An interview with Patty Donahue, owner of Image Awards, Engraving & Creative Keepsakes Inc. in Geneva.
Q: Describe your business.
Image Awards, Engraving & Creative Keepsakes Inc.Address: 622 W. State Street, Geneva, IL 60134
Owner: Patty Donahue
Year business started: 1994
A: We provide trophies, corporate awards, office signage and personalized gifts of all kinds, including a very large variety of photo gifts.
Q: What do you do?
A: We do engraving and dye sublimation (full color imprinting) ourselves, on location, in our Geneva store. This ensures that the customer gets exactly what they want since it makes customization extremely easy. It also means accuracy. We take the order, make the order and serve the customer when they pick the order up. If something does get missed, we can fix it right away.
Q: What made you start your business?
A: It sounds crazy but I just fell into it. I had never engraved a thing in my life when I bought my first engraving machine. It just seemed like something I could do.
Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
A: Learning all the different things a person needs to know about owning & running a business. In my case I had to learn the craft as well has how to keep up with the accounting -- from invoicing to collection, purchasing & fulfillment, product pricing and selection, marketing and advertising.
Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
A: It's mine. I mean, it's great not having someone else making decisions about my schedule or what I'm going to be doing with my time each day. But don't get me wrong. I'm no slacker. I have employees but I'm hardest on myself. I feel that everything that goes through the door at the end of the day is my responsibility. I've spent close to 20 years now building a good reputation for product and service and I feel very proud that I was able to do that for myself. Am I a millionaire? No. But I wake up each day wanting to go to work, which is priceless.
Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Not at all. An interior designer, actually.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Very little. I'm really good about leaving work at the office.
Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
A: Be prepared to take it slow. Success doesn't happen over night for most people, but if you hang in there and work hard, serve your audience with honesty and integrity, success will surely follow.
-- Kim Mikus
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