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Our First Customer

People always remember their "firsts":  first crush, first kiss, first date. But, I wonder how many business owners remember their "first" customer. I consider our first customer to be Ms. Kellie Sullivan (pictured here on the left in hot pink). She wasn't the first person to buy a South 'n France bon bon; that I will admit. We launched our company at the 2006 Carolina Chocolate Festival and sold bon bons to thousands of eager customers. The crowds were so big and our booth was so busy (we had a sales team of 10 that never took a break!), I don't remember who bought the first bon bon, and I have no idea who sold Kellie her first taste of our delicious hand-dipped chocolates. But here's why Kellie still became our "first".

When the Chocolate Festival weekend ended on Sunday afternoon, we packed up our six freezers and our pink hats and headed back down the North Carolina coast from Morehead City to Wilmington. We unloaded our product and supplies, took our entire sales team out for a memorable celebratory dinner, and then promptly crashed in our beds.

Monday morning, while the rest of the house slept, I sat in our great room and wondered: "Now, what?" Our festival had been a huge success, but how would we now spread the word about our product, build our client base, and bring in enough bon bon sales to sustain our company? 

As I sat there practically paralyzed by a combination of exhaustion and fear, the phone rang. For the first time, I answered the phone with an official company greeting. "Hi", said the voice on the other line. "I'm calling from California. I was at the Carolina Chocolate Festival this weekend and I got to try your bon bons. I just know that my boyfriend is going to love the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor and I was wondering if you could ship some out here."

I very calmly and professionally took Kellie's order and promised that we would ship them that day. When the call was finished, I promptly hung up and burst into tears. I wept for quite a while, feeling a mixture of relief, gratitude, hopefulness and many other emotions. We had done it. We had launched our business and landed our first repeat customer.

Over the past few years, Kellie has placed several orders. The second time she called back, she very modestly said: "Hi, this is Kellie Sullivan. You probably don't remember me, but..."  I assured Kellie that I knew exactly who she was. Eventually, I told her the story of how we came to consider her our first customer. Kellie has family in North Carolina and last year, when she was visiting the area, she stopped by South 'n France to purchase some bon bons. I wasn't here and I missed meeting her.

But this year, Kellie returned to Jacksonville (where her sister lives) to celebrate her sister's 30th birthday. How did they choose to fete this very auspicious occasion? With a South 'n France Bon Bon Party, of course! I was thrilled to meet our first customer face-to-face and tell her how much she means to us. I promised her that if I ever write a book, she'll find her name there in the acknowledgments. Until then, this blog post will have to do.

Thanks to Kellie and to all of you who have made more of an impact than you can ever know just by placing a bon bon order. We supply you with a dose of sweet goodness, but you supply us with hope and encouragement and acknowledgment that we're doing something worthwhile. And that is the stuff that fuels big dreams.

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