HARRISONBURG — Jennifer Biller is a mom, Tupperware consultant, former middle school teacher and devout Christian. And she’s just started a business that combines the knowledge and skills gleaned from each of these diverse experiences.
Like any good entrepreneur, she uses her own product. On this particular day, Biller’s wrist is encircled by a bracelet of camouflage fabric. Sewn into the fabric is a small clear plastic window and tucked inside is a piece of paper with a gentle reminder from the apostle Paul to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak...” (I Thessalonians 5:14).
Biller holds up her arm and marvels at her own creation. “What’s funny about these bracelets is that I’ll put a verse in there and then it always becomes relevant to what I’m doing,” she said with a laugh. “I was irritated about something the other day and I looked at my wrist and it said, ‘…be patient to all men.’’’
Biller calls her new product Keeplets, a reference to a verse in Luke about “keeping the word close to you,” she explained. In colors and designs snazzy or subdued, Keeplets also come in short or long key fobs. They range in price from $12 to $14.95.
Keeplets have only been available since March—but Biller says the response among potential customers is immediate and emotional: “People see them and they want them. People seem to connect with them.”
Biller developed Keeplets as mnemonic devices, tools to help her young children memorize Bible verses for their Sunday school classes and other facts for school. But the bracelets and fobs have application far beyond memorization. Medication reminders, to-do lists (written in small script, of course), an important phone number for the day, a favorite photo, quotation or meditation—the list of uses keeps growing the more customers Biller meets.
“When I first thought up this idea, I went online and looked and the only thing I could find was sterling silver bracelets that were inscribed with a verse,” she said. “I couldn’t find anything you could change out and that’s want I wanted. It took me about four months to come up with the design, of something that you could carry with, that was economical and cute enough that you would want to wear it every day.”
Seamstress Dory Heatwole, a Mount Clinton resident, provided design ideas and input on fabric choices.
As Biller was developing her business model, she also made liberal use of the free services offered by Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Network in Harrisonburg. Biller knew some sales techniques from her 12 years as a Tupperware consultant. But she needed to learn other fundamentals, such as marketing, pricing sheets, reordering, market research and discounts.
“[SVBDC] was so important to showing me all these aspects,”she said. The “Smart Start” assessment, which helps identify potential business owners’ strengths and weaknesses, was particularly valuable—and validating, she said.
“You have to have the right personality to start a business,” Biller said. “And those questions they ask about yourself, it really puts it in black and white. Some people just aren’t suited to it.”
Biller currently markets her product on Etsy and on the “Keeplets” website. She’s attended two local festivals this month and is ramping up her summer advertising campaign for vacation Bible schools. With price breaks for bulk purchases, Keeplets can be designed for a certain theme and offered as prizes or incentives. Fundraising options are also available.
For Biller, who attends Timberville Church of Christ, her new business is offering opportunities to connect with people and expand her own horizons. And it’s added a new fun, accessory to her wardrobe.
For more information, call 740-4569 or visit www.biblekeeplets.com, the Keeplets Facebook page or the Keeplets shop on Etsy.