10 Entrepreneurs Turned Today Into A $16 Billion Industry


Whether you think Valentine’s Day is the most romantic holiday or the most commercial, a lot of careful planning goes on to make sure those flowers, chocolates, and cards are ready for you to present to that lucky someone. 

Valentine’s Day is a $16 billion business — love-struck consumers plan to spend an average of $116.21 on Valentine’s Day merchandise this year, up 11 per cent over last year’s $103. according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

Here are the companies that drive the holiday, and the entrepreneurs who created them.

Daniel Chase created conversation hearts; 100,000 pounds of them are sold each Valentine's Day.

Founded: 1847

Who invented it: Daniel Chase, of the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO), created 'Conversation Candies' in 1866. He built a machine that used a roller pad and text die (pressed against vegetable colouring ) to imprint the sayings on the lozenges.

Why it's a tradition: The earliest lozenges bore messages such as 'Married in satin, Love will not be lasting,' and 'Married in Pink, He will take to drink.' The candies were a hit, although it was not until 1902 that short messages were printed on those tiny hearts. Before then they were printed in the shape of postcards, horseshoes, watches, and baseballs.

100,000 pounds are sold for the big V-day: NECCO manufactures eight billion Sweethearts per year and approximately 100,000 pounds of candy hearts are sold each day during the six-week period between January 1 and Valentine's Day.

What's the latest phrase to be added to their list of 80? 'Tweet me,' as voted on last year by 10,000+ consumers. 'Text Me' rated a distant second, followed by 'Love Bug.'

Source: NECCO

Jim McCann founded 1-800-Flowers and hires 6,000 extra workers to handle his one million new Valentine's Day customers

Founded: 1986

Who invented it: 1-800-Flowers.com CEO Jim McCann

Why it's a tradition: Flowers, particularly red roses, signify love and make affordable gifts. According to the National Retail Federation, 34 per cent of consumers plan to celebrate the holiday with flowers this year.

20-five per cent of adults purchased flowers or plants as gifts for Valentine's Day 2010; of those, 60 per cent were men and 40 per cent were women.

1-800-Flowers gets 1,000,000 new customers every Valentine's Day: McCann tells CNN his company does about 10 per cent of its annual sales in the run-up to Valentine's Day, but the extra infrastructure that's needed to pull it off raises costs. In the end, he says, it's worth it for the exposure: The period leading up to the holiday adds about 1 million new people to 1-800-Flowers.com's customer list.

1-800-Flowers.com hires up to 6,000 extra workers to help with the onslaught of orders for fresh flowers.

Source: 1-800-Flowers and AboutFlowers.com

Jules Armellini and his wife founded Armellini Express; they transport 4.5x their usual volume of flowers before Valentine's day.

Founded: 1945

Who invented it: Jules 'Toots' Armellini and his wife Sarah began transporting flowers from Vineland, New Jersey into Philadelphia and New York City. They started with one truck and used a barn as their terminal. Eight years later, they moved their corporated headquarters to Florida and now operate a fleet of 150 trucks.

Why it's a tradition: You have to have some way to move all of those flowers!

4.5x the regular shipping volume pre-Valentine's Day: Armellini Express Lines, which specialises in floral transportation, starts preparing two months ahead of time and hires dozens of additional trucking operators to help deal with four-and-a-half times its usual volume.

Source: Armellini Express Lines and CNN

John Sortino invented Vermont Teddy Bears and has made multi-millions on men during Valentine's season

Milton Hershey is responsible for many of the 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate sold each Valentine's Day.

Founded: 1894

Who invented it: The Hershey Company was founded by Milton S. Hershey and it's among the largest chocolate manufacturers in North America. Its headquarters are in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is also home to Hershey's Chocolate World.

Why it's a tradition: Some claim chocolate is an aphrodisiac due to two chemicals: tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal, and phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamine, which is released in the brain when people fall in love.

Chocolates, then, are fuel for both the mental and physical aspects of romance. Which is why lovers offer boxfuls to each other.

Hershey's does particulary well each February 14th. Their stock tends to shoot up right after Valentine's Day, reports Benzinga. He points to Hershey's historical results over a five-year period and predicts a bullish continuation pattern.

More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold each Valentine's Day.

Source: Hershey Company, the New York Times, National Confections Association, and Benzinga

Irene Steiner's PajamaGrams double profits every Valentine's Day

Founded: 2002

Who invented it: PajamaGrams founder Irene Steiner is also Vermont Teddy Bear's vice president of marketing. She came up with the idea of sending pajamas in a nicely wrapped hatbox as a gift that women could also give each to each other.

PajamaGram has been profitable since its launch, Steiner tells MultiChannel Merchant. 'Our sales have doubled each year since 2002.'

Why it's becoming a new tradition: 'It's a much bigger opportunity than the bear business,' says Vermont Teddy Bear CEO Elisabeth Robert. 'While we have been very unsuccessful in getting women to give bears to men - most have been given to women. We can deliver pajamas to men and women and children, and you get both men and women buying them. So it's a broader market.'

Source: AllBusiness

Roy Raymond created Victoria's Secret which banks on the $1.6 billion consumers spend on clothing for Valentine's Day.

Founded: 1977

Who invented it: Roy Raymond, a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, opened the first Victoria's Secret store at a shopping centre in Palo Alto, California in 1977. The idea was to offer a store with a laid-back atmosphere where men would feel comfortable purchasing lingerie for their ladies.

During its first year in business, the company earned $500,000 and within five years Victoria's Secret had five stores, a popular catalogue, and a gross income of $6,000,000 per year. Raymond sold the company to Limited Brands in 1982.

Why it's a tradition: Unlike roses and chocolate, lingerie is the gift that keeps on giving. Consumers are expected to spend half a billion ($1.6 billion vs. $1.5 billion in 2010) dollars more on clothing this year, says the National Retail Federation.

Why investors love V-Day: Daily Finance picked Victoria Secret as one of the companies poised to benefit the most from Valentine's Day. Their reasoning: Led by Victoria's Secret's semi-annual sale which is timed to target Valentine's Day shoppers, the projected boost in holiday volume should lift Limited Brand's stock price. The ad called, 'Loves me, Loves me not,' offers viewers Valentine dos and don'ts from VS models Candice Swanepoel, Erin Heatherton, Lily Aldridge and Adriana Lima. Watch the video here:

A morbid ending: By 1993, Limited made Victoria's Secret a nationally recognised brand, while Raymond's most recent business venture had ended in bankruptcy. He was last seen alive walking toward the Golden Gate Bridge and his body was found shortly afterwards on the shore of Marin County.

Sources: Victoria's Secret, Lingerie-Alley.com, and Daily Finance

Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young created Tiffany & Co, which helps 11% of American couples say 'Yes' on Valentine's Day

Founded: 1837

Who invented it: Tiffany was founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young in New York City as a 'stationery and fancy goods emporium.' The store initially sold stationery items and operated as Tiffany, Young, and Ellis in lower Manhattan. The name was shortened to Tiffany & Co. in 1853 when Charles Tiffany took control, and the firm's emphasis on jewelry was established. Tiffany & Co. has since opened stores in major cities worldwide.

Why it's a tradition: For many people, getting hitched on the most romantic day of the year makes sense. 11 per cent of Americans will say 'yes' reports the National Retail Federation. Other types of bling are expected to be a hit as well with 17.3 per cent of consumers planning on buying their loved ones something sparkly, up from 15.5 per cent last year.

Why investors love V-Day:Tiffany is among investors' top picks of companies poised to profit the most from Valentine's Day. With luxury spending showing signs of significant growth, IBISWorld expects the iconic brand, which enjoyed growth of 47.02 per cent in 2010, to continue its recent success reports Daily Finance.

Sources: Tiffany, National Retail Federation and Daily Finance

Thanks to founder Joyce C. Hall, Hallmark sells more than 1,600 Valentine's Day card designs.

Founded: 1910

Who invented it: Hallmark Cards was founded by Joyce C. Hall, and is the largest manufacturer of greeting cards in the United States.

Why it's a tradition: The earliest known examples of written Valentine cards are the love letters the imprisoned Duke of Orleans sent to his wife in 1415. Factories began assembling paper Valentines in the early nineteenth century, and greeting card companies started cropping up by the 1850s to meet the demand for Valentine's Day and other holiday cards.

Hallmark creates more than 1,600 Valentine's Day greeting card designs. The company first offered Valentine's Day cards in 1913 and began producing their own cards in 1916.

Approximately 141 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged industry-wide (not including packaged kids' valentines for classroom exchanges), making Valentine's Day the second-largest holiday for giving greeting cards.

Sources: Hallmark and History.com

Ben Franklin created the concept for The United States Postal Service, which delivers the most popular gift each Valentine's Day

Founded: 1775

Who invented it: The concept of a national mail delivery service was established by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, by decree of the Second Continental Congress. The Post Office Department was transformed into its current form in 1971, under the Postal Reorganization Act.

Why it's a tradition. Although postage rates continue to rise, sending a greeting card through the mail is still a relatively affordable way of letting loved ones know you're thinking of them.

Greeting cards will be the most popular gift option among Americans, who will share and send over 140 million Valentine greeting cards and packages this year. Over half of those love letters and most of those Valentine care packages will go by mail.

Post offices handle 5 to 7 per cent more greeting cards and small packages the week before Valentine's Day compared to most other weeks of the year. Valentine's Day is USPS' second busiest time of the year for giving and mailing greeting cards. (Christmas is first.)

Source: USPS.com and the National Retail Federation.

Do you know why Valentine's Day is a $16 Billion industry? Find out here:

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