In Conversation with Kelly Parker of Send Ribbon

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Describe Send Ribbon in a few words?

Send Ribbon is a thoughtful Corporate Gift Company that sends happiness to clients, customers & employees.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

At the time I started my business, I had already hit many of my professional goals by working at top tier tech companies, scaling businesses through various rounds of funding, launching marketing programs internationally and being promoted at my company of three years. I knew there was another challenge out there for me but the traditional ladder of becoming a people manager and moving up within the company was not what I wanted to do. I started building my business and thought about going back to school. I applied to business school but got waitlisted so I continued to build Send Ribbon. Just when the business started to pick up momentum, I was accepted to NYU Stern School of Business. Ultimately I declined the invitation in pursuit of building my company but I hope the door will be open in the future as there is still so much for me to learn.                                                                           

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Prior to Send Ribbon, I had spent over ten years in growth roles at tech companies and startups like AOL, Indeed, Managed by Q and DoorDash. 

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

One time, my client received hundreds of damaged gifts five days before their annual conference. I had to repurchase all the gifts at retail price, fill two suitcases of gifts and fly down to Atlanta from New York and repack all the gifts from my hotel room. I really thought it was over but then I received a personal note from their CEO saying how he would always root for Bootstrapped Founders, he never even found out this happened but I always admired his kindness. I learned very quickly that running a business was going to be a series of mistakes and lessons learned but to keep moving forward.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

The day my business became profitable is still my proudest moment. Profitability was always the number one goal. Having worked at many businesses that never came close to profitability I wanted to prove this model could be a viable business before seeking outside capital. 

You were recently acquired by UrbanStems! Can you share more about this process?

Yes, truly a dream come true! The mission & brand of UrbanStems was always a North Star when building Send Ribbon as I truly loved the product from the view of both a sender & recipient. After reconnecting with one of the original Founders and having the introduction to the team, I knew in the first five minutes of our conversation that UrbanStems would be the right home for both myself & Send Ribbon. I felt so honored to be trusted in leading our B2B business line for both brands and determined to bring our corporate offering to market. Although our first conversation was interrupted by Covid19 and picked up a few months later, it was worth the wait!

Could you share some tips for Entreprenistas who are in the process of selling their business? Any lessons you wish you had known?

At the time of the acquisition, I was not in the market to sell Send Ribbon so I don’t have tips on how to source a buyer or what to do in that scenario but what I can say is make every business decision on character. When I was negotiating terms, I made it clear that I had learned from past Female Founders that had taken bad deals and that UrbanStems had the opportunity to change that narrative. The leadership team did not disappoint and they were fully aligned & supportive of both the growth of Send Ribbon & my long term personal growth within the company.

You are now the Director of Corporate Gifting for both Urban Stems and Send Ribbon. Can you tell us what both roles entail?

In my current role, I lead our B2B strategy for customer acquisition and product development. Although merchandising, technology and marketing are critical to the success of our corporate gifting arm, I have spent the majority of my time building relationships with our customers and understanding their needs to help make this Holiday Season extra special for their clients and employees.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

In March, I made the decision to shut down the business as I was working from a home office and could not keep up with the high demand.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Don’t fit into someone else’s world, make sure they fit in yours. 

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?

Find your customers, learn from them, and build for them. 

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

By leading my life with Gratitude, I am able to focus on the more important parts of being a business owner and connecting people through gifting. There is a quote that rings true for me about my gratitude practice in 2020; “I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now”. In years prior, I would focus on all things I wanted and not the things I have. This year many of the goals I worked towards for years finally happened but It took a lot of hard work to get there so each day I try to reflect on those hard days that got me here.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

When it comes to work/life balance, I believe in two things: Making the Time and Showing up. Life is all about showing up for one another. There are days I wake up at 4 am just to make sure I can make the time to leave my desk to grab dinner with a friend. If you want the time, you will make the time. Secondly, show up for people. This year, we can’t see many people we love so show up for them in different ways – shoot a text, send a gift, make an introduction, send someone’s resume who is seeking employment, pick up the phone, share a recipe, work out virtually together; find ways to show up for people. I am very thankful for all the people who show up for me daily.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Create calendar work blocks for both external business partners and internal business partners. Keeping this time separate allows me to better listen to the needs of my customers and employees.
  • Wake up early and complete administrative tasks before you start your work day. I usually do this while listening to a business podcast, typically I listen to How I Built This, Entreprenista, or Work Life with Adam Grant. 
  • End every meeting with a commit message of action items that you will personally own to keep yourself and your team accountable. 

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Being an Entreprenista means to me, both believing in and betting on yourself every time.

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