Gifts Aren’t Us

You know how difficult it can be to come up with an idea for a present when you’re down to the wire? If not, you may not appreciate the business concept of the cover story of Entrepreneur Country this month–unless you know someone who suffers from the malady. Like a guy. Or a lot of guys. Many guys opt for the classic gift card solution when faced with such a dilemma. With Man Buys Present, however, one can come off looking great–even when the only good idea was to outsource what is usually a painful, unimpressive task.

Rachael Robertson (a former HR exec with Hewlett Packard in the UK) and Kate Rider (a very successful property developer) met at school and soon launched their idea. One (Rachael) is an ideas person, the other strong on management and implementation. Key observations influenced their decision to go into business:

  • a good reputation is hard to earn and easy to lose
  • having a really smart husband who gave gifts that showed no sensitivity or understanding
  • a solutions mentality is very different than trying to be thoughtful

With these factors in mind, they developed a web-based business with mass customization features. In addition to a sourcing strategy that aimed to procure products from exclusive suppliers, the duo had a website built with nifty “bells & whistles”:

  1. A “Get Out of Jail” concept to buy restitution gifts on short notice,
  2. The “Buy One, Get One Free” option to buy something cute or funny to complement a serious gift,
  3. Assistance for dads buying gifts for their spouse to be given by their children,
  4. Facebook downloads of birth dates,
  5. Gift suggestions, and
  6. Tracking of prior gift purchases.

Kate seems to really like the entrepreneurial pursuit, noting that big business has taken it on the chin in the UK and around the world. Rachael says that the stress  she feels is offset by having fun. Both women enjoy the flexibility to work remotely, while simultaneously juggling child-rearing and spouse time.

When asked to comment on how they feel about the role of the education system in Britain in preparing their children (or others) to launch successful businesses, they lamented that traditional jobs are still the focus of skill development. Access to adequate capital for those who are not born into money is cited as a big challenge. Kate recommends that students in all subject areas learn finance (distinct from “math”) as a critical life skill. Further, she offers that all fields of study would benefit from seeing their talent or skill through the lens of running a business for oneself. Learning how to explain a business concept and position both the business and yourself as credible are great life skills.

Learning how to not let perfection control your life is an acquired mindset they recommend. Receptivity to different approaches gives the leadership team the ability to grow themselves and the company well beyond what they would have thought. Finally, the ladies have each learned how to turn aspects of their personality that they don’t like into strengths in a collaborative environment.

A few thoughts, then, in reaction to this heartwarming story:

~ American education is in a similar rut to British–we need to do something about it!

~ We all observe problems that need fixing, but rarely start a business to solve the problems.

~ Offer solutions after being thoughtful!


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