04/09/10 7:42 AM ET
Gift vendor catches on with clubs
Especially for You Gifts has partnered with MLB since 2002
By Maureen M. O'Connell / Special to MLB.com
Any gift in their product line can be personalized by incorporating company logos on ribbon for brand marketing of a company or business. All gift items are incorporated in reusable gift baskets or containers that contain specialty items including mugs, picture frames, champagne glasses, cutting boards, silverware, etc. This is one specific characteristic that distinguishes Especially for You Gifts from other companies that produce specialty gifts.
The president of the company, Debra Harris, established the company in 1996. Debra's husband Mike asked her to create thank-you gifts for clients who obtained life insurance policies through his American Family agency. The gifts received such great reviews that Debra gained the confidence to start a website with a few everyday gifts. From that moment on, the orders increased, and Especially for You Gifts was born.
When asked about the origin of her union with Major League Baseball, Debra explained, "Our relationship with Major League Baseball began with making baby gifts for employees and Major League players with the Chicago White Sox in 2002. Since we are a certified business with the Chicago Minority Business Development Council, we had the opportunity to meet Mike Spidale, the director of purchasing for the Chicago White Sox, at a business fair.
"When the 2003 MLB All-Star Game was being hosted by the Chicago White Sox, we received a call from Special Events for MLB and were asked to submit designs. After several designs were submitted, we were offered the contract to produce 300 gifts for players, VIPs, guests, media etc. for the All-Star. The Chicago White Sox hosted a thank-you event at the stadium for all of its Minority and Diverse vendors of the All Star."
Harris said, "At the event, we were fortunate to meet Wendy Lewis, VP of supplier diversity for MLB. We have been in business with MLB for seven years and through the guidance and mentoring from Ms. Lewis and her staff, have participated in additional projects for MLB. These include official gift vendor for the 2005 MLB All-Star Game hosted by the Detroit Tigers and most recently the 2009 All-Star Game hosted by the St. Louis Cardinals. We continue to provide baby gifts for the Chicago White Sox and look forward to expanding our reach with other MLB clubs."
Debra is convinced that becoming an official vendor through the Diverse Business Partnership program with MLB has greatly contributed to the overall success of Especially for You Gifts. She believes that working as a Diverse Business Partner has provided the company business exposure for many high-profile projects. One event in particular, the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game, with its NL and AL league players, celebrity guests, media and executives within the MLB network, has provided business opportunities and opened many doors with other MLB clubs. In fact, the company will be creating gifts for the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim.
In addition to MLB and the Chicago White Sox, Especially for You Gifts boasts such clientele as Pepsico/Quaker Oats, Kellogg's, Kraft, Harrah's Resort & Casino, MGM Mirage Resorts and Casinos to name a few.
There are also challenges to owning any business or organization. Debra elaborated, "Our biggest challenge is continuing to obtain new clients since we may lose some clients over the years." Fortunately for Debra, she views this as a positive, as she continues to network, exhibit at business conventions, and deliver presentations for potential new clients. In addition, Debra's extensive 20-year career in sales, which included selling consumer products and pharmaceuticals, has greatly helped her in starting the company, making presentations and closing deals with clients.
Debra divulged her success strategy, explaining, "It is imperative to do your homework on the industry and your possible competition. I chose to make gifts because I have always been very creative and thought this would be fun. Especially for You Gifts' unique twist would be producing gifts with high perceived value but upscale in nature."
Furthermore, she believes that success can also be attributed to keeping up with the latest trends in designs. Especially for You Gifts acquires a majority of their business from the internet and is also proud to say that most of their referrals are from current clients and word of mouth. Additionally, the company produces an annual brochure and sends postcards featuring new gift designs every quarter. Debra feels this marketing strategy helps them to stay on their clients' radars and plays a significant role in the development of long-lasting client relationships.
Since Debra's initial business introduction to the Chicago White Sox and Wendy Lewis with MLB in 2002, Especially for You Gifts has continued to thrive in its important business relationships not only with MLB but also with her vast list of clients.
Especially For You Gifts
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.