Gift Studio - Dasha
Dasha, tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m born and raised in Canada’s Capital by two very loving parents. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to go to Russia every summer to visit my grandparents, cousins, and friends. As a kid, you’d always find me getting my hands dirty with glitter — crafts were my life. When the time came to choose a career path, I decided to go to uOttawa and study Marketing at the Telfer School of Management. I started my first business, Parcelly, in my second year of business school. I asked my mom to be my business partner and what started out as a passion project quickly became my full time job and my life. I love travelling and hope to visit every continent before I’m 30! So far, I’ve checked North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia off my list.
How did you come up with the concept of Gift Studio?
This is going to sound silly, but we were sort of “forced” into starting Gift Studio because of the overwhelming demand for corporate gifting while running our first business, Parcelly. Parcelly is an online store that enables people to send their friends and loved ones themed gift parcels tailored to various occasions from celebrating a birthday, to purchasing a new home, or even getting over a breakup. If you check out our brand you’ll notice that it’s fun, vibrant, and quirky! We would get dozens of requests to customize our gift parcels for businesses, which was exciting but also challenging. Typically, after rounds of customizations and adjustments, the gifts no longer looked like they were Parcelly products. They were corporate-y and just didn’t have same quirky, bright vibe! Once custom orders became a regular thing for us, I decided that it was time to open Gift Studio - a gift design service that would work directly with companies to create something unique to their brand, without having to sacrifice Parcelly’s.
How long has Gift Studio been operating?
We officially opened Gift Studio in February of 2018. I guess you could say that registering the business was a Valentine’s Day gift to myself!
Many companies send gifts to clients, branding those items can be a challenge. What does Gift Studio do different?
At Gift Studio we have each of our clients fill out a Gift Design Questionnaire. We ask our clients to give us an in-depth look at their brand, their ideal client, etc. Once a questionnaire has been filled out, we typically have a pretty good idea of what items to include, which items to personalize, etc.
Have client gifts changed since you started?
Every project has been completely different for us! As you can imagine, working with an accounting firm is completely different from working with a wedding photographer! We’ve used different products, branding techniques, and packaging solutions for each project. One of my favourite projects to date was an “Office Party in a Box” that we put together for a creative agency out in Vancouver. It had all the necessary “ingredients” to throw an office party! It was fun, unique, and like nothing we had put together before.
Was there a client or project that was so different and unique that you can tell us about?
One of my favourite projects that we’ve done so far was for a Shopify Award Ceremony. Gift Studio was hired to put together gifts that would await award winners in their hotel rooms. Since conference attendees were coming from all over the world, we thought it would be great to include Toronto travel guides in each gift. Who doesn’t love exploring their new stomping grounds right?! Around the time that these gifts were being conceptualized, I was in Niagara, wine-touring with my boyfriend. I noticed that our hotel lobby had the exact gift guides I needed for the gifts. And so began our mission to grab as many as we could without anyone noticing! Let’s just say it all ended up working out and one of the award winners even did a live unboxing of his gift on Instagram!
When you aren’t working with clients to create the perfect gift what do you do for fun?
I love spending quality time with the people I love! Cheesy, but true. Summer is my absolute favourite time of the year so I try to spend as much time outside as possible. Find me a nice patio and a pitcher of sangria to split and I’m the happiest gal in all of Ottawa. Bonus points if it’s at Tavern on the Hill. I’ve also tried to squeeze in as many adventures as possible into my weekends. Whether it’s a quick trip to Montreal or sitting lakeside at a cottage, making lasting memories is what puts a smile on my face! In the winter, you’ll find me crossing activities off my winter bucket list - a secret tactic I use to convince myself that winter isn’t so bad. Results vary.
Do you have a favourite Ottawa business?
Hmm! This one is tough because there are so many local companies doing cool things. At the moment, I would probably say Burgers n’ Fries Forever (BFF). I love their branding and what they’re doing on Instagram. Their ability to drive user generated content is admirable. Fun Fact: BFF’s Founder is also a Telfer School of Management alumni!
How do you source your suppliers?
Since we started Parcelly in 2015, we had already worked with a bunch of suppliers by the time Gift Studio came to fruition. Typically it consists of finding products I, myself, would love to receive in a gift (online or by browsing stores and boutiques) and then searching up the brand online and finding out if they offer wholesale. Product research is key.
What is the largest gift order you have done?
The largest gift order we’ve ever done is one for Minto’s new homeowners. We’d never had to tie so many bows in a single day before! I’ll never forget loading close to 300 boxes into our delivery truck and thinking “Wow, we really pulled this off!”. We had to wear hardhats on the delivery site which was an experience on its own.
How has Ottawa supported Gift Studio?
Since the official Gift Studio launch, we’ve partnered with many Ottawa companies to create the perfect one-of-a-kind gifts. We’ve worked with startups, photographers, creatives, small businesses, and even large companies such as Shopify, BDO, and Minto! For the most part, Gift Studio works with local businesses to create an unforgettable gifting experience. It’s been amazing to see the amount of talent and entrepreneurial spirit in this city!