What is your official title?
I am the Owner of Kalamazoo Gift Company. I’m also a mom – I have a two-year old boy, and one due April 8th; he’s definitely here in this interview.
What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?
Average or typical is hard; every day is different. I’m not huge on structure and doing the same thing every day, which you really have to be with a two-year old. My husband also works from home, which is amazingly awesome; I don’t know how I would run my company and be a stay at home mom by myself. If I have meetings or need to run out for a bit, it’s great that he has the flexibility with his schedule to stay with our son; we really tag team and jump in when it’s needed.
I wake up each morning and spend time with my son. If he’s watching a video or playing by himself, I can take time to return emails, but I’ve really learned to pick one thing to do at a time; if I do both I cheat everybody involved. I try to be just mom, or just Kalamazoo Gift Company at one time. And that lasts all day. When he goes to bed is when I get a lot of work done for the business. I pretty much work until I’m sleepy, which right now is coming earlier every night with another little one on the way.
Can you tell us about the history of Kalamazoo Gift Company?
I’ve had a lot of random jobs, purposely. I like doing a lot of different things, which clued me in years ago that it’s hard to find a job that lets you do multiple things. Owning your own business lets you do that. It’s been in my mind to start a business for years and years. I did sales, community relations, just a number of things.
I moved to Kalamazoo about four years ago, and started working for a non-profit; then I got pregnant. Once I had my son, I decided I wanted to be a stay at home mom. It was pretty quickly after that decision that I knew I wanted to do something additional to keep my mind busy. I gave myself about six months to pick something that I was interested in and asked myself the question: If you have a day off, what do you love to do? I love shopping, and shopping for other people. I very much enjoy curating items, and I’m into design and packaging. Everything came together nicely in doing my business plan, and I felt that I found that spot where there was potential mixed with what I loved to do.
I’m coming up on a year in April in launching my website. I owe the template and the organization of it all to Shopify, but I take all my own pictures and write my own content. I can’t speak more highly of them as a business in helping to set up a simple eCommerce site. I wouldn’t be able to change pictures and add content without a workable template like they provide.
Being a year in, and starting this from scratch, it was intentional in my business plan to start off being kind of scattered on the services I offer. In doing initial research, you can only go so far to be able to provide exactly what people need, so I started big, and can simplify and figure out my niche from there.
So what is Kalamazoo Gift Company? It’s an online eCommerce site for people to order gifts and packaging. The gifts are all styled and packaged based on what they are being given for. On the other hand is a menu of services to individuals, businesses and events. Everything from conference welcome bags to wedding favors and hotel welcome gifts. I also offer gift wrapping services. For example, if a promotional company was going to give out 1200 items to a client, I would step in and gift wrap those items and ship them out. I understand that it’s a lot right now, but this next year is going to be about finding what the customer needs most, and where I’m making the biggest impact.
Can you tell us more about your non-profit work?
I try to pick one non-profit a month, either local or national, to funnel resources to. January is a non-profit called Debra, and I’ve set things up on my site that you just enter a code before your purchase and a portion of money spent goes to that organization. I’d like to be more involved in the future and find other ways to contribute with a limited budget. As the business grows, I can become more involved and make a greater impact.
If you could receive one of your own gifts, what would it be?
There are some cleaning products for your kitchen that I love. They’re aromatherapy products for your counter tops, and normally I wouldn’t spend that much on cleaning my kitchen. It’s not something I would spend on myself, but they smell so amazing and they look beautiful, so I’d love to get something like that. It’s a great house warming-type of gift; it’s definitely better than Lysol.
What kind of projects are you currently working on?
One thing we just got rolling recently is with an eCommerce company here in town who have been around for about nine years. They own a non-gift related site, and they want to add a gift line to their site. They have amazing traffic and unique customers, so I’m designing a gift line for them to be up and running in a few months. They’ll have another cool portion of their website that they can use on social media and attract customers on their current site. I’m excited to carry for them, and show them what the final product packaging will look like. It’s going to look like their own, too; it’ll look completely different from my brand. And that’s what I want to do for every client – have the packaging fit their brand, as opposed to mine.
Another thing I’m focused on is adding more gifts to my current online collection. These next two months are all about building up inventory in my collection, which will be a fun project.
What do you love most about Kalamazoo?
We wanted to move here to be with family from New Orleans. Coming from New Orleans, we wanted to have a place where there’s a lot to do, and we knew it was going to be Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids. As luck would have it, I found a job in Kalamazoo that I thought would be fun, and that’s what brought us here.
That was the biggest stroke of luck possible. I know Kalamazoo is an awesome spot for our family to land. It’s a great place to raise a family. I love how safe I feel here, especially coming from New Orleans. We are completely surrounded by people who care about their city, and their life, and your life. There’s so much opportunity here for every type of person; a young adult, single, married, kids – there’s something in place that people here have worked hard to build, and it’s amazing being a part of that.
What can be done to improve our beloved Kalamazoo?
This is a hard one. I think we can’t stop making improvements. We are doing a great job, and we need to keep the momentum. I think there are some groups that can come together instead of duplicating services, and on top of that, have the opportunity for people to continue to get involved. We have a lot of great non-profits in place, so continuing to find ways to engage the community is going to be crucial.
For example, the Literacy Council is filling a huge need, reading is so fundamental. Also, the Kalamazoo Promise is one of the most amazing things in the country, and in order to capitalize on it, kids have to be able to read. It does no good to have a scholarship to college if you can’t read. In general, we need more people. People need to find where their heart is and find ways to serve.
What have you been jammin’ to recently? What’s on the iPod?
I like a lot of different music. I really can’t stand the kids music my son listens to, unfortunately; there’s a need out there, so somebody please help, we need good kids music! I put on YouTube usually; I like watching music videos. I like Gavin Degraw, Mark Brussard, Miles Davis, Michael Buble; music that’s easy to listen to.
How do you take your coffee…or do you?
I will drink any coffee; it could be room temperature at the end of the day sitting in the pot. Cold, hot, cream, whatever, I’ll drink it. I just got a Keurig for myself for Christmas; that’s pretty much been life changing.
What is your favorite app to use?
I do not have a favorite app. I will be honest with you, I don’t even have a smartphone. It is intentional, however. I don’t love being on my phone, I don’t love texting or talking on the phone. I love people in real life. I feel like I’m missing out on people when I’m on the phone. My two best friends came to visit last year and they were on their phones the entire time, on Facebook or some other social media site. I’m not on Facebook, and if I was on there I don’t know how I would get anything done. We do have some kids apps on our tablet for our son, and Kalamazoo Gift Company is on Pinterest – so I guess Pinterest is my favorite!
What is up next on your reading list?
As about a year ago, I found an author that I’m really inspired by so I’ve been wanting to read all of his stuff. His name is Philip Yancey, and the book I read was called The Gift of Pain. I started reading it after a friend went through the loss of a child, and it’s basically about trying to understand pain and the question of why do bad things happen. It’s something that’s always been on my mind – why do bad things happen? There isn’t a great answer for it, but he’s a really amazing writer. I’m on book three and four of his right now; I go back and forth between the two.
Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?
Sweetwaters! The chocolate iced ring donut is amazing. I’m a donut shop connoisseur, and I want to remember what my favorite donuts are at all of the places I visit; I know ’em all at Sweetwaters.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A cashier. You got to scan and push buttons, I mean how cool is that? I loved it. I had a job as a cashier at a Don’s Seafood in Louisiana when I was younger. All the waitresses would come to me and complain about their jobs, and I was just happy ringing people up!
What is your dream for Kalamazoo Gift Company?
Number one is that I don’t have employees right now beyond my family. I love the idea of having employees that I love become family. I’d like to see the business grow to where I can hire great people who can become lifelong friends. The dream is to be successful in giving. I love getting to see the good in people; they aren’t giving a gift because they’re spiteful, they’re doing it because they care about someone else and want them to feel special. It’s fun to see reasons that people are giving gifts, aside from your typical holiday gift. It’s gifts like that, that are random and out of the blue, that people remember. You get a lot of birthday gifts in a lifetime, but when someone sends you a gift that is completely unexpected, you end up really remembering it, and I love being a part of that selflessness.
Lindsey, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Lindsey and Kalamazoo Gift Company on facebook and pinterest. Also, be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.