Export-focused business thrives in Hope

Anna Gladue, founder and owner of Anna’s Incense, shares some of the secrets of her success

Wes Bergmann


Anna’s Incense has maintained a colourful presence in our community for some time. Recently, the innovative business was showcased in Hollywood, and their products have been enjoyed by customers from far and wide. AdvantageHOPE asked Anna Gladue, founder and owner of Anna’s Incense, some questions about business in Hope, and some of the secrets of her success.

AdvantageHOPE (AH): Can you tell us what incense is and why you sell it?

Anna Gladue (AG): Incense has been used for thousands of years for all kinds of purposes. From religious rituals to home fragrancing, almost every culture in the world uses it or has used it. I not only sell the incense through my custom network of websites but also use the traditional North American method of dipping and drying the incense in my warehouse here in Hope. We then bag and tag it for retail sales and wholesaling re-sale purposes. Our incense is packaged safely for distribution worldwide. Eighty-five per cent of my customers are in the United States, with the rest being mostly Canadian. But I have shipped incense to every continent except Antarctica.

AH: What is your history in the Hope area?

AG: My family moved here in 1992 from the East. I graduated from Hope Secondary School in 1994. I left shortly after graduation for a few years and have been back since mid-2000.

AH: When did you first dream up the concept of Anna’s Incense?

AG: I was in high school when I first started selling incense at local festivals and fairs throughout the province. We were a staple at the Abbotsford Flea Market for many years. I’m not sure I “dreamt up the concept,” rather I just found something that “worked” at that time. Anna’s Incense has taken on so many different forms over the years. Growing from one table at a local flea market to 20′ x 20′ displays at the PNE to thousands of square feet of warehousing and manufacturing and having a main focus on Internet sales. Those are all different businesses that had to come together to make it what it is today. I haven’t done it alone either. My family (brother, father, mother, husband, even kids and grandparents) have been very connected to making it what it is today.

AH: Where do you see opportunity in Hope?

AG: A better question would be where don’t I see opportunity in Hope. There are tons of opportunities in Hope, but it requires some drive and lots of dedication to seed and stay here. The cost of living (home prices), the connectedness of the people for networking, the technological infrastructure in terms of high speed cable Internet and now LTE wireless network. The close proximity to [Metro Vancouver] for commuting or telecommuters. Tourism opportunities, land transport and air transport options and that’s to name a few.

AH: How important is location for your business?

AG: There are a few location constraints I concern myself with. Most of my business is from outside of Canada and my proximity to the border is integral. I find a 30 per cent savings on shipping costs by taking my packages directly to the U.S. for mailing to U.S. customers. In addition to outgoing items, I am close enough to Vancouver to not have to incur any excessive freight costs for the raw materials that I import. Whether it’s my container from China or five boxes from Florida, freight companies include Hope in their “local” delivery market. I therefore can enjoy small town life with big city accessibility.

AH: Who are your target markets? Do they know you operate out of Hope?

AG: Many of our customers are women, aged 25-40, but we are constantly surprised at the different mix of people who enjoy incense. I certainly don’t keep the fact that I operate out of Hope a secret, but to most of my customers (remember not all) it doesn’t matter. Marketing and sales takes on a different idea when all of your sales are on the Internet. Telling someone in “Population 450, Bayou, Louisiana” that I am located about two hours east of Vancouver, B.C. in Hope doesn’t matter as much as “How many sticks are in a pack?” That being said, I’ve had customers that are travelling stop in to see me.

AH: How important is exporting to your business?

AG: Extremely. On average I ship about 100 packages a week. Of those 100, say 85-92 go to destinations internationally and the rest are domestic. I have a good knowledge of how to get mail and items across borders. It requires documentation, coding and paperwork. The knowledge has allowed me to expand my business and I now have merchandise shipping contracts for other businesses. Shopfranticfilms.com, Pages Bookstore, Which Way Too Inc., and most recently Highway Thru Hell are utilizing my services.

AH: What would you tell someone considering relocating to Hope or expanding their business in Hope?

AG: Be prepared to join a community. Living and doing business in Hope requires time and passion. If you want to be in business for the people of Hope, show them that.

AH: How important is branding to your company, and what aspects of your business do you consider part of your brand?

AG: From the day we decided the name was Anna’s Incense we owned that brand and everything it meant. The character is a “younger and hippier Anna.” She has a name, Anna Roma, and a story, her buddy is a cat named Ketzle. Our brand was built from the common idea that incense is for hippies (even though it’s not anymore), because that’s what my clientele could relate to. Being Internet-based adds to the brand because it has become part of the story. So my URL’s are part of my brand, “Anna Roma” and the love flower, and my tag line “Fresh Incense Burns Longer and Smells Better,” Fresh Incense being something that really defines our product.

AH: Is branding important to a community as well?

AG: Yes. A community like Hope that has been in transition for the better part of 75 years needs something to stand for and something to own as a community. Everyone needs to be on the same page and it’s a gigantic undertaking. I look at it like a re-birth for the community. I am very excited about the branding committee that has been formed, was very pleased to provide input and can’t believe how hard they’ve been working over the past year to make Hope into what, ironically, it already is.

AH: How does Anna’s Incense positively impact the community of Hope?

AG: The tangible items that Anna’s Incense has physically donated over the past 15 years to community groups and raffles and charitable organizations probably ranges in the tens of thousands of dollars. More importantly I personally have volunteered (and still put in countless hours) in the community. From Brownie leader to theatre group organizer, I have sat on numerous school-based committees, school district-based committees, preschool boards, I rarely miss a PAC or a DPAC meeting, I served as a director on the Chamber of Commerce. Even though only a small amount of my sales are generated from Hope, almost all of our dollars stay in Hope, which I think positively impacts the balance of the community.

Long-time resident and a true entrepreneur, Gladue comes from generations of entrepreneurs. Her constant efforts to improve her community are renowned, and her commitment to local business remains steadfast. You can pick up your incense at Pages Bookstore where the Anna’s Incense warehouse is co-located.

Wes Bergmann is board chair of AdvantageHOPE.