The Sweet Smell Of Success

Company layoff leads to entrepreneur's dream

If someone were to accuse entrepreneur Cassandra Hayes of being a diva, he or she would be partially correct. In addition to owning a booming business in Philadelphia, the candid and savvy businesswoman is also a part-time opera singer. Earlier this year she had a lot to sing about after nabbing top prize in the city’s second annual Minority Business Plan Competition.

Hayes is the owner of Bo-Dacious Baskets!!, a 3-year-old, five-employee gift-service company. She initially financed the company from her singing engagements and credit cards. “During the first two years of business, I lived on frankfurters and became an insomniac from stress and worry,” says Hayes. “Eventually, I produced a quarterly newsletter, added a florist, a balloon contractor, and offered limousine service.”

With 2000 revenues of $250,000, Bo-Dacious Baskets!! offers customized gift baskets to corporations, convention organizers, organizations, and individuals. Hayes’ current client list includes Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street, Adam’s Mark hotel, Independence Blue Cross Blue Shield, and countless others.

In May, Hayes, 46, walked away with a $20,000 cash award for the Best Manufacturing Industry Plan and executing the most effective and cogent small-business outline.

Bo-Dacious Baskets!! thumped more than 100 hopefuls in the contest that actively promoted minority entrepreneurship. Small-business industry experts contend that one of the biggest mistakes business owners make is not having an effective and solid business plan.

Sponsors of the program include the state of Pennsylvania and the Department of Community and Economic Development.
For Hayes, the win is a culmination of three years of hard work, planning, and, at the time, the immediacy of corporate downsizing and unemployment. “It was actually a comment from a former co-worker regarding the order of a gift basket for a client that caused me to learn more about how the gift basket business worked,” says Hayes.

“I don’t put limits on myself,” she says. “If you remain focused, determined, and follow through with doing what you say you’re going to do, then the opportunities are endless.”