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“Our initial concept was to have a monthly tour of different places in Colorado through baskets,” said Peter Fargo, co-owner of Regional Makers Market LLC with his wife, Anna.
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Test marketing and feedback led them to the idea of simplifying the concept and creating baskets that include a variety of regional products — from Boulder Granola to Colorado Green Chili — through wholesale agreements.
Regional Makers looks for products that are made in Colorado and that support their communities. The Fargos buy the products for their Colorado gift baskets at wholesale prices and help market the individual brands through blog and social-media posts.
“It’s a partnership for us,” Peter said.
The plan is to set up reciprocal blog posts with each company to help drive traffic to each other’s websites, according to Jeff Ruhle, marketing director.
The company also utilizes print ads, articles, coupons and social media to get its name into the market.
An added appeal for Regional Makers baskets is that the company plans to give 10 percent of its profits to Colorado conservation projects at the end of each year.
In line with its environmental theme, the organization uses products from regional companies that support local conservation efforts.
Tiles that are hand-carved on beetle-kill wood by Tracy Lytle in Superior are one example.
Other products represented include Backpacker’s Gourmet Chocolate from Breckenridge, organic dried apples and peaches from the Western Slope and Natural Crispbread from Denver.
Organic Granola represents Boulder, and Colorado Green Chili comes from Colorado Springs.
Regional Makers officially launched its website in October after test marketing the baskets since January. The company now offers two general choices: a Big Colorado Gift Basket that sells for $39 and a Little Colorado Gift Basket that sells for $25.
Both come with quantity discounts.
Postcards of Colorado scenes taken by local photographer David Helmuth sell separately for $1 and can be included in the baskets with personal messages.
“The foundation of our business is on corporate clients who purchase the baskets for business partners and employees,” Peter said. “But we’ve built our website to be easy for individuals to use as well.”
More than 30 different customers have purchased baskets to date.
“For us, it’s about building communities and Colorado pride,” said Ruhle.
The company uses independent contractors to run the business. It will bring students from Monarch High School’s DECA program onboard to help with upcoming seasonal orders.
DECA — previously known as Distributive Education Clubs of America — prepares students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management.
“We’ve taken the lean start-up approach,” Peter said, adding that the baskets are assembled in their basement.
“We haven’t had tremendous start-up costs – mainly it’s the website,” he added. “We’re about $10,000 into the business in terms of raw dollars.
“Once we break even in Colorado and have enough profit to support a staff we’ll be ready to expand into other locations,” he said. “Then we’ll be looking for investors.
“We’d like to do this in every state and eventually do it internationally. This next year, though, the plan is to build the model in Colorado. After two holiday gift seasons, we’ll be ready to expand.”
His goal is to meet the break-even milestone in mid-2013.
Peter works full-time in the company, and Anna, who works as a full-time environmental and safety consultant, works part-time with Regional Makers.
She describes their company’s baskets as a way to bring local and green movements to the gift market. “It’s not just a gift. It’s an investment in Colorado,” she said.
The Fargos came up with the initial concept for the company based on their own experience of living in a lot of different places.
“We realized that the places people live are important,” Peter said. “Regional Makers is an opportunity to share the places people love with others.”