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LARSON: Labors of love can become quite lucrative

It’s Labor Day Weekend, and for 90 percent of the work force it’s a chance to kick up their feet and relax. And for the other 10 percent, well, it’s just another three days to try to figure out how to make some money.

But prospects aren’t as bleak as they might seem if people can figure out how to tap their own talents and actually do something they love. Just ask Jimi Taylor of Taylor Made Gift Baskets in Lilburn.

Taylor said her business has never been better and demand for her baskets just keeps growing. No matter how bad the economy, people still keep giving gifts, everything from graduation gifts for grandkids to corporate gifts for clients.

Taylor, who has been in the gift basket business for 22 years, says there are countless opportunities for making money through gift giving. In fact, she’s even written a book about it. Her book, “Been There Done That: How to Start a Successful Gift Basket Business,” includes everything from tips on networking to sample business letters. Taylor, who stresses that business skills are more important than artistic ability, also conducts gift basket workshops all over the country.

People ask why in the world she goes out and creates competition.

“I’m not worried about competition,” Taylor says. “There’s room out there for everyone.”

Actually, there’s a need for more gift basket creators. But you don’t have to operate at this level to make money. Taylor says there’s a huge demand for gift items, noting that everyone she knows, herself included, started out in their own kitchen.

“Right now, there’s a big demand for things that are Southern,” she said.

Some of her big sellers include Native South, founded by Lynne Brice of Conyers, which features novelty foods such as peach-shaped tortilla chips. Nam’s Bits, dime-sized chocolate chip cookies, were inspired by the owner’s “nammy” who baked them with love for her grandchildren. And the newest kid on the block is Channon “Chay” Powell in Norcross. After losing her job, she drew on her Big Easy roots and founded Chay J’s New Orleans Candies, featuring, among other delights, her signature Creole pretzels.

And it doesn’t have to be about food. Music is also marketable. Pianist Judy Boehm, of Suwanee recorded four CDs, which are among the most requested items on Taylor’s shelves. Other popular gift items include homemade soap and a microwaveable facial wrap.

Taylor noted that she saw many products at the Farmer’s Markets this summer that could be wonderful gift basket fillers and that if anyone is interested going wholesale with their products, with Christmas around the corner, now is the time to get a foothold in the business.

“I’m already getting requests for Christmas items,” she said. “I hope I can fill them all.”

If you’re looking for labor — and yes, Taylor says, it does involve labor — how cool to think you can cash in on helping others to give.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.