Secrets Of A Professional Present Purchaser

Photograph courtesy of Ashley Wong.
One of best parts of the holiday season is buying presents. But what if that was your year-round career? We spoke to Ashley Wong, founder of corporate gifting company Gemnote, to hear what it's really like — and get her intel on how to give a gift that'll be remembered on a budget.
I started my career in fashion PR, but I was inspired to launch my own business when I found myself transfixed by the gorgeously wrapped gifts that kept streaming into our offices during the holiday season. They were such a pleasure to look at and so different than anything I'd seen before — and certainly a giant leap from the client gifts my dad used to get, which were usually just a fruit basket with a few overripe pears.
As I continued in my career, I always thought about those gorgeous baskets and wondered if there was a way I could incorporate them in the startup world of San Francisco. From what I saw in my marketing role, gifting wasn't just nice, it was essential for a company's survival. After all, there were so many startups offering competitive pricing that it was hard to encourage customers and clients to stay loyal — a beautiful gift, even if it didn't cost a lot of money — was a way to say "I see you and appreciate you."
Eventually, I left the marketing world and started my own gifting company, Gemnote, which provides gifts for companies including Airbnb and Google. Here's what I've learned about finding the perfect gift for whoever might be on your list:
It Is The Thought That Counts Buying a gift — including wrapping it, writing a card, and making sure it gets on the recipient's desk in time for the holidays — says that you have taken time out of your own busy life to think about someone else. It's a gesture that speaks volumes, whether it's for your coworker or for your partner's parents.
But Don't Go Cheap Obviously, you need to consider your budget, but quality always trumps quantity. A handwritten card is far more memorable than an oversized bucket of popcorn.
Make It Happen On Time Here's a reason to hustle: A gift given well after the holidays makes it seem like you just don't care that much. I've had some clients who think it's okay to send holiday presents in March! No. For ultimate impact, make sure to give before the holiday.
Gather Some Intel When I'm tasked with creating a personalized gift for a VIP, I start by combing their social media feeds and getting advice from the people they're closest to. It makes a huge difference when you choose a personalized present, regardless of the price point. If you want to get a present for your boss, there's no need to go big. A small trinket — like a mug from their favorite coffee shop — shows your appreciation and attention to detail.
Alcohol Isn't For Everyone Not everyone drinks. I remember one company sending new moms champagne. I get that the occasion is celebratory, but thinking of something that the recipient may really want — like a massage certificate — is essential.
Consider Philanthropy If your friend has Kondo-ed out their space, then one of the nicest things you can give is a gift in their name to a charity they love.
Go For A Classic Gift There are some gifts I give all the time, because people love them, even if they have multiples. Some of my favorites: S'Well water bottles, lightweight jackets or fleeces, and well-made coolers, like BareBones.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series