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Austin, TX, 78704
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Thoughtfully curated gift boxes for every occasion.

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Looking For Advice On Being A Small Business Owner?

Steely Dipuccio Anderson

My Thoughts And 4 Tips On Best Ways To Approach Another Business Owner

Let me start this off by saying that I am ALL FOR community over competition. I feel the need to stress this right out of the gate because the direction this post may go in could come off as the opposite, but I assure you that I understand and appreciate the value and importance in community.

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I also have some thoughts on competition that I need to share, namely what I feel are good ways to approach another business owner in the same industry as you. This is something that’s very personal for me, so I am by no means suggesting that everyone should have these same views. This is based on my own experience as a business owner, and I am hoping it might be helpful for some of you that may also be looking to start your own business as well.

When I started Bon Vivant two years ago, I was completely clueless and had zero direction. I knew there was a need in Austin for a gift service, but I had no experience in retail and did not have a mentor. I did my research and of course I was inspired by other existing gift box companies, but mostly I just got really comfortable with trial and error. It was never an option for me to reach out to another gift box company owner, not because I was worried that they’d say no, but it was because I knew from the beginning that this was MINE, and I wanted to do everything I could on my own. This may sound stubborn to some, but my reasoning was that I knew that I wouldn’t be making the actual products themselves, so this meant that I had to use my own creativity and vision to be able to start something that I can be proud of that also represents the brands we carry well.  To clarify, I am all for having a business mentor if you can find someone that you trust and have the means to pay them for their advice (this is different from reaching out to another biz owner in the same industry and asking for free advice.) However, in my case I preferred it not be someone in the same exact industry as me because I wanted to do the work myself. I needed to learn on my own in order to figure out what Bon Vivant was and how I wanted to present it to the world.

All that being said, I’ve been approached many times by other existing and aspiring gift box company owners looking for advice and direct sources for products and packaging. This is always very flattering to me as my initial thought/response is “I am no expert and I’m still figuring it all out.” I love that this is a growing industry and I sincerely believe that there is room for everyone. I am not always 100% confident in giving out advice because what I do and the decisions that I make are what I feel is best for MY business, and I’d never want to steer someone else in the wrong direction. So, there is a struggle for me in that respect, and also in just generally giving out free advice with no boundaries. My time is very precious since I am the sole proprietor and run as lean as possible, typically with just one other person helping me. As much as I want to be helpful and cheer another boss babe on, I have to protect my time and boundaries. Then I run in to this issue of feeling guilty that I’m not being helpful enough or choosing community over competition. I am sure that I am not the only one that has had these feelings, so I wanted to share mine and give some thoughts on what I feel are good ways to approach another business owner.  This is more specific to the gift box industry, but I think most of it can be applied across all industries.

1.     BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE

If you are going to take the time to reach out to another business owner to ask for something, being as specific about what you want is extremely helpful. When I receive emails or messages asking if I have some time to chat or meet with no specific context, I am immediately hesitant. Since I’m not a consultant that charges hourly fees to give advice to other business owners, I’m giving away free advice and my time. I don’t like to be caught off guard with questions I’m not prepared for and also an open-ended amount of time that I’ll be spending. Sending an email that gets straight to the point with 1-3 specific questions that you have will give the other person an idea of how much time they need to spend and give them the control to set boundaries. It also shows that you have respect and consideration for their time.

2.     GIVE CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE

If you do reach out and that business owner gives you their time and insight, give credit to that person any chance you can — particularly if they did it for free. This could be in the form of a shout out, a thank you note, tagging or mentioning them if you use their photos or ideas (this is a big one!) We recently came across another gift box company account on Instagram that had used one of our photos without giving us any kind of credit. Once we found it, we asked them to credit us and they eventually did, but at that point it was too late. It’s extremely disappointing and I know that the majority of smart and savvy business owners out there would never do this, but it’s worth mentioning. If you truly believe in community over competition, then you should always give credit where it’s due.

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3.     FIND YOUR OWN STYLE

Listen, I know that we all want to carry the best brands and I most definitely know how hard it is to find the perfect boxes. It has taken me nearly two years to find the perfect boxes and I did it all on my own. Every time I get asked where we get our boxes from from another gift box company owner, I cringe. I know they’re “just boxes,” but your boxes should be your own. There are only so many ways that you can stand out in this industry, and in my opinion it’s carrying unique brands, choosing your own branding, your gift boxes, and styling. Try to make those things your own because that’s what will make your business unique and special. Did I want to ask another gift box company exactly where they got their boxes from? Of course! But did I? Absolutely not, because I wanted to do my best to find boxes that suit us and weren’t a direct copy from someone else. I took inspiration from others that I found, and then did the research and diligence to find our own. I do the same with the brands that we carry because I want to offer curations that are unique and distinguishable.

4.     LIMIT OUTSIDE INFLUENCE

This has been the most important piece of advice for me personally. When I started Bon Vivant, I found other gift box companies on Instagram that I was inspired by and/or wanted to follow to show support. I soon realized that I couldn’t help but be influenced by some of them and it was interfering with my creativity. I found myself playing the comparison game as well, and we all know that’s counterproductive. In order for me to feel really good about what we’re offering, I need to know that it’s coming from our own creative ideas and keeping our customers in mind, not our competition. I still follow a few other gift box accounts that I love, because we have figured out our own style and I don’t worry as much about being influenced in the way that I was when we were starting out. Find your niche — what makes you/your business special? How do you want to stand out? What is your mission? Vision? Figure those things out and create your own style, and then I think you’ll feel so much more confident in what you’re doing. Until then, my advice is to try to limit influence from other gift box companies.

I hope that this has been helpful and not discouraging. Starting a business is such an amazing, fun, roller coaster of an experience and having others to lean on and learn from is so important. My intention here was to share some of my own experiences and thoughts on what I feel are best practices with respect to the gift box industry. I do believe that we rise by lifting others and I hope that if anyone reading this ever has any questions, you won’t hesitate to reach out. I love hearing from other business owners and will always do my best to be helpful and supportive.

And on that note, if you are looking to start your own business or are already in the trenches of it, I want to send all the good vibes! I’ve been floored at all of the support and encouragement that I’ve received and I want to pass that along because it’s absolutely what’s kept me going in those undeniable times of doubt, challenge and anxiety. You’ve got this, babes!

XO, Steely

BV Turns Two

Steely Dipuccio Anderson

It's officially been two whole years since I started this gift box company and I can hardly believe it. I know that sounds cliché, but it truly feels like it has flown by. I think that because this business is largely based on holidays, or at least that's where we do significantly more sales, those dates stand out in my mind and really put time in to perspective. I can vividly remember our first Christmas holiday season, so when last Christmas rolled around I was like, "Whoa, I feel like we were JUST HERE." This past year has been amazing in so many ways... we've grown in every sense of the word, we've had a lot of firsts, but there are still so many big things in the works that I feel as if we can't truly celebrate until those things have happened, BUT WE WILL DEFINITELY CELEBRATE.

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In honor of our "business anniversary" that we refer to as our birthday because that's more fun, I want to continue the tradition of sharing a few things I've learned as a business owner over the last year and some milestones we've reached. I'm including some successes AND some failures, because those are even more significant to me, and I'll start with that:

1. FAILURE IS MY BFF. I fail just about every single day, which sounds terrible, but I've learned that it's all about how you recover. When you're making so many decisions every single day, at least one of them is bound to be wrong (and in my case, usually several). Rather than beat myself up, curl up in a ball, give up (I've attempted all of those things, trust me), I strive to immediately accept it and recover. Most of these failures are small and really don't matter as much as I might think they do initially. Failure also brings an opportunity to learn and grow, which is how you actually get to success. Failure is a necessary evil, you might say. Embrace it!

2. TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK. Riveting, I know. I spoke to this a bit in the post I wrote for our 1st birthday, but in this case I'm talking more about finding your tribe, even if that tribe is just one other person who believes in you and makes your goals their goals and just GETS IT. That person (or tribe) is invaluable. Invest in them and you and your business will thrive. It may take some time before you are able to trust and delegate, but keep pushing through because you stand a much better chance of survival with the right people helping you. 

3. EXCUSES ARE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE, JUST DO IT. Nike really nailed it with their slogan, right? As simple as this sounds, it's much harder when you're talking about starting something. If you're wanting to start a business, the thought of all of things that need to be done can completely overwhelm you. This is one of my biggest downfalls, even today. I talk myself out of a lot because I feel like I don't know where to start. What I'm realizing with a lot of self-help and introspect is that what I am struggling with is the ability to focus on one task. My mind is always racing with countless thoughts, ideas, comparisons, YOU NAME IT. We all wake up each day with a to-do list and we also have like, a thousand distractions at any given moment. Having the willpower and determination to shut everything out/off so that you can focus on just one important thing at a time is crucial (at least for me). Figure out a way, and make it happen.

Some noteworthy milestones from the last year:

  • I hired Sam J., who embodies everything I said earlier about finding your tribe. She loves BV like it is her own and in the short months that she's been here, she's made a HUGE impact. She's a Jane-of-all-trades, so resourceful, so productive and feeds me baked goods all the time. What more could I ask for? I always say that I work for her and I mean that in the best way possible because that's how I know she's the right person. We're looking forward to growing the team even more this year!

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  • We had our first appearance on live tv! We were asked to do a short bit for the local Fox News channel and when I say short, it was literally 3 minutes. It was during the holidays and I was asked to showcase some holiday gift boxes. I was so nervous, it was a blur, truly, but such an awesome experience and I can't wait to do it again!

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  • We fulfilled our largest order to-date, 400 custom gift bags! It was a huge undertaking for us in our current temporary space, but we made it happen and even recruited some friends to volunteer helping us with the delivery. This would NOT have been possible without their help and came with some very stressful moments, of course, but we pulled it off.

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  • We grew every month (year over year) and had our best month on record to date. We also fulfilled over 2000 gift boxes!

And now, I'd just like to say THANK YOU. If you're reading this, you have helped me and my business. The fact that you take time out of your day to follow along, whether or not you've ever purchased a gift box, means more than I can express in words. When I need encouragement, I think of you all. I think of the amazing community and support that we have, and it always warms my heart. I say this all the time but we are so lucky to be able to help spread love and kindness every day, and my goal is to always show the most gratitude possible. BIG HUGS!

xoxo, Steely

 

 

Steely's Summer Faves: 5 Products We Love

Steely Dipuccio Anderson

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We sure do love summer around here, in spite of the triple digit weather we've been casually rocking here in Austin for months...no matter where you live, summer typically means spending time at the pool/beach/nearest body of water and soaking up some rays. Our founder, Steely, has curated some of her absolute must-haves for summa time and even better, they're all available on our BYOBV (Build Your Own Bon Vivant) feature! Hello, meet your next girls' trip gift.

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French Girl Sea Spray — A texturizing spray made with three varieties of organic sea salt and nourishing essential oils to leave hair with an effortless beachy look and soft, touchable feel. Now with added Organic Aloe and Panthenol for beneficial conditioning effects and hair strength. NEED WE SAY MORE??

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 W&P Design Champagne Carry-On Cocktail Kit — whether you're jet-setting to an exotic beach or just looking to kick up your cocktail game, these kits are perfectly travel friendly and come in a variety of flavors that suit every mood.

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The Little Market Mexican Serape Blanket — these beauties are handwoven by some very talented women in Mexico. And if that weren't enough, they're just made for picnics on the beach!

 

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W&P Design Gold Pineapple Bottle Opener — We'll never tire of pineapples, and you never know when you'll need a bottle opener for that ice cold Topo Chico or cerveza. This one is sleek and stylish to boot. 

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ThinkSport Matte Black Insulated Bottle — We can't say enough great things about this product. It's insulated to keep your beverage hot or cold for hours, the lid screws off in two different ways so your drink doesn't spill all over your face but you can also fill it with large pieces of ice with no probs. It even has a removable mesh filter for loose leaf tea! The cherry on top is that it comes in so many beautiful powder coated colors that it's hard to choose, but Steely's a big fan of the Matte Black. They really thought of everything when they designed this bottle! 

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Baggu Reusable Bag — Aside from being the perfect vessel to carry all of the above in, these bags come in the prettiest colors and designs, and they easily fold back up in to a flat 5x5 size and store perfectly. Bye byeeeee hideous bulky bags!