- March 16, 2018
Entrepreneur: Andrea Bogard LeBlanc
Company: Back in 2004, Bogard LeBlanc took her vision of creating cremation urns at Bogati Urn Co. and ran with it.
The process of making the urns involved using lidded crystal vases, which her husband at the time was importing. After crafting them, she showed them off at two funeral trade shows.
That's how Bogati Urn Co. was born. For a while, Bogard LeBlanc continued working her full-time nursing job so she could avoid taking out a bank loan.
Bogard LeBlanc had been a registered nurse with a home health care program run by Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and after that with a private firm. But that company hit some financial issues and Bogard LeBlanc was laid off in 2011.
That’s when she focused all her time and efforts on Bogati Urn. Over time, Bogard LeBlanc has added products to her catalog to fully serve her growing portfolio of funeral home and crematory clients worldwide.
The company currently offers urns in resin, wood, brass, alloy, marble and biodegradable. Customers can order urns in a range of colors, sizes and themes. Bogard LeBlanc also offers urn bags/boxes, vaults, candles, memorial jewelry, pet urns and plate and urn engraving. Customers have responded well to the variety of products: Revenue has increased 68% since 2018, from $2.5 million to $4.2 million.
Best advice: As an entrepreneur, Bogard LeBlanc has heard a lot of advice. Some of it was helpful, but she’s steered clear of some of the other advice offered. One piece of wisdom, which she heard in the early days of the business, stands out.
“About fifteen years ago, a business mentor at Score advised me to steer away from spreading myself too thin and suggested I stick to a product, get to know the prospective market and go after it,” she says. “Fortunately, I’ve been able to succeed with a product group that is diverse and ever-changing, as well as marketable to a large base of customers.”
Best decision: That advice helped her get to where she is today. Once she focused on her product, Bogard LeBlanc hired two part-time employees. That was in 2012. Today, she has 16 employees. It’s the focus she has on her products that she says contributes to her greatest decision.
“Making an annual plan with measurable goals has helped me to continue to expand, to make an investment in my employees and to make a major real estate purchase last year to accommodate for the increase in sales growth that we’ve had over the last few years,” Bogard LeBlanc says. “I’ve made a lot of good small decisions along the way, but the best decision was to stay focused.”
That plan was helpful when the pandemic hit.
Despite the pandemic shutting down the company’s supply chain for two months, Bogard LeBlanc’s entrepreneurial mind was already several steps ahead. She had planned enough to keep the business well-stocked, so it was able to continue delivering products to clients, new and existing.
“Currently it’s the situation in India where much of our product line is manufactured,” Bogard LeBlanc says of her worries. “What is happening there has a direct impact on so many businesses throughout the U.S. and around the world. Most vendors in our industry are feeling the impact of the crisis and we band together to help our mutual customers in a time of need.”
Biggest mistake: Another challenge Bogard LeBlanc has dealt with is tackling her biggest mistakes, mainly, keeping underperforming employees too long.
“Learning when it’s time to let an employee go has been the biggest challenge to overcome,” she says. “The biggest mistake was keeping those on the payroll far longer than was necessary, or in the best interest of the team.”
Overcoming this challenge, following wise advice and making good decisions all led Bogard LeBlanc to seeing her dream come true. For several years, she would drive by a building in the Northgate Business Park, just outside downtown Sarasota. Her dream? That one day she’d be able to move her business there.
In September 2020 that dream became a reality. Not only did the move more than double the company’s space — from 14,400 square feet to some 30,000 square feet — but it also allowed Bogard LeBlanc to hire six new employees. The building has an air-conditioned warehouse, two showrooms and 15 offices that allow for social distancing. And just as important: Now Bogard LeBlanc is able to spend more time creating urn designs and expanding the cremation jewelry side of her business.