Giving is an art.
That’s the business model of Anji and Bill Cozart’s company.
The couple are the founders of Art of Appreciation Gift Baskets, which strives to delight every category of gift-getter, one basket at a time.
New parents, fresh graduates, golfers or gardeners. Art of Appreciation bundles up treats, snacks, toys and more for them all.
The Arlington company ships about 1,000 baskets per day during the winter holiday season.
Before Thanksgiving, they filled a wholesale order for 65,000 baskets.
Not surprisingly, Mother’s Day is their second-busiest holiday.
But gifting isn’t just for the holidays.
The firm supplies new parents with newborn essentials such as burp cloths, rattles, diapers and bottles for $39.99. Most items are carefully cuddled into the arms of fluffy stuffed animals.
Need some fizz in your relationship? The Sparkling White Wine &Chocolates basket sells for $89.99.
Spa baskets, starting at $29.99, include lotions and scents specially formulated for Art of Appreciation.
The Cuddles &Kisses spa set, $49.99, has chocolates, cookies, body lotions and a white teddy bear wrapped in cherry-red gift boxes.
“Was well worth the money, it came came timely &was the easiest one stop shop ever,” Amazon reviewer Rahim Malik wrote about the basket.
The range of gift baskets includes gourmet combinations of savory nuts and cheeses to an “All American Snacker” basket, a $49.99 bundle overflowing with king-sized candy bars and popcorn.
All ground orders in the U.S. ship free. Anji Cozart, 47, estimated that about 80 percent of the baskets are food-based. There’s a wide range of treats, from gourmet chocolates and cheeses to salmon and jerky.
Salmon might be Northwest inspired, but sells well throughout the country.
“I’m from Tennessee. In the south, they eat salmon from a can,” said Bill Cozart, 54.
Baskets are assembled by production associates. Around 30 employees work at the warehouse year-round. They hire around 10 seasonal employees, mostly high school seniors from Marysville Getchell High School.
Anji Cozart designs the baskets herself. There are hundreds of basket choices across the website’s 51 categories, and she’s always eager to expand.
“Every time she goes to the store, she finds something she wants to add,” said production manager Cindy Russell, an employee of 16 years.
Production associates carefully piece together baskets according to the designs.
Then, the gift baskets are sent through a machine that wraps them in a pliable plastic, ensuring that they won’t be punctured in transit.
Since the company started using the stretchy plastic, reports of damages fell dramatically. That protection is essential, because their top customers are located on the East Coast.
“We sell extremely well there,” Anji Cozart said. “We don’t know why. But we’re not complaining.”
She has come a long way from wrapping baskets in the 15-by-15-foot loft of their Marysville home 20 years ago when she was a stay-at-home mom.
Before having two sons, she had worked with mutual and investment funds. Though she didn’t want be away from her children, it soon became evident that she needed an outlet.
“She was bouncing off the walls,” her husband said. “I’d come home she’d have the wall painted red, and the next week it’d be green.”
Creating gift baskets combined her interest in crafts and her boundless energy. They considered purchasing an existing gift-basket company, but Anji Cozart realized that she was up for the challenge of starting fresh.
The couple started Art of Appreciation with $3,000 and Anji Cozart’s priceless enthusiasm.
She enlisted the help of her friends, including Cindy Russell, to assemble and wrap baskets. In the beginning, they were selling directly to consumers on their website and through eBay. It was when Art of Appreciation began selling with Amazon in 2004 that they experienced their most significant growth in sales.
“The baskets started to overtake the house,” said Bill Cozart.
Once there were more baskets than there was house, it was time to expand. The couple first rented out a 7,000-square-foot space in Arlington. Then they outgrew that.
Finally they moved into their current space, a 40,000-square-foot warehouse in a UPS building in Arlington.
Bill Cozart joined full time in 2007. Before that, he worked at The Seattle Times.
Originally from Tennessee, he met Anji while serving he was a Navy officer. After he retired from his 24-year career, the couple moved to Washington to be closer to her family.
The couple’s sons, Joshua and Michael, have helped with the company since the beginning. Joshua, 18, is a senior at Getchell High School, and Michael, 21, is studying at Washington State University in Pullman.
One of their best-selling Christmas baskets also happens to be the trickiest one to wrap. It’s a festive mini-sleigh and the tricky part is getting the shrink wrap around it to keep it all together.
For that reason, Anji Cozart offers to do it herself.
“It’s my punishment,” she said. “Every year I say it’s the last year we’re going to sell it.”
So far, she’s assembled 200.
“I’m tired,” said Anji. “I’m ready to sleep.”
But not yet. She still has 250 more to wrap.