Valentine’s Day was extra special for several people on the Wingate campus last week, thanks to a couple of student entrepreneurs.

It took just over a month for junior Ana Maria Patino and freshman Isabela Cardona to shepherd an idea for a treat-delivery service from concept to fruition. The two would-be cupids delivered breakfast baskets full of pancakes, fruit, flowers and balloons to a dozen lucky women on the morning of Feb. 14.

“Their reactions were amazing,” Cardona says. “No one was expecting it.”

Ana Maria Patino driving a golf cart

Ana Maria Patino (shown here) and Isabela Cardona delivered their baskets of goodies via golf cart.

This was no class assignment, though the pair did make use of lessons learned in their Wingate business classes. Patino and Cardona both grew up in Colombia, and they got to know each other through the University’s branch of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). They soon realized they both had a yen for starting a business, and eventually they hit upon the idea of delivering treats to students.

“When the idea was born, we saw that Valentine’s was coming, so we were like, ‘That’s the opportunity,’” Patino says.

The holiday was also only a month away, so they got to work quickly. With help from professors and students in the Porter Byrum School of Business, they began laying out their business plan.

They named their service Love Baskets and started putting concepts they’d learned in business classes into practice. Patino, a finance major, and Cardona, who is leaning toward majoring in business or marketing, showed their business acumen by taking it one step at a time.

First, they decided what to include in the baskets, choosing some combination of balloons, breakfast foods, chocolates, flowers and stuffed animals. Then they visited potential suppliers to see whether the enterprise was financially feasible.

They ultimately offered three options: standard ($25), medium ($35) and premium ($45). Expecting most people to choose the middle option, they were surprised when 10 of their 12 customers opted for the premium basket, which included either flowers or a stuffed animal. “It was a happy accident,” Cardonas says.

To market their service, they scrapped plans to set up a table on the promenade and take paper orders. Instead, they printed and distributed a few fliers and then did the rest of their marketing via the social-media site Instagram. The “Love Baskets Wingate” account grew to nearly 100 followers in a couple of weeks.

For service sign-ups, Patino and Cardona turned to Google forms. They also took orders over the phone.

Once the orders were in, they shopped. Patino bought the flowers on Feb. 11. To keep them fresh, she turned the air conditioning down as low as possible in her room. She also turned to Pinterest, where someone suggested dropping a penny into the water. “At the end of the day, the flowers looked perfect,” she says.

Up all night

Fortune smiled on Patino and Cardona in a few respects. Mary Maye, administrative assistant to School of Business dean Dr. Peter Frank, helped them procure the use of one of the University’s golf carts to make their deliveries. Also, no duplicate delivery times were requested, so Patino and Cardona did not have to enlist the help of volunteers to deliver their wares.

It still took a lot of work to pull off the venture. The pair stayed up all night the night before Valentine’s Day cutting fruit and preparing baskets. “We wanted to make sure our customers were happy and make sure everything was perfect,” Cardona says. “The last night, we did not sleep at all.”

Valentine's Day basket full of goodies

A premium basket, ready for delivery

The hard work should pay off in the long run as Patino and Cardona better grasp concepts they learn in the classroom. They also turned a profit, which they’ll plow back into their business.

“We have a lot of very good students here at Wingate University who are diligent about their academic work, but there are few who are eager to learn and try doing things in the world outside the classroom,” says Dr. Amresh Kumar, who taught Patino in Principles of Marketing last semester and advised the two students as they started up their business. “I am very proud of Ana and Isabela for going outside their comfort zone and trying this venture not knowing what the outcome would be.”

“I want to put it in action,” Cardona says. “I like experience, and I think I learn more from experience and from actually doing things and knowing the impact or knowing the consequences.”

Patino says that putting blackboard concepts into practice helps her “connect the dots, and learning becomes more interactive and more practical, and that’s the magic.”

During the launch process, Frank invited Patino and Cardona to a lunch meeting with other student entrepreneurs. Next month they are invited to a colloquium in Ballantyne put on by George Mason University’s Institute of Humane Studies.

And although Valentine’s Day has come and gone, Love Baskets isn’t going anywhere. “We’ve been thinking, and we want to continue it,” Cardona says. “We want to do birthdays. Everything is ‘love.’ The theme is love, or friendship or family, special moments you would like to celebrate.”

Learn how Wingate’s Porter Byrum School of Business can give your business dreams a boost.

February 23, 2018