(This blog post is written as if an interview on a local radio show. I can dream big! ?)
Reporter: Hello Gretchen. What is Organized Occasions Concierge? And why did you pick Navarre as the place to open your business?
Gretchen: Hello and thank you for your question. Organized Occasions Concierge is a mouthful—I know. Let’s just call it OOC for the rest of the interview. Sound good?
Reporter: Sounds great. So, tell us about OOC?
Gretchen: Sure, OOC is the expansion of my organizing and event planning business from Texas. I now offer the Concierge service of Meal Planning and Grocery Delivery for vacationers who visit us here on beautiful Navarre Beach. And why I picked Navarre—it was an obvious choice for me! We purchased a condo here in January 2017 and I fell IN LOVE with the beach, the small-town feel, the local shops, everything. I felt at home here, so I started looking for an opportunity or need that I could meet to get myself here full time.
Reporter: And what was the opportunity?
Gretchen: To provide a service to the families that come to our beautiful beaches every year. We have a world-class beach; I want to provide a world-class service as well. The service is the delivery of groceries, beverages, paper products, any consumable item to the rental unit BEFORE vacationers, both summertime weekly rentals and the “snowbirds” that like to stay for longer times in the winter, check-in. Each group experiences a little different benefit from the service, but the service is the same—to arrive and have the items in your unit for you to immediately enjoy and relax!
Reporter: Tell me more about how you can deliver before they check-in?
Gretchen: Of course. Units in the condos, as well as houses along the Gulf or on the Sound, are rented and managed by Property Management Companies. I work directly with those Property Managers when someone contracts with me for delivery service. I confirm their information with the Property Manager and then coordinate with them to plan a delivery time that will not interfere with the normal cleaning and resetting of the unit. I gain access to the unit and make the delivery while the renters are still traveling into the area. And here’s another reason I picked Navarre–80% of the owners of properties on Navarre Beach do not live in their units. They bought them as investments just like we did. And Navarre Beach is getting really good press lately with more investors buying units and investors making more money on their units as stated in an article in the Navarre Press. So, I feel like I am getting my business started at just the right time and in the right place.
Reporter: It sounds like you have researched the area. But why do you think there is a market for this type of service?
Gretchen: Great question. The timing is right! When you look at the expansion of online shopping in the past couple of years you see the way we shop has changed. 5 years ago, people still felt they had to select every banana themselves, but now with subscription services that deliver everything from dog food and toothpaste we are more comfortable letting someone else pick our groceries. Grocery Shopping is listed as one of the least favorite household chores and it only gets worse on vacation when you don’t know the stores and how they are arranged. By using OOC you have the convenience of online shopping without an annual subscription. In case you are wondering, Walmart has the most online grocery shoppers. They started with Pick Up and now they are offering Delivery. But you must be at the unit for them to deliver or you must meet their available pick-up times and if you have any travel delays, you could miss your time.
And the timing to come to Navarre is right for me as well. I have a lifetime of experience in various industries that have prepared me for this. And I was ready to create, launch and grow a business in a community that supports local business owners. As strange as it sounds, I feel this is what I have been preparing to do my whole life.
Reporter: What were some of those industries or experiences?
Gretchen: I have a degree in Dietetics from Texas Tech University, and I did meal planning for years when I was working in School Nutrition with Aramark. I have also worked as a catering manager with a local restaurant, so I am very familiar with making fast and correct deliveries. In 2015 I completed the training to be an organizer required by NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) . I even worked in retail recently to learn more about shopping trends and brand loyalty. And of course, I have years of experience in sales and marketing and management. I feel like every experience has taught me something that I will use in this business. I am a Personal Shopper, Professional Organizer, Nutritional Therapist, and Event Planner. I wear many hats.
Reporter: You mentioned that summertime renters get different benefits than snowbirds. Can you explain the differences?
Gretchen: Absolutely! Summertime renters are typically multigenerational families. There may be grandparents, parents, and kids ranging from toddlers to teenagers. They fill up every bed in the unit. They are willing to spend money to get more time on the beach. They want easy to fix meals and typically eat both breakfast and lunch at the unit. They will go out for dinner a couple of times during the week. They will order pizza usually at least one time during the week and they will cook on the grills at least once. The benefit for them is MORE BEACH TIME and RELAXING SOONER. In reality, I can give them back 4 hours of their vacation by having the grocery shopping completed. That’s huge when you think about how much Americans work and that this may be their only vacation all year! Imagine spending the first day of your vacation relaxing under a beach umbrella, sipping your favorite beverage and knowing you have some local seafood from Navarre Seafood Market in the refrigerator to grill later. The kids have all their favorite snacks and drinks and Grandma enjoyed coffee on the balcony and no one had to make an early morning trip to the store. Now that feels like a vacation!! Plus I offer some tips on my website on how to spend less time cooking and cleaning and more time relaxing.
Snowbirds, on the other hand, have lots and lots of time! And typically, it is one couple in the unit or maybe two for part of the time. They travel here to get away from snow and ice and instead enjoy the white sand and bright sunshine. They will often get together with other snowbirds and have potluck dinners or plan game nights. They are usually in the unit for multiple weeks so they will shop multiple times during their stay. They enjoy getting out and walking around the stores. However, because this is an older population the benefit they experience is more of physical convenience. By using OOC they don’t have to load a case of water and a case of beer and a jug of laundry detergent into their car and then get a cart from the lobby of the condo and unload the car and take it up to the unit. If you have any physical limitations, you know it is not easy to lift a case of water—they are heavy!!! I can deliver the larger bulkier items and get them set for their stay. Then when they want to get out and about, they are only going to need to pick up a few items.
Reporter: How do you know what to buy for each family? Seems like everyone likes something different and there are lots of different brands. How do you know you’re buying what they want?
Gretchen: I ask a lot of questions! On the initial questionnaire, I ask things like, number of guests, ages of the kids, and any food allergies. Then when they submit their shopping list, I call, and we go over each item to make sure I understand what they are ordering. I make notes on brand preference, clarify size or quantity and get all the details that I can. One of the reasons I require the shopping list 3 days before their arrival is so that if they ask for something, I can’t find here in Navarre I can either expand my search or call and let them know it is unavailable. I try to get them exactly what they want in the right size.
An example is laundry detergent. I know I can get a small bottle of Tide at Dollar Tree—it is enough for 6 loads of laundry. When my husband and I travel somewhere for a week I don’t do more than 6 loads of laundry. That is the perfect size for us. I don’t want a bottle that can do 26 loads because I’m not going to use it and I don’t have room to put it in my suitcase. Unfortunately, as a traveler, you are subject to what you find at the store because you don’t want to go to multiple stores! You want to get back and start enjoying your vacation.
As a Personal Shopper, I consider all their information (length of stay, number of people, age of kids) and try to buy the best size for that family.
Reporter: Okay, so this all sounds great—more relaxation, more time on the beach, not so much heavy lifting, but there is a cost to this service. Tell us more about your fees.
Gretchen: They are very simple. $50 Delivery Fee. And 25% service fee on total goods ordered. Let’s say you placed an order for your family and the total of food and beverages came to $300. Your service fee would be $75, your delivery fee is $50 making your total $425. The delivery fee never changes (except a special I am going to offer for snowbirds during the winter—check out GetRelaxing.com for details on the discount).
Reporter: Who pays the tax?
Gretchen: Luckily most food is tax-free! Alcohol, laundry detergent, etc are taxable and the client pays that tax. I list the tax on the invoice as a separate line item. I will pay a tax on the service fee I charge but that’s between me and the IRS☹.
Reporter: Are you insured? And is there a contract of some sort?
Gretchen: Yes and Yes! As I mentioned times have changed and with more and more delivery services like Instacart, Shipt, even DoorDash there were plenty of examples of Terms and Conditions for me to use to create my Client Agreement. I am insured with General Liability Insurance since I go into multiple units and as I grow and expand, I will add coverage as needed.
Reporter: Everything sounds straightforward, are there any other services that you provide to renters?
And how can our readers connect with you and use OOC for their next visit to Navarre Beach?
Gretchen: Go to my website: Organized-Occasions.com and on the home page, they will find links for online forms or they can fill out the pdf and submit those. I have tried to provide multiple ways for people to connect so they can do whichever is easiest for them.
Other services I can provide are event services like arranging a chef to come in and cook one evening, booking a private wine tasting at one of the local wine bars, ordering cakes or getting flowers for a birthday or anniversary celebration, even planning a girl’s weekend or beach wedding.
As for creating the actual shopping list, there is a pdf they can print and write on then send back or I have created 2 versions of a Google Sheets Shopping List. This is a customizable tool they can use to create an inventory and then a shopping list. As far as I know, there is no other service that provides this kind of tool.
Reporter: It sounds like we need a follow-up interview to talk about this customizable tool.
Gretchen: I would love that—I am very proud of what I created, and I hope many families will start using it. It is pretty cool if I do say so myself. It is not a diet plan; it is a tool to know what you have and to buy what you need which saves you money and time.
Reporter: One last question about the Grocery Delivery Service. How does the client know you made the delivery and what happens if they get to the unit before you?
Gretchen: I send a text with a picture so they can see the delivery is made. A summary sheet will be hanging on the fridge along with a bag that has a note about unused nonperishable items. If I am delayed beyond 4 pm (the usual check-in time) I will text them and let them know. Delays can happen due to complications with prior tenants, or cleaning services schedules. Even things like holidays and events that cause road closures can cause unavoidable delays.
Most property management companies also send a text letting them know when the unit is available. If they get to town early, they can spend time at one of our great restaurants or go to the pier and enjoy a beverage and start relaxing since they know they are not going to have to go shopping.
If at the end of their stay they did not use everything they purchased, just put the items in the donation bag, and text me so I can come back to get the items and then I will donate the items to one of our local food banks.
Here is a picture of the donation bag:
Reporter: The visitors can feel good about helping the community with their donation—that’s great!
Gretchen: Exactly, as the card says, “Fill up the Food Banks, not the Land Fills”. Most people would rather donate the food to someone that can use it and not just throw it away. And this gives them an easy way to do just that.
Reporter: Thank you for all your information and the best of success to you! We look forward to learning more about these customizable grocery shopping tools in our next interview.
Gretchen: My pleasure and I look forward to our next interview as well.