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female founder feature: ashley bronczek + candace ourisman, cofounders of secretly gifting

there is no more appropriate female founder feature at the height of holiday gifting season than the dynamic duo behind secretly gifting! like blankbox, secretly gifting is focused on keeping gifting as thoughtful as possible, with washington dc based cofounders candace + ashley literally flying around the world to source the “most unique, high quality gifts out there”. they’re the faces behind thousands of gifts [and equally as many smiles] since launching their business to “take the guesswork out of gifting”. 

as fellow #giftrepreneurs, cofounders + thoughtful gift enthusiasts, we’re excited to tell their inspiring story! 

where did the inspiration come from to start secretly gifting? and our signature question: how did you come up with the name secretly gifting?

secretly gifting was an idea that came to us because it was something we were organically doing for friends and family. we have always loved treasure hunting for ourselves and for others, so during a lunch with a fellow entrepreneur, a lightbulb went off and we decided to turn our passion into a business. 

our name is inspired by a few things. many of our clients don’t know about the magic behind the scenes so we are in essence, secretly gifting. also, candace’s instagram handle is secretly fancy, which is a nod to the finer things in life but also a reminder to not take yourself so seriously and have fun!

 

we’re cofounders too so we understand that there’s a share in all responsibility, but a natural tendency towards certain ones. what makes your cofounder relationship work and how do you divide and conquer day to day responsibilities?

we like to say that the venn diagram of our skill sets has very little overlap, which is why our partnership has been so successful. ashley is our operations mastermind. she is incredibly detail oriented, which is a huge help since we have a small team. she is also amazing with big picture strategy and keeping us on track. her previous work experience as a gemologist is super helpful for our clients who are looking for that perfect piece of jewelry. i [candace] am the creative mastermind behind our brand and handle everything from our social channels, to copy writing, to pitching to press and beyond. my career started in fashion, working my way up to a buyer and after that i worked for years in real estate on the business development and marketing side of the business. both of these experiences have been tremendously helpful with sg.

 

do you have any advice for new or soon to be entrepreneurs who are deciding between bringing on a cofounder or doing it solo?

we are pro cofounder all the way! it’s such a privilege to be able to have a constant support system when growing a business. we also rely on each other to stay focused and always remember our goals.

editor’s note: so are we! especially when you can leverage different + complementary skill sets.

 

as a two [wo]man band at the beginning, it’s really hard to do it all…but secretly gifting is both a service and a product business… so you pretty much do! talk to us about the evolution of the company and your services since you launched. what have been the two hardest challenges you’ve encountered as a gifting concierge?

our business began as a gift concierge company servicing individuals buying for their friends and family.  since launching almost three years ago, we have had the pleasure of exploring many different avenues. in the beginning we said yes to absolutely everything, which i would recommend to any entrepreneur. it’s a big game of trial and error and you learn as you go in terms of what works and what has the greatest return on investment for your business and brand. 

present day secretly gifting has a few cornerstones of our business: personal gifting, corporate gifting, large scale pop-ups and drum roll… we are launching e-commerce in february!  we are extra excited for e-commerce since it allows us to connect with a larger audience. it is important that all of our fans and followers are able to have a piece of our brand and shopping from our highly curated selection of the most fabulous giftable items will allow people to do just that.

editor’s note: look for blankbox gift boxes on their curated gift site!

 

let’s talk competition: as fellow giftrepreneurs [that’s a word now], we know a little something about competition. what’s your competitive edge + how do you differentiate from the other gift concierge or curated box companies out there?

secretly gifting is not a curated box company, we are also not slap a logo on a corporate gift and call it a day company. we differentiate ourselves by traveling the globe in search of the most unique, high quality gifts out there.  essentially, we are treasure hunters and it is our access to the most fabulous gifts and brands that sets us apart. another differentiator is our commitment to client services. our clients are the priority and we take great pride in delivering customer service that is second to none. finally, with ashley’s background as a gemologist and retail services as well as my experience in fashion and corporate branding, we are uniquely positioned to do what we do, and be the best in our field.

editor’s note: we started blankbox for similar reasons; we didn’t want to be another curated box company, or a “slap a logo on a corporate gift and call it a day” company [thanks candace for our new favorite phrase]. a lot of people ask why blankbox doesn’t have any gifts inside…that’s why! we are a custom gift box company created to make thoughtful gifting chic, custom + convenient. the gifts inside are thoughtfully chosen by YOU! thank you for coming to our ted talk. 

 

you talked about saying yes to everything as a new brand to figure out what brings the best roi what has been the best roi-producing marketing or advertising activity you’ve done? 

it has been the combination of both instagram and local and national press that have been the most impactful for our business. we have been incredibly fortunate to have been featured in every major local publication in the washington dc area as well as the wall street journal, yahoo finance and the washington post. 

 

what has produced the least roi that you’ve learned from?

saying yes to hosting numerous events and in-store activations that don’t necessarily align with our brand.

 

we love following you guys on social media and seeing all the amazing trade shows and places around the world you go to find creative + special gifts for your clients. what is each of your favorite gift you’ve curated?

thank you!  this is the impossible question.  it’s like picking a favorite child.  we are pretty obsessed with our cheeky snow globes we discovered in paris. check out our insta to purchase!

editor’s note: cheeky snow globes pair perfectly with a blankbox. just saying. 

 

how do you discover new brands? how can the founders of emerging + growing brands reading this contact you for inclusion in the ‘experts on gifting’ database?

our eyes are always peeled for the latest and greatest.  we make it a priority to travel numerous times of year nationally and internationally. we attend all of the major gift shows and also will pop into any small boutique in random towns.  sometimes we find the coolest items while on personal travel from fabulous local boutiques. 

we’re always looking for new, exciting brands! brands and founders can reach out to us on instagram @secretlygifting or email us at info@secretlygifting.com.

'winter survival guide' gift box by secretly gifting

we asked the gifting gurus of Secretly Gifting to fill a blankbox with their favorite go-to winter survival products. here's what they had to say:

we're both pretty obsessed with the marbleous, darling blankbox! we would fill it with items perfect for surving the cold winter months ahead in style! each item is as glamorous as the fabulous box it inhabits:

-follain just launched a private label moisturizer and we are smitten!
-this stunning mignonne gavigan headband has winter nights out written all over it
-this fenty beauty gloss bomb lip gloss is as hydrating as it is beautiful

shop the products and fill your own blankbox gift box below!

*all product images, press images, and headshot images are property of the respective companies
**this is not a sponsored post. all obsessions are 100% real