Making Meaningful Impressions

For the 19th post in our corporate values series, Julia Kemp shares how at Alyce, we are empowering our customers to make meaningful impressions through a considered approach to gifting, selling and ultimately connecting with others.

Have you ever found yourself in a line at the department store holding a gift for someone important and felt like the item itself, a scarf let’s say, just wasn’t substantial enough? So you leave, circumnavigate the store, back to the display and grab the matching red hat. Surely now that it’s a set, the present will be better suited for the recipient, but this person is really special. They went out of their way for you more than several times in the last few months, and these two items just don’t feel substantial enough. So, you go back a third time to the display and find the matching gloves. Now you have a scarf, hat, and gloves and you feel as though you have completed the gift selection task. If only there was not an uneasy queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach as you open your wallet and hand the cashier your card. You are already over budget, yet you don’t even feel that excited about your gift. If you are sending both personal and corporate gifts, this feeling can grow exponentially.

This is a problem I have been working on since my very first job in retail. Americans consume like no other, but stuff for the sake of stuff is just, well, junk. 

Alyce is not in the consumer business nor do we sell many scarves, but we do serve as a corporate gift concierge who can identify what a gift recipient would really appreciate based on who they are; their hobbies and interests beyond 9 am-5 pm.

What better way to engage with that individual than to truly think about them?

After all, “It is the thought that counts”. But how do you “think” about the ideal gift for hundreds to thousands of strangers you haven’t yet met?…. well, we have an app for that. Here at Alyce, we are empowering our customers to make meaningful impressions through a considered approach to gifting, selling and ultimately connecting with others.

Elements from all the jobs I have held previously are braided together in my new role as Director of Gift Experience at Alyce. My focus: continuously advancing the gifting experience so that every touchpoint brings joy and intrigue to the recipient.

Importance of First Impressions

Before Alyce, I ran the entrepreneurial programs at Harvard Business School, and one of my MBA students described how pitching your business is like trying to fit your entire self in a matchbox. This challenge is not unique to founders’ pitching. It also rings true for sales representatives.

When you are really proud of the product you are selling and also really close to it, the challenge is to convey your message while tailoring it to your prospect’s interests and priorities. It is not easy to break the ice and talk about other things they care about. Our research serves as the key insights for our users to relate with their prospects on a human level. No more talking about the weather, unless it is about to snow and they love to ski.

Surface the Significant 

As part of the original startup team at The Grommet, my team and I scoured the globe for the most newsworthy products and produced video stories to elevate these products, their makers and most importantly their reason for being. When I saw gift options on Alyce’s marketplace from Grommet, Uncommon Goods, Cloud9 living and the like, it was a signal of an exceptionally high bar for quality and shared interest in serving up gifts that matter.

What if this wasn’t just a generic scarf in the earlier scenario, but a super functional one with warming properties and that you could give someone who loves to snowshoe in Vermont?

To be significant is to pull people in with clever use of color, pattern, and style, but hold their attention and admiration with substance that is meaningful to them and their interests. 

Curation and Choice

Today we have a cornucopia of 50K gift options and are working to push the right mix of products, experiences, and charities for our marketplace. We make sure there is just the right “something”. Some will be playful. Others will be bold. All will be recipient centric. My inner designer and buyer can’t wait to tackle our marketplace and work with Caroline on our Operations team to Marie Kondo it up a bit and make room for some of some exciting additions.

One of the best aspects of using Alyce is that before the actual gift ever lands at the recipient’s feet, the recipient can confirm this an ideal gift for them, or exchange it for something they need/ want more, or donate the gift value to a charity of their choosing. 

Presentation Is Everything

My earliest retail job was at a boutique called Oolala that taught me to take pride in how a gift is presented. It was the 90’s and I could be found tugging on giant suspended rolls of rainbow raffia ribbons and curling them into epic springs of curl. I would help customers choose just the right gift and card for each person on their list. Just by touching the texture of our wrapping paper, you knew the content inside was gonna be good! Not to mention the gift giver cares. I had the paper cuts to prove that this model did not scale well, but I look forward to creating a modern interpretation of “wrapping” our gifts to the nines and enhancing the journey of receiving them.

Differentiation Through Design

Design has the power to create value, inspire, drive action, unlock hidden potential and elicit emotion with all the feels.

Visionary designer Ingrid Fetell Lee crystalizes what it means to design for delight in her research. She  says, “The power of the aesthetics of joy is that they speak directly to our unconscious minds, bringing out the best in us without our even being aware of it.” 

Injecting the Alyce journey for both gift recipients and our sales rep users with a generous dose of joy has me frolicking on my commute into work each day.

Reduce the Waste

During the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government temporarily shut down a whole region of factories, including the manufacturer producing a hand weight collection I designed due to the smog being produced from iron ore. Few people who were going to purchase weights would likely use them and I feared that they were more likely to collect dust. What a waste. That was a turning point in my career where I discovered that I had a hand in creating literal smog and I did not want any part of it.

Let’s end the days of spray and pray and stop consuming the promotional items or leave-behinds that people don’t really want but take because they are free. That feels so disconnected from the world in which we live in today. 

Ultimately, it is the CONSIDERED approach to gifting and selling that attracted me to Alyce. 

The people here at Alyce are engaged. They care. We are working together to leverage technology and artificial intelligence to scale the best aspects of being human. Connection. Empathy. Thoughtfulness. Purpose.

How does it feel when you can leverage all your work experiences to create value for a fast-growing, mission-driven, venture-backed startup and its customers? To be fully utilized? To tackle problems worth solving? To collaborate with an engaged team on work that is congruent with your values? It feels fulfilling. It feels energizing. It feels fitting. 

October 3, 2019
Julia Kemp
Julia K.
Before joining Alyce, I led a suite of entrepreneurship programs to support MBA student founders, joiners, and aspiring investors at HBS. I live to work at the intersection of design and business strategy. My career started as an Industrial Designer when I was recruited from SCAD to design for Target. Shortly after going back to school for my MBA, I fell in love with entrepreneurship. Over the course of my career, I have worked with hundreds of startups to launch thousands of products and services. Formulating a young venture’s secret sauce is my jam.  Outside of startups, my interests include adventures in nature with my husband Ted and our baby Zander, worshipping the ocean, hunting for rare household treasures and going to car shows.

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Making Meaningful Impressions

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