Face it, as a small or even large business; you are indebted to customers and other individuals that ensure that you have a job. You probably don’t show enough appreciation because it is giant pain to go out and buy gifts for everyone who has helped you out. More importantly, you are probably embarrassed of your gift-wrapping skills and would rather just send a boring ‘thank you’ text. But worry not! With Gravy, you can send perfectly wrapped, quality gifts using just your phone. The app can remember clients and will help you appear more personable instantly.
Today, cofounder Aaron Flack takes through the ins and outs of the future of business gifts.
Tell us about the product or service.
Gravy is a gifting service that makes it easy for businesses, and busy professionals, to send and receive thoughtful gifts. From our web and iOS app, users can send beautifully wrapped gifts, food, gift cards, wine and spirits by mail or email.
Small businesses can use Gravy as a lightweight employee / client recognition and engagement tool. Large businesses can customize the Gravy experience for their employees and clients – from the gifts and categories presented in the catalog, to the branding on our email communications and packaging. Simply put, Gravy enables thoughtful gifting at scale.
How is it different?
First, most of the gifts on Gravy are sourced from boutique and artisan brands rather than commonplace vendors. As a result, our catalog is highly curated versus what you’ll find on Amazon and Gifts.com.
Second, we are building a set of business features to provide businesses with a similar structure around gifting that they demand of other processes. Gravy will bring transparency and simplicity to the entire gifting process – from setting budgets and tracking activity, to reporting expenses and provisioning new user accounts.
Lastly, as I mentioned before, we can customize Gravy to meet specific business needs – from the gifts users are able to send, to the branding on email communications, to the style of the wrapping in which gifts are delivered. That gives marketing and HR departments full control over the experience for employees and clients.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
U.S. businesses send fifteen to twenty billion dollars’ worth of gifts to employees and clients each year, which equates to between two and three hundred million individual gifts. I had no idea until we started looking at the market, but businesses are sending gifts all the time!
We are targeting HR and Sales departments at large companies, because they often manage big gifting budgets. HR departments are more focused than ever on increasing employee engagement and retention, and gifting is a big part of that. Sales departments also gift often – both to employees as a way to reward performance, and to clients as part of the relationship management process.
We also believe Gravy can change the employee recognition game for startups and other small- and medium-sized businesses. Traditional recognition services are way too expensive for SMBs. Gravy can be used as a lightweight recognition tool that enables small, culture-first companies to celebrate employees’ life events and professional milestones with a bottle of wine or a gift card.
What is the business model?
Gravy makes margin on the gifts we sell. We will eventually charge a per-user subscription fee as well to cover the costs of scaling and customizing our platform.
What inspired the business?
About eighteen months ago, our founding team began looking for a better way to recognize birthdays and professional milestones at small businesses we’re involved with. Repeated trips to the mall and delivery orders to the florist were becoming hard to scale, so we started looking for a gifting service built to meet the needs of businesses. When nothing turned up, we started looking at the market, found it to be enormous and underserved, and decided to build Gravy.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We’re just closing out one major milestone. Our first enterprise customer, one of the three largest banks in the U.S., will be using Gravy for retirement gifts by September. That partnership validates that gifting is not a minor inconvenience, but a problem that large, complex companies will pay to solve.
Up next is adding wine and spirits gifts to Gravy, which we believe will provide a seamless solution to a hugely popular business gift category.
We are also hoping to release two major updates to Gravy’s B2B feature set by the end of the fourth quarter.
What is the one piece of business advice that you never got?
For every startup that is raising a massive A-round or pitching at TechCrunch Disrupt, there are twenty self-funded, bootstrapped startups quietly building really interesting businesses without any fanfare. Gravy is self-funded, half of our team works remotely, and business gifting is pretty unsexy. I’ve come to love that. The less noise there is around your business, the easier it is to focus on building.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
I’d love to sit down with David Kuperberg, who runs FirstService, the largest residential property management firm in Manhattan. FirstService oversees the management of about 300 buildings in New York, and I have no doubt David’s team spends a lot of money every year on gifts for tenants, service providers, and property owners. Gravy could make that process dramatically more efficient.
Why did you launch in New York?
Two of our four co-founders live in Manhattan, and a third just moved from Atlanta to Long Island. We love the support network of entrepreneurs and startups in the City. Also, the uniqueness of our gift catalog depends entirely on our ability to source truly unique artisan gifts and food. New York’s community of artisans and makers is the most vibrant in the country.
What’s is your favorite restaurant in the city?
Charrua on the Lower East Side. I think it’s the only Uruguayan restaurant in Manhattan. Amazing food, and you can bring your own wine.