Sara and Adam Ballard are a pair of first responders. In early 2019, an unfortunate incident made it impossible for Sara to return to the work she loved, leaving her searching for a new line of work. “While trying to cope with the injury and find a new line of work, Sara opted to start a small, work from home business,” Adam says. The pair of them started out with a professional laser engraver and cutter in late 2019, and in early 2020, they had their first big show. Gift Nation Personalization was born.
Unfortunately, as everyone knows, early 2020 marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed Sara and Adam down as soon as it looked like they were about to take off. The pair of them had successfully made some smaller commercial sales across West Virginia and Virginia, but the impacts on businesses meant that they needed to re-think some things about their approach. At this point, Sara purchased some heat press machines and a sublimation printer, which fit with their previous offerings and allowed them to reach a targeted audience.
Watching their Business Grow
As restrictions slowly lifted, they were able to get into more and more craft fairs and similar events, leading them to where they are now. Gift Nation Personalization now offers many different items at a variety of price points, most of which can be customized via special order to feature names, logos, and more. “Some of our most popular items are the laser engraved cutting boards, coasters, wallets, Christmas ornaments, and sublimated tumblers.” They also do laser engraving on slate, glass, ceramic, and leather, which is normally done by special order.
They have also begun exploring new items, such as pocket knives, hammers, tape measures, and decorative artwork. Gift National now does retail sales in The Collective Retail and Artisan Shops in downtown Williamson, as well as bulk wholesale orders for businesses and organizations. The business that started as a kind of hobby, “really seems like a full-time second job,” Adam says. “Which is good!”
Joining the Collective
As for their involvement with The Collective, they got started after Randall Sanger, Executive Director of the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce attended an event that Gift Nation was participating in. “We recalled him making a few passes by our booth, but he couldn’t get to stop in as we had a small spot that always had someone in it!” Adam says. Later on, the pair were making trips to gift shops in the area to share what they had to offer. “We made an unannounced stop into the Coal House as a shot in the dark, and Randall liked some of the ideas we had.”
They did some work for Randall’s personal business, Randall Sanger Photography, and for the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce, and when those sold well, it led to a working relationship with the TVCC. Once The Collective was being formed, the pair decided to become a part of this venture . “Both Sara and I had sat down and talked about having a retail spot in person,” Adam says. They shared ideas with the TVCC and were ready to sign on.
Working with The Collective has been a big positive change for Adam and Sara. “Working with The Collective lets us expand our footprint from a few craft shows, to now having a staple location to go with the shows,” Adam says. “The Collective is making it possible for us to take a step in the direction of having a full-time business.”
Adam believes that working with The Collective will be a benefit for the community as well as the businesses. “I believe that The Collective helps give the community a chance to purchase unique items from local retailers,” He says. “This may be the best thing about it: giving both the community and the businesses a chance to grow in downtown Williamson.”
Adam and Sara are happy to participate in the team-building that The Collective represents between businesses and the TVCC. “Each of us have our own goals and objectives for our businesses, but we all share a few common goals for the greater good of everyone, such as making this venture successful, bringing life back to downtown, and offering something unique. I would consider these “collective” goals that we are working on as a team.”
After years of dabbling in starting businesses, which were limited by demand, time, and funding, Adam’s favorite part of owning Gift Nation is seeing it grow. “I think the best thing about owning our own business is being able to watch it grow– even though it’s slow at times, it’s rewarding. “ He also enjoys establishing relationships with those customers who keep coming back for more. “It’s great when we have returning customers that we see on a regular basis, picking out gifts for their loved ones, or even special ordering something. Really, I guess it is being able to provide this special service that is needed and appreciated is what means the most to us.”
To learn more about Gift Nation Personalization and keep up with updates about what they have to offer, check out their Facebook page!