Los Angeles, CA — In retrospect, Rochelle Morgan Hawkins credits a money lesson her mother taught her as a teen with how she got started in her current business.
“I’ve been in printing 30 years, and I got into the business by running up my mother’s credit card,” admits Hawkins, with laughter in her voice at the memory.
“I went to Hollywood High School, and my mother gave me a car. I would pick up my friends, pocket the cash they gave me for picking them up and use my mother’s credit card,” explained Hawkins, who is founder and owner of Morgan’s Eloquent Designs.
When she found out what her daughter had done, Hawkins said her mother issued a quietly voiced warning: “I don’t know how and when, but you are going to pay me back.”
That meant getting a job, and what she found was a typist position at a print shop during the era when computerized typesetting was just getting started.
“When I got paid, my mom would take the check. That was my first experience with credit, and I learned to use it wisely and just when I need it,” said the Inglewood entrepreneur, who admits that today most of her shopping is for the tools, software and equipment needed for her business.
The core business of Morgan’s Eloquent Designs is creating what Hawkins calls “keepsake memorials” for people whose loved ones have died. The company also creates business cards, flyers and other mainstream print jobs but the memorial service items are what Hawkins loves.
Starting Morgan’s Eloquent Designs was an idea Hawkins had conceived of in 1991, and she even went back to Los Angeles Trade Technical College to learn all the skills she might need. Then a friend, the owner of Los Angeles Business Printing, connected her with Harrison and Ross Mortuary, who needed someone to manage their print department immediately.
They struck a deal where Hawkins would handle the mortuary’s print department under the name of her company, and a business began to take flight.
During the four years she worked full-time for Harrison and Ross, Hawkins said she learned the ins and outs of the business including the oh-so-critical different order of services (depending on the denomination).
Then Morgan’s Eloquent Designs moved out on its own, and slowly built a reputation for offering families the kind of high-quality, hand-holding customer service people needed at a time when many were feeling an unbelievable level of stress.
“We don’t lay our heads down until your program is done. Our delivery is at 8 a.m., and we do the complete package–thank you notes, envelopes the size of the program (for mailing), and people can even go online and look at the video tribute and leave their condolences,” explained Hawkins. “We’re even getting ready to add a bereavement blog.”
Morgan’s will do as little or as much as you want said its owner including writing the obituary and even calling after the service to make sure everything was correct.
“If there were any mistakes, we quickly fix it. We don’t squabble about whether or not we did this or did that. People are grieving. Some come through upset and angry. But it’s OK,” added Hawkins. “We don’t take it personal. It’s not you, they’re mad at the situation.”
What sets her company apart said Hawkins is customer service ranging from giving a quick price quote to understanding the needs of the mortuary directors, to knowing the latest trends and directions in the industry. They will also archive customer photos and information for use with another family member years later, or until customers remember to pick them up.
Customers are so appreciative of the services offered that they will send thank you notes, flowers, and even bring in lunch, Hawkins noted. “They like the family atmosphere so they come back and they bring in people.”
Eventually the entrepreneur said she wants to be able to create an office that features a waterfall that allows her customers to come in during such a stressful time, sit and catch their breath and have a moment of peaceful reflection.