with the local community? Why do you think community outreach is
Heidi Kallett: Absolutely– The Dandelion Patch partners with hundreds of non-profits annually through our donations and in-store events. Our goal is to help build capacity of these organizations by utilizing our strong brand and philanthropic customer base. For example, in honor of our 15th anniversary, we– with our customers– raised $15,000 for Childhelp, an organization dedicated to the prevention of child neglect and abuse. In addition, we
collected coats, toys, books and backpacks for the kids in the foster care system. One of my favorite traditions is when our customers work with our staff to wrap 600+ holiday presents for the children living at the Childhelp
residential treatment facility. So yes, community service is absolutely part of the mission of The Dandelion Patch.
WashingtonExec: What sort of corporate packages/opportunities do you offer?
Heidi Kallett: Interestingly, our corporate category is the fastest growing segment of our business. I think that mostly our customers come in for individual needs and after building the relationship with us, they recognize that we can also help them in their professional world too. From corporate holiday cards to custom event invitations and gorgeous branded client gifts, we can– and do– help companies large and small extend their message of thanks.