We believe gifting is an art form. But to us, it’s not enough to simply put pretty things inside a box. We value flawless execution and sound logistics as much as we do appearance. From start to finish, our clients are completely stress-free knowing their gifting is not merely beautiful, but also safely off of their shoulders and onto ours.
Welcome to Marigold & Grey! We’re a full-service artisan gifting business specializing in gift design for weddings, corporate events, client appreciation, and life’s special occasions. Owner and founder Jamie Kutchman Wynne first recognized the need for the business when creating welcome gifts for her own 2012 destination wedding. She struggled finding unique items to include in the gifts and, on top of that, the execution was a disaster. (Imagine the hectic nature of wedding weekend and gifts ending up at the wrong hotels where guests weren’t even staying...embarrassing!) Two years later, she got up the nerve to quit her successful corporate career and take a chance on creating precisely the business she wished had existed back when she needed it most.
What began as a wedding-focused business has rapidly expanded into corporate event and client appreciation gifting, which makes sense. After all, the need for expertly curated, flawlessly executed, on-brand gifting exists in all areas of life, both personal and professional. While we’ll always have a soft spot for weddings, we’re honored to deliver the award-winning Marigold & Grey experience to all occasions.
We'd love to know your story! How did you get started? How did you get to where you are today? What are you most proud of?
How I got started? It was that crazy crunch time, a couple of weeks before my own wedding back in 2012, when I realized how tricky it is to find unique, one-of-a-kind items for welcome gifts. All of our guests were coming in from out of town so I really wanted to greet them with really special Virginia-themed contents that would make them loved and appreciated upon arrival. I didn't want common and generic when our guests were making such huge efforts to be there. I wanted thoughtful and locally-inspired contents. But after all of that work searching high and low for just the right contents and then figuring out where to buy them and how to get them on-time, I turned them over to my wedding planner to assemble and distribute to the hotels. I later discovered that some of our welcome bags were delivered to the wrong hotel by mistake. The missing bags were never recovered and so some guests received a gift and others did not and they were talking about it amongst themselves. Embarrassing! It baffled me why I could outsource everything related to an event such as stationery, linens, lighting, florals, music, food, etc. yet I couldn't outsource the gifting. At that time, this type of artisan gifting service didn't exist. This is the "aha moment" that led to Marigold & Grey being born. About two years later, I got up the nerve to quit my successful corporate career and jump head first into bringing this idea to life. I knew deep down in my soul that the people would jump at the chance to outsource their gifting from design all the way to delivery and I thankfully I was right.
We started out as a wedding business doing wedding welcome gifts for luxury weddings and quickly expanded into the corporate space since corporations are looking for creative ways to gift as opposed to run-of-the-mill "cheesy corporate swag". So, while our roots are in the wedding industry (the name Marigold & Grey was inspired by my own wedding colors!), we now specialize in fully custom gifting for weddings, corporate events, and ongoing client appreciation. In addition to our Custom Design Service, we also have an online shop featuring ready-to-ship gifts for all those many occasions in life when you need a gift quickly! Think new mom and baby gifts, housewarming gifts, engagement and bride-to-be gifts, bridal party and groomsmen gifts, self-care gifts, wellness gifts, sympathy gifts, new employee gifts, and more. No matter the occasion though, we love taking the tedious task of gifting entirely off of our clients shoulders from start to finish!
What am I most proud of?
This is a tough one because while I’m proud of the more obvious things like national press recognition (Martha Stewart, New York Times, The Knot, BRIDES etc) as well as landing high-profile clients such as Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google, Visa, Kate Spade, Microsoft, and some we’re not even allowed to mention by name, I’ve actually experienced the most pride from more unexpected moments. Back in September, our building experienced a very serious building fire and significant collateral damage to our studio space. It was immediately condemned. We lost more than half of our inventory that day along with all of our studio furniture and furnishings. However, from the moment the fire happened, my team showed up and rallied. We came together and miraculously managed to meet ALL of our client deadlines we had on the calendar for that week and beyond. (Exactly how we pulled this off is a story for another day!) We went weeks without heat or AC, fully functioning bathrooms, proper lighting, and have had repair people banging and hammering nonstop while we’re trying to work. But no one complained. We’ve remained laser-focused on our mission to serve our clients extremely well no matter what we’re facing behind the scenes. I’m proud that I’ve somehow remained positive and upbeat when it was insanely stressful – tension with our landlord, not enough space to execute our holiday season when we do 40% of our annual revenue, endless insurance claim meetings related to the fire, etc. I’m proud for refusing to give up. And now with managing to survive and thrive amidst COVID-19, it's been just another serious challenge we had to face and get through together. Above everything, I’m really proud of my team. I could not have survived these back-to-back storms without them. We’ve been tested as a business and we’ve proven that we are tougher than we ever thought. This means more to me than any press feature or recognition from a high profile project ever could.
What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours?
Start slow! Before investing in large amounts of inventory or technology, figure out who your ideal client is and what they like, what solves their problems, what they're willing to pay for, etc.
This might come as a surprise because it came as a surprise to me but what you like isn't necessarily what they're going to like. You can avoid a lot of wasted time and financial resources if you start small and test the market as you go, making investments based on actual data you have, not just hunches or intuition. Intuition plays a role but it can't be everything.
What are the best resources that have helped you along the way?
I brought a ton of experience from my corporate career to business ownership. But to be honest, before starting my business, I never thought I was "business owner material". I thought business owners were these unicorn-type figures who walked on water. And I just didn't have what it took. But once I very spontaneously gave up my corporate career by quitting on a conference call one day and then deciding to take a chance on this idea I had a few years prior, I quickly realized that skills I had learned in my corporate career translated VERY well to entrepreneurship. I worked on full commission in my corporate job so the pressure of nothing being guaranteed was already there. I worked long hours so that was certainly no different than owning a business. I managed all aspects of my corporate accounts from sales to pricing and profit to client experience to collecting past due invoices to trouble shooting problems.
So, again, not much different than starting a business. It's astounding the skill sets you develop in a corporate setting and even though you may not necessarily own the business, a lot of what you do learn will absolutely translate. I'm also a huge fan of business books. Some of my favorites are 'Building a Story Brand' by Donald Miller, 'The Lean Startup' by Eric Ries, 'Blue Ocean Strategy' by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne, 'Good to Great' by Jim Collins, 'Start with Why' and 'Leaders Eat Last' by Simon Sinek, and 'Profit First' by Mike Michalowicz. I could go on and on but these are the "classics".
You can't rest on your laurels. You have to keep innovating.
What are some of your biggest mistakes you've made along the way?
The original version of Marigold & Grey was an online-only model whereby visitors to the website could build their own welcome gifts by choosing their own packaging, then choosing their edibles and beverages, adding keepsakes, selecting ribbon color, custom designing gift tags, etc. While the website was getting sales, the side of the business that was really taking off was our Custom Gift Design Service where we designed the gifts for the clients instead of them designing it for themselves. It was geared solely towards the wedding market and that was it. It quickly became evident to me that I’d undershot the market. I thought I knew our ideal audience and I didn’t. I spent so much money on this high tech website and a few years in, decided to disable it altogether because it was confusing visitors to the website. They’d land on the build-your-own tool and if that’s not what they wanted, they left because they didn’t realize that we even offered Custom Gift Design Service (as well as pre-designed gifts in our online shop). This was a painful, expensive lesson in starting small and testing the market prior to making large financial investments based on incorrect and sweeping assumptions about the market. As soon as we disconnected the build-your-own tool, our conversion rate in both Custom Gift Design Service and the Ready-to-Ship Collection skyrocketed because our core offering was much more obvious the moment people landed on our website. We doubled our revenue that year.
How do you handle competition?
When I first began the business back in 2014, there were hardly any artisan gifting services. So, we were bringing something new and exciting and it was fairly easy to gain traction and garner attention. These days, gifting businesses are springing up left and right and competition is definitely present. My approach to competition is this: it keeps pushing you past your comfort zone to continue innovating. This internal desire to remain at the top of your game benefits not only you and your business but also clients in the marketplace. So, I don't view it as a negative. However, focusing too much on competition can take up too much room in your headspace and allow for you to easily fall into the comparison trap. To combat this, I truthfully don't look at what our competition is doing. I don't want it to influence my direction or my decisions or my designs. Instead, I am laser-focused on remaining true to our own aesthetic as well as remaining passionate about offering our clients the best possible experience! This means we value our gifts being beautiful as much as we do the not-go-glamorous logistics side of the business. Anyone can put items in a box and make it look pretty. But can you do that AND get the gifts where they need to be in perfection condition and on-time? The fact that we do both has proven to be a huge differentiator for us.
We believe the gift giver deserves the same amazing experience as the one receiving the gift.
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