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201 GREAT IDEAS for Your SMALL BUSINESS, Third Edition by Jane Applegate

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GREAT 199 IDEA: Lillian Vernon—Advice from the Mail-Order Queen

When I interviewed Lillian Vernon about 15 years ago, I thought, “I hope I have as much energy and look as great as she does when I'm older!”

Like many small business owners, Vernon started her business on her kitchen table. It was in the early 1950s. She was pregnant and needed to earn money, but working outside the home was frowned upon. Since her father was in the leather business, she thought she might make money by selling fashion accessories.

Using some money she received as a wedding gift, Vernon placed a $495 ad in the September 1951 issue of Seventeen magazine: “Be the first to sport that personalized look on your bag and belt,” read the copy, touting a $2.99 leather purse ...

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