Small Business and Franchise Success Stories

Have you ever attempted to kick a bad habit? Maybe you’ve tried hypnosis or just going cold turkey—but have you ever tried a miniature coffin?

That’s the method behind Bury the Habit, a product created by Guidant Financial client John Immen.

With 25 years of experience under his belt, working in sales and marketing with a Fortune 100 company, Immen was confident he could start his own business successfully.

So how did the idea for such a novelty come about?

Immen says, “I was a business marketing major in college and one of our case studies was learning about appealing to consumers with either a ‘functional’ or ‘emotional’ attribute. The examples at the time were Nike running shoes (didn’t claim their sole was thicker or stronger) and how they appealed to consumers on the emotional level to ‘Just Do It.’

We were challenged to come up with our own examples and submit a paper on this topic. I chose cigarette companies and how they were very much marketing ‘emotional attributes’ for the many different brands. At an early age I realized just how effective/deceptive some marketing campaigns can be and their potential good/bad consequences for consumers. It really made me want to market a cigarette on a ‘functional’ attribute basis with full transparency … like we will kill you faster than any other brand just to let consumers know they were being bamboozled by big tobacco marketing. I had to laugh 20 years later when the Thank You For Smoking film was introduced because I feel like I could have written a lot of the content.

Our item is not smoking-centric as we respect that there are many other bad habits which can be addressed in a similar manner, but the inspiration was the result of decades old cigarette marketing.”

Once the idea and plans were in place, Immen turned to Guidant for funding assistance. He read an article about Guidant’s ability to help entrepreneurs start their dream business by tapping into their retirement funds without incurring early withdrawal penalties and decided to go for it.

So, how was the process?

“My Guidant experience has been fantastic. The quality of individuals and responsiveness to questions/needs has really been exemplary. The only advice I would offer others is to be certain about the level of risk and funding they are willing to take to pursue their dreams.”

When asked if there are any challenges associated with owning a business vs. working for someone else, Immen notes, “It is important to expect some unanticipated reactions and be open to new learning and skills, which take you outside of your comfort zone.

I didn’t fully anticipate some of the challenges/biases of being a single item company (for the time being) and challenges that could bring both gift brokers and selected retailers as one example. There are also unexpected upside surprises that I wouldn’t have expected. [Specifically] there are some casket makers and funeral homes that have purchased our item in larger quantities (not sure why I thought people in the funeral industry would not have personalities).”

And has Immen ever used his own product to kick a bad habit?

“I have dabbled with each and every habit we list on our package so I’m not a stranger to bad habits, that’s for sure! I still have a few bad habits, which won’t fit in the coffin. ;)

Seriously, there are people I’ve known who have put their credit cards in a block of ice in their fridge or who have scheduled a party at a bar to celebrate the last day of smoking so more inspiration was derived elsewhere. Although, I do have a Bury the Habit coffin on my desk right now—I’m using it as a candy dish reminder to go easy on the sugar leading up to Halloween.”

What’s next for Bury the Habit?

The product will be featured in most major national catalogs for the upcoming holiday season and Spencer Gifts will test the product in their stores in 2012. Immen says, “We want to continue to grow the brand with our current item through increased distribution in major retailers. We also have two other very fun/topical items in different stages of development, which we hope to bring to market soon.”

If you’d like to kick a habit and want to give Bury a Habit a try, visit the official website.

Randy, at the winery.
Transitioning from a career in law enforcement to owning a winery can’t be an easy thing, but Randy Biehl is living proof it can happen.

He was a United States probation and parole officer for almost 25 years and developed a passion for wine in his early 30s. He later decided he wanted to plant a vineyard and open a winery, which he would call Eveningside.

Why that name?

Biehl explains, “I live in Western New York (Buffalo area) and due to our close proximity to Canada we pick up radio stations from Toronto. Many years ago I would hear traffic reports on a Toronto radio station talking about how traffic was backed up on ‘Morningside Rd.’ I liked the name, so I flipped it to Eveningside.”

After an 18-month search for the perfect property to plant the vineyard, he was on his way.

To get his winery going, he turned to Guidant Financial after hearing about the company through his son, who had received a recommendation from a colleague.

“I have been very impressed with the level of service, the professionalism, and friendliness of Guidant staff and management.”

He also recently endured an IRS audit, but came through with flying colors.

“An IRS audit is very unsettling but Guidant stood by me every step of the way and that brought me great comfort. We were successful!”

On being his own boss, Biehl states, “You need to be very orderly yet creative in your thinking. Working for someone else is easier in many ways but that never gives you the freedom and ownership we all seek.”

He likens caring for a vineyard to gardening because “a great garden takes great care and so does a great vineyard,” and mentions that his life and his spare time are all consumed by his love for wine. “You know you have a passion when your hobby becomes your vocation.”

Eveningside wines are currently available online and in various fine dining establishments and stores throughout New York.

Biehl has aspirations to expand into building a facility to host events such as weddings at the vineyard.

Learn more about Eveningside at their official website.