Cheryl Pliskin is never happier than when she unlocks the door to her Ark Road office each morning.
“I still get a kick out of it, opening the door to my shop,’’ said Pliskin, owner of Jest Notes and Baskets, a company devoted to providing clients with a means to build and sustain relationships.
The tools are the carefully selected gifts that corporations give valued clients, prospective clients, employees and, sometimes, to say, "Oops, we made a mistake.’’
“We have a niche business to business-market,’’ Pliskin said, noting that it is an extension of branding.
The 2,000-square-foot showroom and office space are filled with a highly organized array of baskets, boxes, stuffed animals, bags of candy and other snacks from which she selects and custom-creates gift packages for a variety of occasions.
Sometimes, she and her two assistants get emotionally involved in a project. A 3-year-old child in California had lost her dad. The sympathy package contained a stuffed elephant, and the accompanying card read that, like the elephant, “We will never forget.’’
“We were all in tears as we prepared it,’’ the Mount Laurel resident said.
A lover of puns, Pliskin is known for her humorous touches.
“I have always loved corny messages,’’ she said. A colorful stylized sneaker, sent to a job hunter, comes with a wish “to get your foot in the door.’’
When she started the business in 1991, Pliskin focused on selling notecards. After 10 years, she saw an opportunity to expand. At first, her headquarters was at home, but when supplies filled her garage and two bedrooms, she knew it was time to move.
An admitted workaholic, Pliskin said she always found it difficult to separate work and life.
“I am driven, and I have to work at getting a balance,’’ she said. “When you’re the owner of a company, it’s hard to turn it off.’’
Owning a rescue dog has helped. Henry, an Australian shepherd-Doberman mix, is a fixture at the office and her constant companion.
"He is a registered therapy dog, and his job is to be petted,’’ she said.
“I take a break from work to walk him,’’ she said, adding that the change of pace makes her more efficient.
Being well-organized is a must. Pliskin has learned over time what she doesn’t want to do and delegated those tasks to her staff. What she loves is sales and bringing in new business.
Challenges are ever present, most recently from online competition. Customizing and personalizing her business is the answer. Always on the lookout for new ideas, she attends trade shows in New York and Philadelphia five or six times a year.
Before she started her business, Pliskin had earned a master’s degree in social work and was a family therapist for 17 years. She sees many similarities between that work and her business.
“There’s no difference. People want to be valued and appreciated,’’ she said.