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During the high-tech industry’s glorious ride down easy street in the 1990s, Aundrea Lacy’s online brownie business coasted right along with it. A former marketing executive who worked for Hewlett-Packard, among others, she found her most loyal customers in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Almost immediately after Lacy launched Luv’s Brownies in 1996, her signature heart-shaped brownies became a hit among chocolate lovers in the Valley, many of them former co-workers who sometimes requested up to 600 at a time. “They were my primary target,” says Lacy, CEO of the San Jose, California-based bakery (www.luvsbrownies.com).
But when the dot-com bubble burst, Lacy’s small business fizzled. Layoffs and tighter budgets meant fewer calls for her desserts. Sales dropped approximately 50%. But instead of shutting the oven off in defeat, Lacy rebranded herself by authoring Luv Story: From Homemade Brownies to My Own Internet Bakery (self-published; $10), a telling book that shares her journey to entrepreneurship. Not only did the book revive her business, it showed that she was far more than just a brownie baker.
“Writing my book saved my business,” says Lacy, 38, whose products and services earned the company $595,000 in 2005. The company, which has three employees and relies on 20 contractors, is on track to match that figure in 2006. Lacy’s book sales and related products accounted for approximately $395,000 of her revenues last year. “I needed to keep afloat, and I needed to keep my product out there,” she says. “But I also used this book as a vehicle to encourage entrepreneurship.”
Luv Story’s exposure created other opportunities that generated revenues for the business, including e-book sales; speaking engagements at libraries, schools, colleges, and book stores; and small-business consulting. “The book has been a cash cow during the past three years because it [opened] so many other [doors],” says Lacy. “These were avenues that weren’t open to me when I just sold brownies.”
Several publishers had approached Lacy about her brownie tale but weren’t willing to pay more than $3,000 for her story. Figuring she could do better solo, she surfed the Internet for information about self-publishing. She then hired an editor and a designer and tapped into BooksJustBooks.com, which eventually printed 2,000 books for her at $1.25 per copy. “Not only did Luv Story open doors, it also provided additional avenues to sell and to get paid for speaking,” says Lacy, who has sold nearly 30,000 printed copies since the book’s release in 2003.
Lacy’s success mirrors that of other business owners who have discovered the power of penning a book. A 300-page study conducted this year by RainToday.com, an online business resource, shows that entrepreneurs who published books increased their client base, attracted more publicity, closed more deals, and developed more business leads. The more books they sold, the better their outcomes. Sounds simplistic, but industry insiders say driving your book sales equals more success for your business.
In the study, titled The Business Impact of Writing A Book, 200 professionals who have written books, representing diverse industries, were asked