FILED IN: Behind-the-Scenes, COVID-19, Education
Posted By: Jamie Kutchman Wynne
Leading a business through a year-long plus pandemic has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my professional life. Some of my long-held beliefs were put to the test and as the world begins to open back up, I realize that some of these beliefs have been turned completely upside down. Here’s how…
Our why isn’t just about our clients.
We are an extremely client-focused business. If something is better for our clients, we do it. This is how we think and it permeates all that we do. However, it took Covid for me to understand that our ‘why’ is actually much deeper than how we benefit clients. I vividly remember a phone call with a small business owner we buy from telling me point-blank that if it weren’t for the large purchase order that we just paid to them that they would not have been able to make rent and keep their doors open. They made it known that our order could not have come at a better time and we were allowing them to fight to see another day. I always knew that our business was committed to buying from small artisan makers but to be honest, this wasn't our main mission. As much as I'm ashamed to admit this, we sourced from artisan makers because their creations are more interesting, more unique, and more stand-out-from-the-crowd, which allows us to be more desirable to our clients. But in this moment on the phone with this vendor, my eyes filled with tears and I immediately knew that our ‘why’ is actually much bigger than I ever realized. I completely reversed my way of thinking. Today, we are a small business who very intentionally supports countless other small businesses and, oh by the way, just happens to curate gifts that are far from ordinary. Buying just one gift box from us can support 5-7 different small businesses at a time. And in a time like Covid when small businesses are fighting to stay alive, this truly matters. It matters always.
Gifts really can change the world.
As the owner, I always took time to read the notecard messages that people leave with their orders for us to handwrite in the notecards that accompany Marigold & Grey gift boxes. But to be fully candid, I did this more as a business exercise to make sure I never lost sight of why our clients were sending gifts so I would, in turn, know what direction to take our online collection in. But then Covid hit and our online shop skyrocketed unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It made holiday season look like amateur hour. I began reading the notecard messages even more religiously and I couldn’t look away. I was enthralled. Every single message was from someone needing to connect with someone else but unable to do so other than with a gift box and a very personal note. People sending condolences to those who lost a loved one to Covid, self-care boxes for working moms homeschooling and working full time at the same time, immunity boost gifts for healthcare workers on the front lines, engagement gifts as a mood lifter for couples forced to cancel their weddings, baby gifts when people couldn't be there in-person for baby showers or even to visit when the baby arrives…you get the idea. In that moment, it hit me that spreading kindness and love and care and gratitude matter a LOT. And our gift boxes were and are being used to communicate these very sentiments. Our gift boxes made the difference between people being able to feel a connection with one another and not. Maybe even making the difference between whether they smiled that day or not. With isolation, loneliness, and depression on the rise over the last year, this is not to be taken lightly. Witnessing this potential renewed my passion for what we do and made me realize the impact we can have. Pandemic or not, extending positivity to others can never be underestimated.
Zoom isn’t perfect but it’s priceless.
It used to be that I would never dream of having discovery calls with clients over Zoom. Either my office backdrop wasn’t perfect or, even worse, what if the wi-fi was shaky and the screen froze or we got disconnected? Oh, the horror of being viewed as unprofessional and imperfect! But now thrust into the world of 100% Zoom, I will never go back. It singlehandedly allows us to connect with potential clients more effectively and make a stronger connections with existing clients. My need for perfection went out the window a year ago and people’s willingness to give one another grace has taken its place. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting we take Zoom calls from bed in our pj's and expect people to view us as professional. But I'll give you an example of what I do mean. A client of ours was absolutely mortified when her much-too-old-to-be-streaking son suddenly streaked through her home office naked during our Zoom call one day. She is still professional and absolutely deserves some grace. Covid is on the way out, and hopefully for good, but Zoom for us is here to stay.
Responding to the market isn’t capitalizing off of tragedy.
When Covid first hit and the world shut down, we were getting requests left and right for health and immunity related gift boxes as well as gifts for people working from home. My first inclination was to hesitate and say that we shouldn’t launch these gift designs because it could be perceived as trying to capitalize off of a really awful time in history. But then I realized that we have always listened to our audience and tried our best to meet them exactly where they are. I have also worked insanely hard to make sound decisions that will allow the business to thrive and grow in order to keep my existing team employed while also aiming to strategically expand the team too! There is absolutely nothing wrong with ethically doing whatever you can to keep your business afloat during tough times, especially when it means responding to client requests and keeping your employees on payroll versus furloughed or laid off entirely. Our ‘Immunity Boost’ and ‘Werk From Home’ gift boxes were massive best sellers in 2020 and are still available in our shop today. They’re routinely sent to healthcare heroes, friends and family feeling under the weather, and hard working employees juggling home life and work life simultaneously. In challenging my original way of thinking and reversing it, we were able to not only meet our clients' needs for these very specific gift types but we successfully kept our existing team in tact and even miraculously grew the team too in order to meet demand.
I have a feeling that you have likely been changed by pandemic life, in ways you expected and others ways perhaps more unexpected. We'd love to hear from you on this topic! Visit us here or reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org.