For 17 years, Mary O'Rourke has made and sold customizable gift baskets, and in all that time, she's learned more than a few things about the business.
"People who give gifts want that gift to reflect them, and that's why you have to produce a quality gift," said O'Rourke, the owner of Baskets on Occasion in Eagan. "That gift basket represents my company, but the person who gets it is also receiving it from another person."
That philosophy and her desire to put a smile on the face of a gift basket recipient have carried O'Rourke through the ups and downs of small business ownership. Now, O'Rourke's business is ready to take another step; on Dec. 1 first, the longtime Eagan resident plans to move Baskets on Occasion into a new storefront at 1095 Diffley Road in Eagan.
The move isn't O'Rourke's first transition. Over the years, her business has made a handful of transitions as she pinballed back and forth between several professional office spaces and storefronts. But this move, she says, is final, and will give her creative business plenty of visibility and elbow room.
O'Rourke, who opened Baskets on Occasion out of her home in 1995, struck early success using online sales in an era when many businesses were still adapting to the Internet. She still does as much as 80 percent of her business online, but hopes a new store will give her a better platform for selling individual gifts.
Many of O'Rourke's clients over the years have been large, local companies, who often order customized gift baskets for employees celebrating retirement, mourning bereavement or marking any number of other life events. Her client list includes the University of Minnesota, WCCO, the Minnesota Vikings, Wells Fargo and other notables.
For each order, O'Rourke asks plenty of questions to learn as much as she can about the recipient, occasion and price range. Then, she goes to work, filling the bags with snacks, Minnesota-specific items, lotions, books and magazines, promotional items and other gifts to suit the order. Her attention to detail and service is what distinguishes her business, she says.
"I make my clients look good," O'Rourke said. "You can't just give anything like you'd get on Kmart off the shelf."
The single largest order O'Rourke has ever fielded was for 600 gift baskets. But each year—especially during the holiday season—she sells thousands of personalized baskets.
O'Rourke hasn't yet determined the hours for her new store, but did say that she will sell individual women's gifts and Minnesota-themed items there, in addition to using the storefront as the base of operations for her gift basket business.
For 30 years, O'Rourke served as a registered nurse. But her gift basket business is her true passion and creative outlet.
"I help people," O'Rourke said. "My slogan is to brighten someone's day with a gift from Baskets on Occasion."