Retail

Happy (Online) Holidays! E-commerce puts a jingle in the Kringle.

"I don't think people are ready for the holidays," said Alynn Patzer, owner of Sweet Gift Express in Madison, an online custom gift basket company. At the time of this interview, Patzer was not alarmed by a slow first week in December. "The second and third weeks are the busiest," she said, speaking from nine years of experience, experience that also changed her holiday business plan this year. Rather than offering a full slate of between 25 and 30 different gift baskets this holiday season, Patzer has pared down to just one — her most popular holiday seller. It's a strategy she believes will work.

My First Job

Michael's Frozen Custard: a launching ground for life.

The Man Behind Brennan's

"This is such a unique privilege — for me to have this lousy job where I travel all around the world, meeting fabulous people who have become my friends..." said Skip Brennan, tongue-in-cheek. At, 67, Brennan admits he is not only lucky, but very spoiled. He still lives in his birthplace of Monroe, Wis., from where he owns and manages five Brennan's Markets throughout southern Wisconsin as well as a cheese storage warehouse in New Glarus. Some might say he has the world by the tail.

Carol Orange Schroeder Defining Monroe Street

Carol Schroeder, 57, never imagined she'd be in retail. Not entirely. And that may be the most surprising fact about this well-connected business owner. Together with husband, Dean, Schroeder has owned Orange Tree Imports for three decades. In fact, the store just celebrated its 34th anniversary in May.

Natasha Vora: Setbacks fuel determination; preparation leads to business ownership.

A professional figure skater for 10 years, from the tender ages of 6 to 16, Natasha Vora says operating a store with furnishings marked by exotic woods and textured material may not give her quite the same opportunity for self-expression that executing a double axel to music from Madame Butterfly in a kimono-style costume once did, but it's expressive nonetheless. In fact, Vora sees a number of parallels between her figure skating past and her home decor present. The artistic expression that helped her develop a passion for figure skating has also influenced her selection of Asian-style furnishings and textiles at Indocara, her Madison store.

Bean-Appetit

From cauliflower-laced macaroni to chocolate chip cookies a  la broccoli, Shannon Payette Seip and her business partner, Kelly Parthen, are riding a growing wave of concern about childhood obesity by slipping fruits and vegetables into not-so-obvious places at their hip and healthy kids' cafe in Middleton.

Gail Ambrosius: Madison Chocolatier with an Organic, Global Tilt

Madison chocolatier Gail Ambrosius believes in an organic approach to business. As an advocate of environmentally and socially ethical food systems, her business recipe is one part local, two parts global, equal parts responsible.

"One of the ideas I had when I started was to use chocolates from different countries ethically," says Ambrosius, owner of Gail Ambrosius Chocolates. "I also wanted to educate people a little bit about the flavors of unique chocolate and how different countries offer different tastes by picking, fermenting and drying their beans differently."

Dolled Up: Lauren Frank, co-founder of Prep Cosmetics

Gazing out her window as a college freshman living at The Statesider, Lauren Frank dreamed of a "candy shop with makeup" catering to college students and young professionals. Ten years later, she is on the other side of the street — literally — as the co-founder, and now creative director, of Prep Cosmetics, a chain of specialty cosmetics boutiques with a flagship store at 553 State Street in Madison.

When the Well Runs Dry

Tags on the soft Joobles animals at Oompa Toys' new Middleton retail shop carry a familiar name. The items, part of a line of organic cotton fair trade toys and baby clothes, is sourced by Fair Indigo. Joobles were created by a family in Peru, who now train other rural and urban rural Peruvians to make the hand-knit apparel and accessories.

In Business magazine