When Ashlyn Trant’s shy, 3-year-old son took an immediate liking to another 3-year-old boy named Anderson at preschool, Trant resolved to arrange an out-of-school playdate for her son.
One day during a school trip to a pumpkin patch, Trant tracked down Anderson’s mother, Ashley Campbell. She was hesitant, but Campbell later accepted the invitation for a playdate.
It was “a playdate I didn’t want to go to,” Campbell said Monday, laughing in an office she now shares with Trant.
Now, about a year and a half later, the two mothers have paired up in a big way: They have opened their own business in Williamsburg.
Both former teachers, Campbell and Trant are used to connecting with the community through children, but now they have a new approach: greeting new homeowners in the Greater Williamsburg community with a welcome basket.
Called the Welcome Basket of Williamsburg, Trant and Campbell’s business does not give out traditional welcome baskets stocked with jams and jellies, snacks or fruit. Instead, the baskets contain goodies and coupons from local businesses and restaurants, such as free ChapStick, notepads, jar openers, and more.
All baskets are branded with a pineapple — a traditional symbol of southern hospitality.
“We want local businesses to know ‘You’re the first impression,’” Trant said.
The pair received their business license in June. Basket deliveries began in September.
How it started
Before opening the Welcome Basket of Williamsburg, Trant had been a stay-at-home mom for several years. Before that, she was a teacher at York County School Division.
Last year, Trant knew it was time to return to work, but did not want to go back to teaching.
Campbell was also a teacher with Williamsburg-James City County Schools, but “needed a break” after 10 years in the classroom.
Instead of teaching, the women took the advice of Trant’s college roommate, who had opened a welcome basket business in the Roanoke area and had been encouraging Trant to open a similar operation.
“We brainstormed what would work in Williamsburg,” Trant said.
After months operating out of Campbell’s house, the women decided to lease an office at 502 Strawberry Plains Road.
The office allows the women to bring their children to work and have flexible schedules around their families’ needs. Their office carries traces of a classroom: labeled plastic bins, color-coded folders and multiple calendars on the wall.
Trant and Campbell are set to host a small ribbon cutting at their location Thursday with representatives from city government.
How the business works
Each month, Campbell and Trant aim to deliver 100 gift baskets. The duo has personally delivered more than 700 baskets since September.
Campbell checks online public property records to find which houses have been sold recently. It can take 30 to 90 days for the records to be updated, she said. Since the women only have the time to make and drop off about 100 baskets each month, they deliver only to homes that sold for $250,000 or more.
To fund the Welcome Basket of Williamsburg, businesses and restaurants can choose between two different six-month-long plans, gold or silver. With the gold plan, a business’s marketing materials will be included in all 100 baskets. The silver plan places the materials in just 50 baskets.
The women keep track of which houses the baskets are delivered to, and report the data back to their sponsors.
The business does not partner with Realtors.
Keeping it local
Word of mouth has helped build the Welcome Basket business in a short time, Campbell said.
At first, the women pitched their sales plan to businesses they were familiar with: an orthodontist, a law firm, a dentist and more.
As teachers, pitching their business plan and asking for sponsors was unknown territory for Trant and Campbell.
Since last summer, the women have been getting more businesses reaching out to them unprompted. In their first year, the women hope to increase the number of sponsors per basket and bring on more restaurant sponsors.
In the community spirit, the Welcome Basket of Williamsburg will also promote a nonprofit each month in the welcome baskets. Campbell said they hope to have a “giving back” event later this year to help bring attention to some area nonprofits and businesses.