Building Outreach into Your Business

By Laurie Erickson, an EO Seattle member and CEO/president of The Finest Accessories, Inc.

As the CEO and president of The Finest Accessories, Inc., I have decades of experience in the fashion accessories industry. While I have seen my share of “hair-raising” moments in my line of work, one of the most memorable—and altogether life-changing—experiences occurred when a long-time customer asked me a single, simple question.

Hillary, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy, wondered what products I had for someone who had lost the very thing I built my business around— hair. I apologized and told her we didn’t have anything of that nature. And then it hit me: We work with hundreds of different silks … why not make her something vibrant and helpful? I encouraged Hillary to select a silk print from our website, and then had our factory make her a scarf at no charge. It was the least I could do for this woman, a loyal customer who wanted to feel beautiful during such a difficult time.

At a staff meeting later that week, we sent Hillary the scarf, along with a card and our good wishes for a quick recovery. It felt great helping someone in need, and we wondered why we hadn’t been doing it all along. It was then that our Good Wishes Scarves program was born. Our mission is simple: to provide one free head covering—a “Hug for the Head”—to anyone who is experiencing hair loss as a result of illness, injury or treatment. Each Hug for the Head comes with a message of hope that honors the strength and courage of the recipient on their path to healing and recovery. It’s our way of bringing a small ray of sunshine into the lives of those who need it. Hillary wound up loving the scarf, and we found a new calling.

It has been almost seven years since we sent that first scarf, and we’ve been fortunate to have touched 28,000 more lives ever since. In the process of building outreach into our business, I’ve gained some valuable knowledge that has helped me grow as an entrepreneur. For starters, I’ve learned that every business owner has something to offer beyond just their business, and that’s the ability to make other people’s lives a little easier. I’ve also learned that you don’t have to wait until you can afford to give back to start doing it. When people saw us doing good for others, they jumped at the chance to help. We became a bridge for others to give back. Our attorneys, CPA, graphic designers and printer (an EO Seattle member) have all graciously offered their services pro bono to help deliver our message.

All in all, it has taken a tremendous amount of research, energy and outreach to get everything up and running … but it’s been worth it. Not only are we doing our part to help our community, but an unbreakable bond has been formed among our staff. What’s more, I’ve found renewed focus as a leader. When I’m frustrated by the ins and outs of running my business, I think about how we’re putting smiles on strangers’ faces, one person at a time. I’m able to reflect on what really matters, and somehow the business woes that used to get under my skin start to disappear. Running a business certainly has its rewards, but I’ve discovered that the real win is discovering how to use your company as a vehicle for supporting and growing your community.

Laurie Erickson is the CEO and president of The Finest Accessories, Inc. Fun fact: Laurie calls herself a “Lemonade Stand” girl, having started her entrepreneurial journey with a lemonade and bubble gum stand as a kid. Contact Laurie at laurie@franceluxe.com.

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