Other than DNA strands, snowflakes, fingerprints and tree rings, there aren’t lot of things about which you can say, “That is unique.”
In the business world, few if any can say, “Our product or service is unique.” I know one business owner that can. Her name is Liz, and she’s my sister.
A short back story...
Our dad was a Lutheran minister. Our mom was an industrious homemaker. At the Christian schools we attended, in addition to our regular classes, we also studied Bible History, catechism and hymnology. Inextricably woven into these classes was the one thing that all of us kids despised. Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded exercise called memory work. Memory work is exactly what it says: committing Bible passages, hymn verses and the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Catechism to memory, which happens to be a lot of work!
I think I can speak for all of us kids when I say we hated memory work. Consequently, our teachers (including my dad) promised all sorts of rewards in order to get us to comply with their demands to memorize things. For example, threats included but were not limited to the following: “Before you go outside for recess, you have to recite the first three verses of A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Or “If you want to eat lunch outside, you have to memorize Luther’s explanation of the Second Article.” Or “If you want to play basketball on Friday night, you have to be able to recite Luke 2:1-20 for the Christmas program.”
Since recess, lunch and basketball were my three favorite activities, I had no choice but to comply. I developed my own strategy for memorizing things. Basically, I would sit by myself in a quiet place, read the passage that I had to memorize and then say it over and over and over a section at a time until I could say the whole piece together. During recitation, I would still get nervous as I stumbled through my memory work.
But I digress. My sister Liz is a lot like my mom – industrious and thrifty. One year she decided to make homemade Christmas presents for our parents. She bought a calligraphy set and hand-designed a series of 10 greeting cards. Each card featured the verse of a hymn that she had learned in school. Mom and dad were impressed and encouraged her to make more. She started poring through an old ELS hymnary and discovered that she had committed to memory one or all the verses of 103 different hymns. She created an additional set of 24 cards and sent them off to the editor of a Christian periodical who promptly put an ad in the publication. Orders started coming in from all over the country and just like that, Hymns in My Heart was born.
After she and her husband adopted four boys from Kazakhstan, Liz was too busy to continue managing her fledgling card business. She turned the reins over to our 80 year old father and he continued fulfilling orders. A couple years ago, dad told Liz that he could no longer take care of her card business. She thought about shutting the whole operation down; then she changed her mind and doubled down on what she knew was a great product and a potentially lucrative business.
She reworked everything from the ground up. She taught herself graphic design and created dozens of new cards. She hired a web designer to build her a website. She connected with a local printer who built a virtual storefront for her. Long story short, she’s back in business!
I stopped at Walgreen’s last week to buy four greeting cards for a variety of occasions. Total bill came to $27.36. I suspect that all four cards ended up in the garbage as soon as they were read.
My sister’s cards are different. Each card is $2.75. Liz wanted her cards to be the least expensive option on the market. Each card comes with the verse of a hymn and a brief description of the history behind the words and background of the writer. Each card has a detachable book mark that can be used indefinitely. The cards are beautiful enough to be framed after being read.
There are other unique businesses out there. I saw an ad recently for a business that sells diapers for chickens, another that rents goats and another that provides professional mermaids for birthday gatherings. (Never hire an amateur mermaid!)
In the world of greeting cards, however, Hymns in My Heart is unique!