As we wrap up the holiday shopping season and put our gift-giving behind us, the majority of us breathe a sigh of relief. Gift-giving around the holidays can be stressful, especially when it comes to gifts for business relationships we build each day of the year. There’s one company that is making waves in the $92bn corporate gifting industry, a field that’s not typically connected with innovation. Meet Sara Rodell, CEO of Loop & Tie, the recent winner of Salesforce Dreampitch at Dreamforce 2017 (and a $250,000 investment prize from Salesforce Ventures). Her company is bringing corporate gifting into the age of personalization while delivering valuable customer data and creating additional sales touch points. This has a huge implication to take the stress off of business owners and decision makers moving forward. Sara Rodell saw the opportunity for gifts to stop being a cost center and to start being an active part of the relationship building process.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Sara to hear how her business is capitalizing on the $90bn corporate gifting industry.
Can you share a few details about the story behind your corporate gifting business?
I used to work in sales and trading at a large investment bank. Like most businesses, maintaining impeccable client relations was top of mind. I volunteered to handle client holiday gifts one year and was annoyed with the amount of time it took to get it done and the nuances. For example, we had clients who kept kosher and those who didn’t drink. If you sent a Christmas ham or a bottle of wine to the wrong person it would be incredibly rude!
Inefficiencies bother me and I felt like there had to be a better, more personalized way to order for groups. I started researching the gift industry and was struck by a few things. Companies spend an estimated $90bn on gifts each year. However, it’s often the only part of their business that resides offline (hence the inefficiency!) And unlike other aspects of the business, it’s acceptable to just do the same thing for everyone. I became fascinated with this idea of scaling personalization and thought the gifting industry was ripe for change given the lack of technology and the significant budget.
What does owning a business mean to you?
While I enjoyed my corporate role, I feel I earn my days more as an entrepreneur. Every win is hard fought and every loss is emotional. I’m more fulfilled working on a mission and a vision, and I’m also inspired by those around me who do the same. I feel lucky to come to work every day with people who push themselves to their limits and aren’t intimidated by adversity. One of my favorite parts of entrepreneurship is the personal growth you get to see in yourself and your team every day. Most problems that we face don’t have a solution…yet. Most of the time we have about 80% of the knowledge we need to get to a solution. Watching our team grow into that final bit needed to achieve success is pretty motivating.
What’s your work philosophy?
Companies have an opportunity to shepherd social change by embracing inclusion, diversity and the business strength that comes from a culture of openness to new ideas and people. I think happy people deliver inspired work. By creating a culture that reflects these ideals, while delivering strong results.
No matter the size of the company, there’s a customer service expectation to be treated with fairness and speed. Small businesses have an advantage here because they can have direct connections with their customers. I think a small business’s success can be predicted through a customer service experience. Businesses that are empathetic and really care about their customers’ experience are the ones who thrive over time. We love using Intercom to be able to reply quickly to any customer service requests that come through our site and our whole team monitors customer service request and responses through Slack so nothing is missed and we get to learn what customers are asking about or having trouble with.