When The Welcome Lady knocks at a door – be it residential or small business, people respond. After all, the one-year-old company already boasts an enviable track record – and builds relationships between newcomers and existing area business. New residents appreciate the one-on-one introduction to services and attractions, and participating companies like the qualified leads they receive. It’s a win-win philosophy that president, T.J. Kittelson and vice president, Lee Moats, believe will continue to grow and expand. “We own The Welcome Lady and currently offer services in Colorado and Kansas,” said Kittelson. Eventually, we could go into a number of other states.
“Here in Colorado, we work through The Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce as well as through Manitou, Fountain, and other area Chambers to reach out to newcomers,” says Moats. She emphasizes that predecessors such as Welcome Wagon have transitioned to direct mail promotion rather than face-to-face calls. “I think that’s why we get such a good response for the businesses and services we represent,” says Moats. “We’re able to identify which consumers will be interested in which products or services and discounts we offer.”
The Welcome Lady representatives (who currently number eleven but will grow to 30 by 2003) will cover territory as far north as Monument, as far south as Fountain, Woodland Park to the west and Falcon to the east. “We work with realtors, apartment complex managers, the chambers and other referral organizations to make sure we get good names. Our reps are also trained to listen and to qualify their visits. If a family doesn’t have any pets – and doesn’t want any, why give discounts or introductory offers for a neighborhood veterinarian?” Moats notes.
“We don’t sell anything – we’re strictly a service designed to connect homeowners and apartment dwellers with the community,” Kittelson clarifies. “The owners are always alert to those who have just moved to the area – and even hand out cards after-hours at the grocery store or the beauty shop.” Welcome Lady, Jill Smith, remembers calling on a woman who had injured her shoulder during a cross-country move to Colorado Springs and was grateful to get the name of a good chiropractor. “It’s great to be able to provide information on the best professionals in a situation like that,” she said. “One of our chiropractors, Dr. Lee Blackwood, has been with The Welcome Lady since day one.”
T.J. Kittelson and Lee Moats, both new to Colorado Springs, moved to the area from Kansas and started their company in March 2001. Their successful business model has met with a warm reception. “We expected to have our first employees and at least twenty advertising businesses on board by Jan. 2002,” Moats recalls. “By Summer 2001, we already had 32 businesses signed up – they were ready before we were,” she said, referring to a national company that had found The Welcome Lady’s yellow pages listing and called to sign up as an advertiser.
Both Kittelson and Moats possess confident, outgoing personalities that have helped open doors. At a Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce holiday event, Moats wasn’t wearing a name tag and was asked by a volunteer if she wanted one. At that point, Chamber Public relations director Lynn Pelz said, “Everyone knows Lee – she doesn’t need one.” Pelz may be right. Moats, who was named one of the Business Journal’s “40 Achievers Under 40” for 2002, also holds membership in the Women’s Council of Realtors as a volunteer for the Better Business Bureau, and with the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The two owners agree that Colorado Springs offers a phenomenal networking environment.
Five new representatives were just hired to cover new zip code areas – although burgeoning 80919 still needs coverage. The Welcome Ladies make as many as 182 calls per week and Kittelson says that the company hopes to open the Monument, Falcon and Woodland Park territories in 2002. These territories are naturally tied to shopping/professional services which are surrounded by apartments and single family homes.
Jill Smith, the company’s first employee, was hired in May 2001. Smith was originally considering promoting her small business through The Welcome Lady. She covers a territory north of Woodmen Road in the 80920 zip code area – and carries coupons, offers and gifts from 32 unique businesses in her customized basket. Smith’s schedule includes 15-20 hours per week, ranging from a half-hour to two-hours in length. “Once people see that we are not there to sell them anything, they relax and open up. We get to know about their kids, hobbies, and sometimes, even health problems or jobs,” Smith said. She has also made lasting friendships through her work.
“The Welcome Lady has been a great part-time job for me, and there’s so much potential out there,” said Smith. A lot of women appreciate finding something they can do on a flexible schedule. “Many of our part-time representatives came to us as newcomers,” says Kittelson. “They liked what they saw of our program and decided to work with us.”
Businesses participating in the program include a wide range of companies: real estate companies (particularly interesting to renters in search of an eventual home), hotels, restaurants and food vendors, auto dealers, feng shui advisors, wedding DJs, home warranty companies, chiropractors, doctors, dentists, landscaping companies and more. Some businesses probably aren’t candidates for The Welcome Lady’s basket, Smith says. “I met a newcomer whose husband tunes harpsichords. They were interested in advertising, but we couldn’t guarantee great results for such a specialized business.”
Some businesses elect inclusion in all Welcome Lady zones. The owner of JoyRides, for example, an east-side amusement and miniature golf center, includes a coupon book in every basket that goes out. Most Welcome Lady calls focus on territory-specific advertisers within a four or five mile radius of the homeowner.
Unlike newspaper advertising or mailed coupons, The Welcome Lady acts as a professional referral service. “We supply our participating businesses with names, addresses and phone numbers from the people we call on,” says Kittelson, pointing out that few other advertising vehicles generate such useful data. “We are paid by businesses to produce good, qualified leads.” Apartment complex managers have welcomed the duo, inviting them to new resident parties on a regular basis – motivated no doubt by the more than $500 of Welcome Lady discounts and gifts offered at each visit.
So what does the future hold for The Welcome Lady? “We’re so far ahead of projections,” said Moats. “Right now we’re into our third year business plan, and this is just the start of our second year.” New resident referrals will continue to be generated through the region’s school districts, military bases and realtors, says Kittelson. “Right now, we are delivering a number of closing gifts on behalf of realtors – and even some anniversary gifts a year after a home closes.”
The entrepreneurial partners foresee increased tie-ins with radio remotes, possibly hosting a TV show about what’s going on in the Pikes Peak region, and of course, increasing their presence through hiring Welcome Lady reps to serve an increasing load of advertisers. Welcome Lady visits are expected to increase to 500-800 monthly – including as many as 300 small business advertisers. “We also need to focus on building a solid business infrastructure,” comments Moats, who says that the partners currently
wear all management hats.
Stay tuned: The Welcome Lady plans to introduce a program for new brides and parents soon – but for now, its owners plan to enjoy growing a company that promotes small business.