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How These Founders Created A Platform That Makes Corporate Gifting Fun Again


Gift-giving dates back to early civilization. Presenting someone with a special item was a way to congratulate a person and form a mutual acceptance. Over time, corporate gifting has developed to show a corporation’s clients its gratitude for its relationship. A survey conducted by Packed With Purpose found that 46% of recipients found gifting to be thoughtful. Additionally, 68% of people said having received a memorable business gift strengthened their relationship with the business that gave it. But in a corporate culture of overabundance, how can companies make sure that the gifts stand out? 

Elisabeth Vezzani, cofounder and CEO of Sugarwish, and her partner Leslie Lyon have elevated the practice of corporate gifting. Instead of individuals searching endlessly for the perfect present, the partners flipped the gifting model. They created a platform that allows the recipient of the gift to choose the contents of their gift. For example, they can choose either an assortment of candy or snacks. This week the company just launched Sugar-Woofs, gift treats for dogs.

The company offers a personalized alternative to corporate swag. The platform is integrated with messaging apps, including Slack, Facebook and Snapchat, where consumers can instantly send a gift invitation. Sugarwish is on track to deliver its 1,000,000th wish by the end of this year. Its customer base includes Microsoft, Twitter and Capital One. Additionally, Vezzani and her team grew the portfolio to over 18,000 businesses. 

“We stuck to our guns with what was the original idea, which was shifting the idea of gifting to delivering a feeling versus the product itself,” Vezzani states. “We were all about the receiver and still are about the receiver picking. And that feeling is the delivering to them getting to pick and them having fun in what you’ve sent them. … In corporate gifting, you’re really trying to deliver a feeling as well as stand out. You want them to understand how grateful you are and thank them. At the same time, you want to be remembered and deliver that feeling of happiness. It’s the whole point of the gift.”

Vezzani began her career in sales and business development. As a result, she had to cater to various clients and find unique ways to stand out. She grew frustrated with the gifting options. 

While talking to another soccer mom, Lyon, at one of her son’s games, she expressed how she didn’t want to buy one more gift card for her clients. Instead, she wanted a gift to stand out. Lyon shared her experience of gifting her clients bags of candy. It wasn’t about the candy itself but giving people a break in their day to enjoy a treat. 

“The two of us went out for coffee,” Vezzani explains. “We thought, ‘Hey, what if we could deliver that experience to people right at their desk or phone? That would be fantastic.’ So we started working on it. We found developers that worked in the evening. We worked on it for a year, trying to deliver that feeling of the kid in the candy store feeling through an online gift that would be easy to send for companies, businesses and individuals.”

From the beginning, the founders bootstrapped the business with little investment. Although they were excited with the endless possibilities that the company could offer, they had to focus on the first rendition of the organization due to limited resources. That focus assisted in their growth. The organization has expanded exponentially in the past two years, giving them enough revenue to build the company how they envisioned without investment capital. 

As Vezzani continues to expand Sugarwish, she focuses on the following essential steps:

  • Start now. If there’s something you want to do or change, start doing it. Even if it’s small steps, you’ll still be making progress. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to start.
  • Remember your why. It’s easy to become distracted by new ideas or discouraged when faced with an obstacle. Focus on why you started and stay the course.
  • Build your tribe. Surround yourself with people who are going to champion and elevate you.

“In business, particularly startups, but in every business, you’re pivoting daily,” Vezzani concludes. “There are things every day that come into place that you’re thinking, ‘Could we do that better? Is that what the customer really wants? What resonates with the customer? What would help to deliver on our promise?’ So I always try to keep that in mind that we should constantly be pivoting and moving and changing to go with what the customer wants. So our initial idea, we stick to it but offering different iterations based on what we find from day-to-day.”



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