Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! I’m Valentina, the founder, and CEO of Really Luxe. I love chocolates (especially Godiva) and anything gold and shiny!
In my free time, I enjoy hosting dinner parties and shopping, especially at outlet stores!
We specialize in gift baskets, what we like to call “Gift Bouquets”. We are passionate about incorporating luxury, world-renowned brands to ensure your gift is special in every way!
We have been in business since September 2020, so we are still a new brand. Most of our customers reside in the province of Ontario, with 78% of our orders being local delivery orders. The remaining percentage is ordered that we ship throughout Canada.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I worked as a Sales Associate for a well-known gift shop. I loved working for the company and was very passionate and believed in the company's culture and image.
The best part of the job was helping customers choose the perfect gift, suggest engraving messages and design ideas, and organizing inventory. I worked alongside awesome and amazing people! This was the first time I actually found a job that I truly was passionate about.
After the company closed down, I was very broken-hearted. This was the time when I also realized that I loved working with people, gift wrapping, and being able to use my creative talents and skills. Since I got laid off, due to company closure, this was the perfect time on reflecting where I would like to be professionally in my life.
One of my dreams was to create and build my own brand. My financial situation at that time was that I had a healthy amount of savings set on the side, so financially I was confident.
I began brainstorming some business ideas. Hair products and skincare were some of the many ideas I had pondered on. I finally decided to create a gift shop business. I’ve always had a passion for gift wrapping since I was 8. Every Christmas, I would get really excited watching my mom wrap presents.
Then as I got older, I also found a passion for wrapping gift baskets for Baby Showers, birthdays, etc! I guess creativity runs in my blood, and that’s when I thought to myself...”Imagine creating, designing, and wrapping gifts for a living?” I wanted to create a unique image, so instead of selling “gift baskets”, I wanted to use the term “Gift Bouquets“.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I had many color coordinations in mind: black and grey, gold and mint blue, white and gold. Those were some of the many color choices I had set my heart on. I settled for white and gold because it’s more of a “fresh” impression. It’s also neutral, and neutral tones, well, it’s gender-neutral!
Those colors work for everyone! Also, gold represents luxury, and we incorporate silk face masks, Godiva, and Lindor chocolates into our brand, so the color combinations fit perfectly for our company image and culture.
We have an efficient and organized inventory system, which is organized by category, as well as perishable and non-perishable products.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I love being creative, so I was definitely excited about designing our company website. Playing around with complementary colors and contrasts, it was starting to feel more like a hobby and less like work.
Budgeting isn’t always easy, but somehow I managed to make the impossible possible!
Credit cards were out of the question since most of them have been maxed out! I had a healthy amount of money saved on the side, but I also realized that you have to be smart with budgeting, no matter the amount you have saved, and to be cautious not to overspend as well, which is really important.
I also received great advice and tips on how to manage money accordingly, so that has also been very helpful.
After the business launched, it started as word-of-mouth. We let almost everyone knew about our brand. This was the fun part of the initial launch!
Within a few months, we started seeing a lot of customers, mostly throughout and during the holiday season. We also noticed a significant increase in and over hundreds of website traffic per day. This was one of the most exciting moments for us. Also, due to COVID, people were mostly sending gifts, which was, and still is also one of the contributing attributes to our success.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I’ve always wanted to create my own brand, and this has always been one of my biggest dreams. For some reason, I’ve always been a bit nervous, which had held me back for numerous years. Don’t hold yourself back.
Be confident, put your best foot forward and just go for it.
Be patient. One of the mistakes people make is losing patience and giving up early.
Word of mouth works wonders! Let your friends and family know about your business. Carry business cards with you, because you never know who you are going to meet! If business cards are not your cup of tea, print and design some attractive flyers and distribute them too.
Snapchat, Pinterest, and Instagram work wonders, especially when you’re selling products.
We bring existing customers back through coupon codes which are sent to our customers’ email.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Most of our sales are through our online store, as well as in-person through friends, acquaintances, and family.
Balloons, cupcakes, and flowers are some of the many add-ons we are planning to allow our customers to add to their orders.
We are also planning to add silk products to our “Gift Bouquets”, too!
The future of Really Luxe is looking bright!
Shortly, opening an office in Hamilton is in the works. We are also planning to ship orders to all of North America!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Some helpful skills and experience that I possess are leadership and customer service.
Leadership helped me gain authority, as well as being a responsible and reliable individual. I was initially quiet and shy, but as years of experience within a retail setting went on, I grew my confidence, especially working for a company for a long period of time. I was given responsibility for training new employees, banking deposits store opening and closing procedures, and once you’ve got it you got it!
Customer service skills were almost the same situation as leadership. I started off being shy and quiet, and easily frightened in high-pressure situations. I remembered that I almost cried at my first job working within a customer service-based industry! Working with positive colleagues and coworkers really helped me boost my confidence.
Both of these skills and experiences have really shaped me into who I am today.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I was told that Shopify is an excellent tool. I was immediately attracted to Shopify, so I use Shopify!
Shopify is so easy to use, and there are so many attractive themes, color schemes, and layouts, which makes it hard to choose the right one!
For photography, I use an iPhone XR and a Sony camera. What I love about them is that they are so convenient and fun to use! They are also portable and are the perfect size that fits in my everyday Coach purse, which is important for working on the go!
For editing photos, I use Adobe Stock, Photoshop, and Photomix to finalize beautiful photographs. They are easy to use and you can basically use these apps anywhere and everywhere, even on long road trips and during flights too!
I also have the software downloaded on my iPad Air. It’s always smart to have a backup!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m not sure if it’s still on Netflix, since I watched it about 6 months ago. It’s titled Self Made, which is about Madam C.J. Walker’s haircare brand that she launched during the early 1900s.
She was an independent, confident and successful woman, who made it through challenging and trying times.
What I love about this series was that it was very relatable. I feel like the series wasn’t sugar-coated, and that was one of the reasons why I found this series very inspiring and intriguing.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Don’t quit your 9-5 job just yet! It’s really tempting, especially during the initial phase when you’re planning and getting super excited about the mere thought of growing your own business and start something you love.
Be patient. One of the mistakes people make is losing patience and giving up early. It takes dedication. A successful business doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes hard work and continuous effort to grow your business into something huge! It might start as selling your products as a part-time job on the side, but hang in there! Don’t give up!
And I saved this for the very last...
Be confident. I know it sounds sort of cliché, BUT you’re starting something wonderful! Be proud of your accomplishments and achievements and hold your head up high!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking for positive and passionate team players for our growing business, especially Part-Time Delivery Drivers!
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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