Kelly Parker is a born & raised Brooklynite and Founder of Send Ribbon an online gift company at the intersection of sustainability & philanthropy. After college, Kelly began her career in high growth technology companies including AOL, Indeed, and Uber in Growth & Strategy roles. In 2014, Kelly joined Managed by Q as one of the first ten employees and resigned with the support of the Leadership team in early 2018 to pursue Send Ribbon fulltime.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a Founder?
Coming from startup environments fosters a different type of pressure, challenge and just the right amount of chaos that I crave. When I was at my last startup company, I treated the business like it was my own and deeply cared about our clients. I had the opportunity to make a big impact in growing the business and had a lot of fun doing it. I loved the hustle of building a company so much that I knew I would want to do it again one day as an owner.
What is your definition of success?
Building a gifting platform that customers love to use for all occasions would be my true definition of success. Being successful to me is having an impact far greater than sending a gift. it is sending a gift that helps another person.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Well this is kind of a funny incident that happens more often than I would like to admit but there have been a few times where I have to chase down the Postman by bike to get out Send Ribbon gift bags on time. I don’t drive so if I miss the truck pick up, I jeopardise ruining a customer’s Birthday or a timely special occasion. I was coming back from a corporate client meeting in Manhattan when I arrived to my home office in Brooklyn to find out the truck came early. I was in a dress and heels riding a beach crush bicycle as fast as I can to finally meet the USPS truck on the corner of an intersection. When the Postman saw me waving from his rear view mirror, we were both just belly laughing until he could pull over. We didn’t even talk, we just laughed and he took all the packages & said see you tomorrow. This happened again a few weeks later but that time I was in sweats.
What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
The learning curve for digital advertising can be very steep — even for someone who has worked in Growth Organizations for tech companies previously. My customers are purchasing for others 100% of the time so I need to create actionable content that allows customers to act on their thoughtfulness for both special occasions and holidays.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Prior to launching my company and I was still at my full time job, I would ask clients, friends, neighbors — if you could choose to spend money on a gift in a box that was wrapped in paper that went in the garbage or used some of that money towards a charitable cause which would they select. Everyone saw my vision and opted to giving back. It is what made our company stand out from others in the gifting space from day one especially working with corporate clients that want to foster community by giving back.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
We are laser focused on our custom corporate gifting program where we can create custom giftbags and the charity of the companies choice. Our corporate clients love the customization for their clients and employees & can pick a charity that aligns to their mission & core values. We have had some very large companies commit to ditching the gift wrap to do some good and we are hopeful other companies follow suit and choose to Send Ribbon.
Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is doing to become be more sustainable? Can you give an example for each?
Before I had even written down my ideas for Send Ribbon, I knew we were not going to follow the traditional gift box company with the wasteful wrapping paper, tissue paper, packed in a gift box packed with filler crinkle paper which just gets thrown out in the trash. I had searched instagram and everything looked the same. Although wrapping a gift is required, I knew there had to be a greener and more sustainable way to wrap a gift, reuse the gift bag, and have a portion of the profits give back to charity. Our Send Ribbon gift bags do exactly just that. Someone once asked me what if someone who receives a Send Ribbon gift bag and reuses to wrap a gift for someone else? I replied, Exactly! We encourage it!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Angela Christian was the first person I told when I started having my initial business ideas. Without any hesitation, she said “Kelly, I think you should do it — I would support you.” Angela has an extensive background in Operations & Marketing as a former Googler and I knew she understood the problem I wanted to solve and the mission of the company. Angela has been my right hand in marketing, operations and navigating the ecommerce space. Although I have tried to recruit Angela on a number of occasions, she has actually found her true calling of consulting from working on Send Ribbon and other startups from an outside perspective. I am so grateful for Angela’s guidance and I am very happy she is pursuing her dreams of owning her own consulting firm.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
a) Self Doubt. Once you get over the, “Am I really going to do this?” phase there is still this crazy feeling of self doubt. I am constantly scared of making mistakes but my customers & charity partners really help me keep working through them. I receive weekly emails and even handwritten cards in the mail, letting me know how much they love what I am building. The constant encouragement helps me combat the fear of failing and when I need the extra push, I turn on a Gary Vee podcast.
b) Focus on the things you don’t like to do. It was very easy in the beginning for me to focus on projects that were geared towards growth and marketing as these are the parts of the business I naturally gravitate to and love but it is important to have the finances & operations in place to grow the business. I had to focus on the things I don’t prefer to work on in order to become a full operator of the business.
c) It’s okay to ask for help.From friends who helped me pick out our Best Selling Baby gift items, the college classmate who has given digital advertising advice and the former coworker who structured our pitchdeck — I am extremely grateful for the people in my life who have offered to help.
d) Too many tools to choose from.I am sure I am not the only Founder who gets inquiries for every solution to every business problem there is daily but as a new Founder it is overwhelming to choose from hundreds of solutions to problems that I am not sure I have yet.
e) Having a Personal Routine is key.I have read dozens of business books and personal stories of successful professionals and everyone says the most successful people have routines. This is a big challenge for me as so far everyday has been different as my business is fueled by holidays & special occasions and I work from different coworking spaces often.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Jim McCann the Founder of 1800 Flowers Inc. because he was the first to introduce technology to change the gifting & floral industry and has continued to build a portfolio of gifting brands while remaining a mission driven family oriented business that gives back. As a small business owner in the gifting space, Jim is a professional I truly admire for his leadership style of having meaningful conversations and building relationships. Jim also owns a part of the New York Mets and I am a huge fan of the team so I would love the opportunity to talk shop with him.