Entrepreneur focuses business savvy on supporting hometown economy

October 01, 2013

Dream Baskets, Inc., started as a small gift basket company in Julie Kuppart’s parents’ garage in Harrisburg, Illinois in October 1995. In less than a year, Kuppart saved enough money to open a retail store, and 18 years later, that store has grown to include a variety of business ventures, including a bakery, restaurant, and an outside catering service that are now staples of her small southern Illinois community.

Gift tag company Sissy Made It was one of Kuppart’s first additions to the Dream Baskets group, and the tags produced are now sold at college bookstores and retail stores across the country. Three years ago, she teamed up with her husband and three other entrepreneurs to develop, market, and sell Pig Out BBQ Sauce and Rub. Dream Baskets’ in-house restaurant and bakery has also become a local favorite, and Mrs. B’s Cookies produced in the bakery are being sold as far away as Atlanta and as close by as Harrisburg Elementary.

Kuppart credits the structure of living in a small community with Dream Baskets’ ability to expand business into so many different capacities. As one of the most prominent local businesses in their small community, many people contacted Kuppart asking about services that Dream Baskets did not yet provide, many of which they had not even considered. “We don’t offer that, but we could,” was often Kuppart’s response. “There’s no one else around here that does it, so let’s just give it a try.”

Dream Baskets, Inc. and its sister companies have also become experts at utilizing social media as a successful tool to grow business. Dream Baskets was recently one of only 22 small businesses featured on the Facebook Small Business Marketing page.

With her savings and business savvy, Kuppart could have taken her talents anywhere in the country, but chose to stay in her hometown and continues to contribute to the community in which she grew up. Her employees recently chose to give their tips to a local charity, donating more than $1000 last month. Dream Baskets is also very active in supporting the Harrisburg community and local schools through fundraisers.

“Julie’s position as a service-oriented and adaptable business owner serves as a role model to all small business owners,” said Lori Cox, Associate Dean of Workforce & Community Education at Southeastern Illinois College. “She continues to help through her work ethic and mentoring.”