It was 2011, and Jamie Kutchman Wynne faced a massive challenge. It was wedding planning time, and because all the attendees were from out of town, she wanted to design some gift bags for everyone.
She was struck with a few problems. First, it was incredibly difficult to source the diverse array of items she was looking for. And with all the other stress from planning, she didn’t have enough time or energy to assemble and send the bags to the hotels, so she delegated the work to her wedding planner.
Things didn’t work out.
The wedding planner and her staff delivered the gifts to the wrong hotels which meant some guests got them, but others didn’t. What ensued was an embarrassing moment for both Jamie and many others at the wedding. Conversations floated around about the missing gift bags, and Jamie couldn’t quite shake the lingering feelings of mortification.
For the next two years, she sat, mulling over the idea while she worked. In her eleventh year working at a lucrative career in medical sales, Jamie was growing restless. One day in a conference call with her boss, on a whim, she quit her job. That day was a turning point in her life. Before, she had seen herself working at that job for her whole life, but now that she was done, it was freeing. Heading home, a whole world of possibilities blossomed in front of her. That night, she told her husband and decided to take a chance and act on the idea that she had been sitting on for so long.
Jamie left her job in June of 2014. Her site went public in November, five months later. The days in between weren’t easy. Many a night were spent staying up till two or three a.m. in the morning sourcing vendors or writing copy for her site. Work ethic had always been a strong suit of Jamie’s, and it was key in those days when things got hard.
It also helped that a lot of skills were carried over from her previous job. She listed some strengths such as “forming relationships, providing a very high level of service, and reading and understanding what your clients are really looking for even when they don’t know how to verbalize it to you.”
So when November rolled around, she was already primed for the launch of her company: Marigold & Grey.
Marigold & Grey tried to accomplish a few things.
It was an artisan welcome bag company focused on weddings, and later corporate events. A lot of the clientele wanted high-end gifts. Throughout the years, the company also took on the role of custom gift designs. The client gives the general feeling, themes, and ideas behind their ideal gift, and Jamie and her team do the rest. What’s particularly special about the way she designs boxes is the personal touch that she puts on all of them.
It wasn’t always like that though. Marigold & Grey’s original business model was centered around a web tool that they had poured a lot of money and resources into. It was an online gift designer. You would choose your box, ribbon design, and the types of items you would like inside the box. At the time, they also offered custom gift design as well, but unbeknownst to Jamie, the web tool was putting many potential customers off.
As Jamie tried to figure out why people were avoiding the tool, she took a leap and tried deactivating the feature.
What was one of the hardest decisions for Jamie actually ended up being a blessing for her business. After taking out the web tool, she saw her sales volume skyrocket. She also saw a stronger central message for her brand: personalization. And to this day, this central tenet of a personal feel to a bespoke gift has driven her business to places where she’s never expected it to go.
Resources and Blogs
Jamie’s biggest problem initially was figuring out where to allocate her resources. “I didn’t get millions of dollars investor funding, so for me, it’s just been completely organic growth, and I’m self-funded from money that I saved from my previous job,” she explained. Her main focus first then, was using that hard earned money and putting it into areas with the highest return. That ended up being branding and the website.
One of the most prominent features of Marigold and Grey’s brand has been their blog. The blog showcases the many areas that the company supports, and Jamie has used it to generate new customers and improve her SEO so she can show up in more web searches.
She showcased all of the different topics she blogged about:
We blog about projects that we’ve completed. So we give the background of what the client was looking to achieve, what we did, and how it turned out. They [the posts] have a lot of images in them and people want to see what the finished product is. We feature some other small businesses on our blog. Those performed really well. We also do tips and education. We’re working on a wedding series right now: what to include in your wedding welcome gift, how to handle the logistics of delivering wedding welcome boxes, things like that.
Creating that authentic voice and strong brand recognition has been the crux of the marketing strategy that has propelled Marigold and Grey forward.
As the brand grew stronger, Jamie started using networking to build relationships and business partnerships so she could get more resources. Not only has she been able to network more, but the Marigold & Grey brand has also brought along some other opportunities for expansion into other areas.
Weddings and Corporations
When Jamie quit her job, she envisioned a company that would solve all the wedding gift woes that she had experienced, but since then, her custom gift designs have attracted other clients. Her company is now an even split between corporate gifts and wedding gifts. She laughed, “I love weddings for the creativity, and I love corporate for the volume.”
Now, she’s even opened an e-commerce store to accompany her custom gift service. The store provides easy, beautiful solutions for people who need something soon.
Throughout all of this, Jamie has learned a huge lesson: concentrating on one goal at a time. As more and more custom gift companies sprout up, Jamie admits it can be easy to lose focus and obsess over what the competition is doing, but understanding her own brand and working towards her goals one step at a time has kept her grounded. She rationalized, “focus on what you know is right and focus on your client. If you do that then I believe that things will turn out right in the long run.”
With that mindset, Jamie looks to the future. Marigold & Grey is currently undergoing a rebranding phase, and she hopes to revamp her online shop and strengthen her brand. Years from now, she sees Marigold & Grey carrying its own private label of items, and building a lifestyle out of all the different facets of gifting.
As for now, she’s focused on doing what she does best: making custom gifts with a personal touch.