Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Good, Strong Line

From the time my brother Mark and I were young kids back in the ‘50’s, we always had plenty of our own money that we had earned in our dad’s Christmas Wreath and Burro’s businesses. The deal was that every time we were paid, we had to deposit half in our bank savings account and we could spend the rest on whatever we wanted to spend it on. Being quite frugal, Mark and I almost always put the whole works (usually in parcels of $5 - $10) into our savings accounts.

With much encouragement from our dad, Mark and I eventually purchased three boats together; 2 small sloop sailboats and one speedboat. We bought our first 14’ wooden sloop when I was about 9 years old and Mark was 7 ½. At $75, this was a pretty significant investment for us, but we still had more than half of our life savings in the bank.

The hull of this boat was ‘dicey’ at best, and dad had us put 3 coats of fiberglass on it. This boat was pretty heavy at the outset; with 3 coats of heavy fiberglass added, it was a real tub. Now that I think about it, maybe dad had us add the ‘glass’ so we wouldn’t tip the boat over in a high wind. Either way, we never could tip it over although we surely did try.

Our second sloop was a much nicer boat and we fine tuned our sailing skills on her. She was a little tippy, but that is the best way to learn to sail, by trial and error (in a warm lake!). Gramma and Grampa Lake (they were really Mickmans but they lived on a lake, so…) lived on Lake Owasso in Shoreview which was only about 10 miles from our house in Fridley. We spent many, many weekend days at their house swimming, boating and working (Gramma was a Norwegian Lutheran and needed to do some sort of work each and every day). We also got to stay over at their house for extended periods of time in the Summer to help out with all the work and sail our boat. We had fun.

Finally, when we were about 12 and 10 respectively, Mark and I sold the second sloop and purchased a speed boat. This was a really nice wooden boat with a maple laminate deck and a 33 horsepower Johnson motor (dad paid for the motor). We couldn’t go very fast by today’s standards, but we learned how to water ski behind our boat and quickly became experts. We spent a lot of time on the water.

One summer afternoon, dad came home from work and thundered into the house, “John, Mark – let’s go!” Mark wasn’t around, and I asked dad what the problem was because I had to run to the truck to keep up with him. “There is a huge storm coming, maybe a tornado, and we have to check the anchor line on your
boat. If we don’t, the boat may break free from the anchor, run ashore and be dashed into bits!” Holy Smokes, this was an emergency!

Dad drove lickety-split over to Gramma and Grampa Lake’s house, and by that time the wind was really coming up. Being my boat, dad had said I needed to check the mooring line and fix it if I thought it needed to be fixed. I didn’t have much of a plan as to what I was going to do, but I stopped in Grampa’s garage first and picked up a long piece of clothes line and a knife. (By the way, cowboys use rope; seamen use line. The distinction is important to a seaman!)

I ran down to the shoreline, stripped down to my swimming shorts and walked to the end of the short dock. The wind was whipping whitecaps across the lake and the boat was really straining against the anchor line. To get to the boat I needed to swim, so I jumped in and started stroking against the waves toward the boat. It was a little tough because I had the piece of line and a knife in my palm, but I finally reached the boat, threw in my supplies over the rail, and hoisted myself over the hull and into the cockpit. The boat was rocking back and forth like a bucking burro and I needed to balance myself carefully as I walked toward the bow. With the wind screaming like it was, this was turning out to be a pretty good adventure.

I jumped over the windshield, laid on my tummy and crawled to the bow so I could see the mooring line which was attached to the lag bolt through the stem of the boat. The knot hadn’t been tied very well, and in this wind, it was coming apart. I took the new piece of line, tied it first to the shackle in the mooring chain, and then through the eye of the lag bolt on the stem of the boat. After cutting the original line free, I surveyed my handiwork and thought that it looked pretty good; the two knots (one to the mooring chain and one to the boat) would hold, but, as I watched the boat struggle against it, the line that I had brought from the garage seemed a little light to me.

‘Hmmm’, I thought, ‘I don’t know if this is much better. Maybe I should put another line on’. Good idea. So I took the other half of the clothes line and tied it on alongside the first line. As the boat pitched back and forth against the lines, I saw that almost all the stress was on the first line. ‘Well, if the first one breaks, the second line will hold it’. I was getting tired of hanging on by my fingernails and the weather was getting worse by the minute. It was time to get back on shore.

So I jumped back into the lake and swam ashore, picked up my clothes and ran up to the house and into Gramma’s warm kitchen. Dad was sitting there taking to Grampa, and then looked at me. “So, how did it go? Will the anchor hold now?” Actually, I was a little nervous about the strength of the line I had chosen, and said, “Well, I think so. I tied on one new line, then another because I wasn’t sure if the first one was strong enough. So now there are two lines on the boat instead of one.”

I thought that sounded pretty good, but the frown on dad’s face told me differently. “Listen to me carefully John”, he said with a very stern look in his eyes. (We use to call this ‘the look’, and it always scarred us.) “Two half-assed jobs do not equal one good job. You don’t need two small lines on that boat, you need one, good, strong line. Now, go find another line, a strong one this time, and do that job properly. Let me know when you’re finished.”

So, I went back into the garage and found a really nice, thick, strong line, went back to the shore, swam to the boat, tied on the new line and cut off the 2 small lines. There was no doubt that this new bow line would hold onto the anchor chain. For sure.

Pleased with a job well done, I reported back to dad that we didn’t have to worry about that boat anymore, no matter how strong the wind. Together we walked down to the shore and looked at my new mooring line as the boat stained against it. “Good job John. I couldn’t have done better myself.” I was soaking wet and shivering, but there was a warm glow inside of me.  A job well done; dad had said so. I felt pretty good about this as dad and I walked back to the old panel truck and drove back home. I never forgot the lesson.

Our dad was a tough study; he never gave me or my brothers any slack. We either did it right, or not at all.  We each learned that in the short term, it may be cheaper to do a job improperly; in the long term, a job well done is always the best value and cheaper in the end.

Grampa use to say, “The sweet taste of a cheap price will be quickly forgotten by the bitterness of poor quality”. To this day, my brother Chris and I stress to all our employees to do it right the first time or move on. My Grampa and dad would not have it any other way. 

by John S. Mickman

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fundraising Testimonial - Christian School in MD

In 2010 our school decided to sell Christmas wreaths as one of our major fundraisers.  We were looking 
for a seller who had the most beautiful wreaths at a  reasonable cost. We found Mickman Brothers and 
once we received your sample wreath, we knew we had chosen wisely.  The wreaths were absolutely 
beautiful and the pricing was right. Our sales pitch to the school families was "the wreaths will sell themselves" and boy, did they ever! The success of that first fundraiser was beyond our expectations. It blew our projections right out of the water and enabled us to bless our school with financial help in a year when the economy was forcing many private schools to close.  

When I took over as president of our school PTF for the 2011-2012 school year, I knew nothing about 
fundraising.  All I had was my Mickman Fundraising Kit and a lot of questions.   I emailed our Mickman 
CSR, Carol Eakins who took me through the entire process from start to finish. Carol remained just an 
email or phone call away and I never had to worry about what to do next.    

We raised even more money that second year with Mickmans and are now embarking on our 3rd year of selling your wreaths. We can't wait to get the excitement going and appreciate your beautiful product and wonderful staff. Many thanks!    

PTF President 
New Covenant Christian School

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fundraising Testimonial - Rotary Club in Virginia

The Staunton Rotary Club has been using the Mickman Fundraising Program as our primary fundraiser for the past three years.  Our club, which numbers 96 members, has an average age of 68; trust me, many of these men and women don’t want to sell hot dogs or wrapping paper or solicit donations from friends and neighbors.

But Christmas wreaths? And trees, and centerpieces, and products that we can ship to our friends and families far away?  We can do this!  And boy, have we!  The first year we sold JUST wreaths, and in 17 days sold more than 200!  The second year we added the sprays, trees and centerpieces as well as the gift products, and we sold 420 products.  Last year we really emphasized the gift products, and we sold almost 500 products!

For 2014 we hope to increase by another 20%; we’ll provide our members with a “digital” catalog that they can send to their friends and families, particularly to increase the sale of our gift products.

Staunton Rotary Club
The funds raised by our sales are contributed right back to our community:  last year we bought more than 500 dictionaries for students in our school system and gave $6000 in grants to other community organizations.  This year we’re helping to build a water garden and greenhouse project at a local school for the students to use in their science education.

Mickman’s Holiday Fundraiser is a WONDERFUL project, perfect for any size (or age!) organization.  We’ll never stop using Mickman to help us reach our goals!  Thank you, Mickman Brothers, and all your wonderful employees.  You ROCK!

Lee B.
Wreath Fundraiser Committee Chairman

Staunton Rotary Club

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fundraising Testimonial - Boy Scout Troop in AZ

It is September 1, 2013 and the high today in Phoenix is forecast to be 105 degrees, not exactly the type of weather that evokes Christmas.  But members of Boy Scout Troop 379 – and our repeat customers -  are already asking when we will begin taking orders for Christmas wreaths and decorations.  Most Arizona residents either migrated here or have family ties to colder parts of the country.  Having a Mickman wreath or centerpiece in the house for the holidays evokes childhood memories.  We aren’t just selling wreaths, we’re selling nostalgia and tradition.
Troop 379 at a summer camp in California!

Over the past several years, our Scouts have earned more than $15,000 to help defray the costs of summer camp in places like Seattle, Connecticut and California; high-adventure trips to hike the Grand Canyon and canoe the Colorado River; and cover the costs of Troop dues and other related expenses.  This is one of the simplest and most successful fundraisers available.  Troop 379 and Arizona love Mickman Brothers!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fundraising Testimonial - Boy Scout Troop

SUMMER FUN in San Diego and CHRISTMAS WREATHS wouldn't normally be found  in the same paragraph, but our experience fundraising with Mickman's Wreaths has made it happen.

This was our FIRST YEAR selling Christmas wreaths for our boy scout troop in Arizona. We wanted to pick a reputable company that would maximize money coming in to our fundraiser.  Mickman came in #1 as our choice.  They had the best reviews online and spelled everything out in detail with a timeline, prices, selling tips, sample wreath, and a spreadsheet. Love the spreadsheet!  It itemized earnings per item per boy of what was sold.  This made it easy for us, because whatever earnings each boy sold, he got to keep to use for his summer camp.  (Tell you more about that soon.)

Both representatives that I talked to (SUSAN AND CAROL) were so nice and helpful.  Everything went off without a problem.  Wreaths came in and were distributed.   Ok, there was one problem... When other people saw how awesome the wreaths, living trees, and candle centerpieces were as we were delivering to those who ordered them, they wanted some too.   We had a few extras, but we could have sold more.  We know we are going to have a bigger and better year coming up.

BACK TO SUMMER CAMP . . . . Yes, the boys used the money they earned toward Camp Fiesta Boy Scout Camp in San Diego the first week of July.  They had  unforgettable experiences, such as swimming in the ocean, learning to kayak, run a motorboat, sail a small sailboat, to learning about ocean life.  They even got to hold a jellyfish (non-poisonous of course).   Because their camp was so close to Sea World, they took a day trip there and  were dazzled with fireworks every night from camp.  The most amazing fireworks they saw was on our nation's birthday.  Multiple light displays across the bays lit up the sky.  What a great way to CELEBRATE!

THANK YOU MICKMAN for a successful fundraiser!   Can't wait to do it all over again this year.

Laurie L.
AZ Grand Canyon Council Boy Scout Troop

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Visit from St. Mick - Boy Scout Troop - Wreath Fundraiser

A Visit from St. Mick

'Twas the months before Christmas, when all through the troop
No scouts were stirring, or adults from the group;
The tents and canoes had all been stowed with care,
In hopes that next season soon would be there;
The boy scouts were nestled all snug in their cots,
Dreaming of camping trips, and the tying of knots.

But alas, as the plans for next season are made,
The treasurer’s report casts a pallor shade.
“If the coffers stay bare,” he quite frankly states,
“There’ll be no funds for camping, or food for scout plates.
We must raise some money! Wreath sales I say!
Remember Mickman’s last year? Wow, did it pay!”

The Fundraising chair then perked up and said,
“Yes! Mickman’s! Let’s do it! We’ll come out ahead!
Their quality topped our old vendor with ease,
Fresher, more fragrant, from the finest of trees!
And their customer service, responsive and fast!
A chairperson’s dream, come true, at long last.”

“We can order on line, and their website’s just great,
And delivery, on time, and we pick the date!
The guide that they sent us, organized and bound,
Makes fundraising easy, you can’t run aground!
From the sales tools, beautifully printed, (and free)
To the spreadsheet, so I can track everything key.”

Then the Scoutmaster spoke with an air of relief.
“The decision’s been made! 3 cheers for the wreath!”
So Mickman’s it was our 3rd year in a row;
Our customers happier, our troop in the dough.
And that is how Troop 424 remained solvent, and right;
Thanks to Mickman's this fall, and to all a good night.

Troop 424 during their Holiday Fundraiser!

Testimonial submitted by Rob S., chairperson for Troop 424. 

Thank you, Rob and Boy Scout Troop 424, for choosing Mickman Brothers Holiday Wreath Fundraiser!  We wish you continued success and look forward to working with you during the upcoming fundraising season!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Mickman Family Christmas Story

So, as my Grandma told the story to me many, many years ago, this is how our family wreath business was borne. 

"When I was a young girl in Norge (Norway) back in the late 1800's, my mother used to make a wreath each year from evergreens we children would gather from the forest alongside the fjord where we lived. It wouldn't take many boughs, and I liked gathering them with my brothers. When I was older, my mother showed me how to make the wreath that we would display on the door of our small home cottage each year. Ours was a tough life and all of my brothers eventually died at sea, as either fishermen or merchant sailors.
After I met your Grandpa in England during WWI, we moved to America and, because the people in New York told us that there were many Norwegians living in Minnesota, we moved to St. Paul. Our small family had a hard 'go of it' during the Great Depression as did all of our friends. However, each Christmas I loved making a nice wreath and hanging it on our front door; it always reminded me of my own mother so many years ago.
One year when your father [John Victor Mickman] was about 12 years old, he came home from school and saw my nice wreath on the door. He wanted to buy a Christmas present for me, and had an idea that maybe he could sell that wreath down the street to someone. Well, that is just what he did. He walked up and down Summit Avenue where all the rich people lived, until someone purchased this wreath. [My dad said it was James J. Hill's daughter, founders of the Great Northern Railroad that purchased this first wreath.]

With his newly earned money, your dad went to a store and purchased a lovely set of porcelain figurines - the set that I have on my bedroom bureau. The sales clerk was kind enough to wrap this gift for your dad, and he came home and presented it to me. Well, I knew your dad didn't have ANY money and I pinched his ear until he told me how he got the money to pay for the present. He finally confessed that he had taken our wreath off of the front door and sold it down on Summit Ave. I couldn't imagine that anyone would want to pay money for such a thing, and asked your dad if he thought he could sell any more. He said he thought he could sell as many wreaths as I could make!

So, your Grandpa, your dad and I gathered as many boughs as we could and I made wreaths out of all the boughs we could find. Your dad was able to sell these wreaths as fast as I made them, and he sold every single one - we didn't even have a wreath on our own door that year [of 1934]."

I am pleased to say that our family’s tradition of making wreaths and selling (all of them!) is alive and well. This year over half million families all over the country will welcome home friends and family for the Holidays with a Mickman Brothers Christmas Wreath gracing the entryway of their homes. Our family business, and in particular the Wreath Business, continues to be my favorite hobby. I’m fortunate that people choose to pay me for my labor of love.

John S Mickman

Friday, June 7, 2013

Save Money This Fundraising Season! Christmas Wreath Fundraiser

Cash back this Fundraising Season!

Would your Fundraising Organization like to receive cash back on their Holiday Wreath Fundraiser this year? Do you know a Fundraising group, or maybe a friend or relative associated with a Fundraising group outside of your community? You've answered 'yes' to both questions? Our Referral Program is perfect for you!

All you have to do:
  1. Share your Fundraising info with your friend, family member or anyone interested in raising money for their non-profit organization.
  2. When they sign up at, tell them to include your group information in the comments so Mickman Brothers knows you referred them.
  3. Your referred group needs to sell just 75 Evergreen Products during their Holiday Fundraiser.
  4. After all sales are complete and the Evergreen wreaths (which smell SO good) have been delivered, you'll receive your Referral Rebate check in December.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy! Your Organization just got 75 cents back for every 25" Wreath your group sold during their fundraiser, saving your Fundraising Organization some hard-earned money! Cheers all around!

Contact our Customer Service Team with any questions: 1-800-446-4229.