The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recognized Golden Openings from Urbandale, Iowa as the 2017 winner of the $25,000 prize for its annual Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award, presented by MetLife. The annual award celebrates the achievements of small businesses and honors their contributions to America’s economic growth. The Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award recognizes a small business that exemplifies the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, and individual initiative. The winner demonstrates success and leadership across business growth performance, innovative business strategies, community engagement, as well as customer and employee relations.
The company: Golden Openings, Inc.
Who’s in charge: Kimberly Baeth
Where are they: Urbandale, Iowa
What they do: Create memorable ceremonial events through unique, customized products
Q: How did your company get started?
Kimberly Baeth: Where on earth can find those giant scissors that cut? Can you print wide, custom ribbon? Where can I find a mailing labels for residents in my business area? Those were the type of questions Kimberly Baeth heard time and again while working for the North Hennepin Chamber of Commerce from 1993 to 1996. When she approached the Chamber board of directors, explaining, “We could sell more memberships and exist alone on organizing startup details and events for new businesses,” Baeth was told she had too much on her plate to take on additional projects. But she wasn’t satisfied, and the idea sparked her entrepreneur spirits and inspired her to dream big. In February of 1997, Baeth resigned from her job at the Chamber, then turned around and joined the Chamber as a newly formed business, Golden Openings.
It was the first business of its kind, specializing in Ribbon Cuttings, Ground Breakings, and unique business events. Although Ribbon Cuttings and Ground Breakings did exist, but Baeth’s mission was to bring them to life! New business owners were consumed with setting up their new facility, hiring staff, working with vendors, sourcing products, and more. There was no time for a new owner to plan and coordinate a Ground Breaking or Ribbon Cutting. Golden Openings became a one-stop-shop for all their needs: creating the invitations, coordinating with local VIPs, sending out marketing materials, connecting with the local Chamber of Commerce, organizing the food and drink, getting local media to attend, and more. With one successful event after another, business grew quickly for Golden Openings.
After a few short months, Kimberly was coordinating multiple events per week. Not even the unexpected 3-week early arrival of her daughter, Stephanie, on October 1st, 1997, put a halt in her busy schedule. When it was time for Baeth, and her family to leave the hospital, they had to stop at grand openings with hospital bands still on their wrists, before going home. As the years progressed, Kimberly found another opportunity; as businesses wanted to buy their “own” giant scissors and to customize them. She worked with a manufacturing company to produce the first giant 3-foot stainless steel scissors with different colored handles.
Q: What barriers have you faced while building your company and how did you overcome them?
- Preventing mistakes. Hundreds of orders are shipped each week, with many different items in each box. It is challenging to oversee what each employee is doing and the intricate details that go into each custom order. Many are rush, overnight orders. If something gets shipped incorrectly, the entire event could be very difficult to pull off, for our clients.
- Meeting rush deadlines. Many orders are made at the last minute and are very time sensitive for our clients. Each staff can be juggling 10 to 40 orders at once, often needing to come in early or stay late to make sure they meet the customer’s deadline.
- Keeping the right amount of inventory. A single customer can order 50 to 100 shovels or scissors at one time. It is challenging to guess how many of each item to manufacture, order, how many different products to invest in and which ones will sell fast and which will not. We want to be able to fulfill every customers order but we don’t want to have too many of any one item, sitting on the warehouse shelves, taking up valuable and expensive space.
- Being better than the competition. When Golden Openings, Inc., started, we were the only company to carve out our niche. Over the past 20 years, several other businesses have taken a liking to all or some of our business, copying our scissors, ribbon, bows, shovels, keys, and more.
We continue to set the standard and lead the way to earn our customers trust. We are the first to come out with new products and protect, patent and trademark our original products and ideas. In order to prevent mistakes, we implemented a comprehensive quality control system. Every order gets quality checked and approved by multiple quality control team members. Quality approvals are managed and retained within an audit history. We built an intelligent queueing system to manage our order priority and client due dates. Orders are assigned to team members and priorities are set by an algorithm. The queue is visible to all team members, as it ensures we do not miss any deadlines. We also have an intelligent inventory management system which tracks inventory levels and predicts when we will need more of each product.
It has been effective in minimizing the amount of inventory we need to carry. To stay ahead of our competitors, we always stay true to our purpose, mission, vision and values. We sell an experience, not commodities and continue to lead our niche industry. Every business faces challenges. We face our challenges head on by working hard, taking risks, focusing on the customer and giving back, proving success is possible and this makes us feel good at the end of each day.
Q: What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?
Baeth: Having worked for over 20 years in the event industry, there have been many exciting and proud moments. We have provided items for Oprah, Disney, Warren Buffet, Facebook, Google, The White House, movies, TV shows, professional sports teams and more. One moment that sticks out in my head, was the moment we won a large contract to provide annual holiday ribbons and bows for a large corporation.
This was the type of contract that helped propel our business to the next level. It allowed us to make substantial investments in infrastructure to fuel future growth. We bought a warehouse, expanded into a new location with a larger office and second warehouse, and launched a new, mobile friendly online store. The warehouse provided a 10-fold increase in square footage to store inventory, the new office allowed us to triple our team size, and the new online store provided a brand new, integrated online experience for our customers
Q: Tell us about your company’s role in the community. How do you use serve your hometown?
Baeth: We are extremely proud to serve our community and always strive to make a positive impact. Examples include: In 2015, the President of Quality Manufacturing (who helped design our first giant steel scissors) passed away after battling brain cancer. In his honor, we organized hosted a major fundraiser: “Cutting Out Cancer in our Community.”
The event was attended by 300 local business members and raised $25,000 for John Stoddard Cancer Center.
In 2016, shock and heartbreak hung over Central Iowa, after two police officers were brutally killed in Des Moines and Urbandale. In response, we created a Central Iowa Blue-Ribbon Campaign. We acquired 35,000 yards of blue ribbon and handed it out to grieving residents and businesses. We coordinated pick up sites for ribbon distribution and group outings to tie ribbon around trees/lampposts. In the end, thousands of trees, businesses, and homes were covered in blue ribbon to show support for our law enforcement. Our staff also hung 8-foot blue bows on police stations.
Baeth has served on four boards: Urbandale Economic Development Board, YMCA Board, Campfire USA Board, and National Association Women Business Owners Board.
Our employees are active in-service clubs and donate time and money each year to their respective organizations. We offer paid internships and school-to-work programs, mentoring teenagers. We always offer discounts to nonprofits, vets and the military, on any order. We are also non-paid presenters at seminars, universities and clubs.
Q: What does it mean to not only have created your own job, but to also create jobs for others?
Baeth: Creating jobs for others is an extraordinary honor. It provides a strong sense of fulfillment to enable families to own a home, send children to school, and lead a happy life in America. We extremely proud to have created employment for our team members and view them as family. We recognize that just they have responsibilities to our business, we have a significant responsibility to them as well. We embrace this responsibility and strive to make our company a great employer every day.
Q: What will you do with the Dream Big Award’s $25,000 grand prize?
Baeth: If we win the cash award, we will invest it multiple ways. 1) We will invest back into Golden Openings to roll out new products and improve infrastructure 2) We will reward our hard-working employees who did much to earn the award 3) We will donate to an organization that promotes growing entrepreneurship in America. We plan to keep hiring students and interns so they can gain valuable work experience.
We would love to set up a chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) in Iowa. YEA is an impressive program that transforms local middle and high school students into real entrepreneurs. Students generate business ideas, conduct market research, write business plans, pitch to a panel of investors, and launch their very own companies. It would be fun to give students in Des Moines this opportunity. The YEA! Program aligns nicely with our excitement and passion to celebrate the spirit of enterprise among today’s youth and tomorrow’s future leaders in our community.
Q: What’s your best advice for other small business owners who want to Dream Big?
1)Do what you love and put a dent in the universe. Use your passion, talent and desire to find your niche and then go out and change the world.
2) Listen to what customers want and make it happen. Always say, YES, WE CAN, staying true to your niche, but make it happen! Figure out how to do it later. For example, one day a customer asked for a giant light switch. Googled it and couldn’t find it. Now we make them! We have sold over 100 giant light switches!
3) Make connections. People with a broad set experiences can often see things that others miss. Always look for connections and opportunity.
4) Know the “WHY”. Many businesses and sales people make the mistake of focusing on the “what” and “how” of a product. Typically, this does not lead to success. Instead, focus on “why” your customers need your products or services.