The debate on – are entrepreneur born or made is unending. But it’s not untrue that the startup idea can be found anywhere, anytime. It’s just that you have to be ready to open the door when an idea rings your mind bell. One such entrepreneur is Amy Read who got an idea when she least expected it. Just after she had her third child, a friend sent her a gift from the UK that contained the most beautiful set of new baby clothes and shoes, personalized with her son’s name. She was overwhelmed with how much thought had gone into the gift, it felt so personal to her. All her life she wanted to be an entrepreneur, but the timing was never right. But maybe all moments in her life led her to that moment. She thought it was now or never and took the plunge. Next thing she knew was – she had ventured on her own with Gifts Less Ordinary, an online marketplace selling unique and personalized gifts. Launched at the end of October 2015 in Singapore and Hong Kong, Gifts Less Ordinary has now expanded to Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the US.
Life before Gifts Less Ordinary
Amy grew up in North East Scotland, but spent most of her adult life in London. A little over six years ago, she moved from London to Singapore with her husband’s job.
Prior to moving to Singapore, she worked at BT (British Telecom), heading up their online sales and marketing department. With vast digital marketing experience of over fifteen years, Amy is all-time passionate about everything to do with online.
After moving to Singapore in 2011, she worked at Facebook for a short period, before taking up a role as the CMO of NMG Group, a global financial services company headquartered in Singapore. A happily married Amy has three young children who are all at school in Singapore.
A Unique Platform for Personalized Gifts
Since the inception, Gifts Less Ordinary has proved to be a unique platform selling personalized gifts. Most gifts on their site come personalized and beautifully wrapped. They source luxury, hand-made gifts from the most creative businesses across the globe. All products featured on the website have been hand picked by their team. The site is lovingly curated, only featuring the best of the best, so the experience is likened to shopping in an exquisite boutique.
Personalization is at the heart of everything they do, from the products they feature to the customer service they offer, they are doing something no one in the Asian market does. They offer over five thousand products on the site, and their typical products include Morse code bracelets, beautifully carved oak tablet and phone holders which can be personalized in any language, luxury travel mugs and cufflinks personalized with their child’s drawing, local Asian art, to cashmere baby blankets and rocking chairs all hand engraved with any message you like.
Catering to the needs of Well-aware Customers
If there is one thing that has become widespread in retail – it is the move away from fast shopping to personalization. Today, customers are looking for more than just beautiful products with exquisite quality, they want to purchase unique, one of a kind gifts, gifts that tell a story. A recent research study suggests that more than 50% of consumers expressed an interest in purchasing customized products, and one in two consumers feel that customized products make great gifts (Deloitte Research, June 2015).
Thus, to cater to all the needs and requirements of customers, Gifts Less Ordinary are coming up with the new products in the next few weeks that include glass wear, silk scarves and candles which can all be personalized with a bespoke message or name. They have also launched the first-of-its-kind Corporate Gifting platform that connects small creative businesses to the online Corporate Gifting market. With this launch, corporates are now able to individually personalize each gift with an individual’s name or initials as well as adding their logo, to create a truly personalized gift. Also, they can benefit from a minimum order quantity of ten units, alongside real-time visibility to the overall pricing and discounts.
It’s about Recruiting the Right People
The most pressing challenge in every startup is about recruiting the right people and incentivizing them to make sure they stay with you on this journey. Losing good people at a critical time in your growth can be detrimental. “Resilience, don’t give up. Delegate, don’t get bogged down with admin. Recruit someone who can manage that for you and allow yourself more time to focus on the strategic aspects of the business. Surround yourself with a great team who share your energy, drive and vision. Only by working with others can you make great things happen,” shares Amy.
The Key Values that Helped Amy
Determination, hard work and trust have been the key things that have helped Amy on this entrepreneurial voyage. Trusting your instincts, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. In the early days, she listened too much to outside advice and now realizes no one has all of the answers, you have to believe in yourself and follow your own gut when making executive decisions.
Amy’s Advice for Young Entrepreneurs
Believe in yourself. Being an entrepreneur is hard, some days are harder than others. Never stop believing and always take time out to reward yourself, and what you have accomplished so far. I’ve never worked harder in my life, and as everyone says ‘welcome to the world of start-ups’. But one thing I would say if it wasn’t so hard, everyone would be doing it, so just stay focused and keep going.
Amy and her team have proven that they have a unique concept, the demand is there and they are on the verge of becoming a highly profitable business. The company’s challenge is to scale, and scale fast. Ahead of that, they are in the process of restructuring the team, recruiting new members and prioritizing their efforts within each market in which they operate. Amy looks forward to further invest in her corporate business, which she recognizes has fast mover advantage and is not only unique to Asia, but globally too.