A garage startup business that was funded with just $20,000 of savings is closing in on $10 million in annual turnover and has made the Deloitte Fast 50 with growth of 226% in 2021.
Giftbox Boutique was started five years ago by Westpac customers Katie and Andy Gray, at a time when gift hampers and baskets were mainly large cane baskets with cellophane wrap.
“We saw an opportunity for something that could be more premium,” Katie said.
There are now 150 luxury gift boxes to choose from, containing a selection of more than 200 local New Zealand products, from sparkling wine, to home fragrances to craft beers.
“My background is in marketing and my husband Andy was in digital marketing and sales, so we thought he could take care of the website and sales, and I could work on the look and feel of the brand,” Katie said.
“We also saw where consumer shopping was going – online. I was working for a corporate in a busy day job with no time to shop for gifts.
“Online retail started taking off around 10 years ago in New Zealand. We were a bit late, but early enough in the curve to take advantage of the emerging market and now it has skyrocketed thanks to the pandemic – so our services are all online,” she said.
After six months of product research on her evenings and weekends, Katie quit her day job. The couple moved into Katie’s mother’s house in Dargaville, Northland, where they would live until they could build their own home in Whangarei.
Her mum’s garage became HQ for Giftbox Boutique.
“We launched the business in November of 2016 and moved into our own home in Northland in April 2017. We shifted our operations from my mum’s garage into our own home garage and operated there for a year,” she said.
By November 2017 the company was growing so fast that Andy also quit his day job to work with Giftbox Boutique full time. They moved into their first commercial building in May 2018 and hired their first employee.
“We’ve been able to be a cash-positive business from the beginning because we invested $20,000 of our own money to buy stock and did everything else ourselves.
“I did all the styling and photography of products and gift boxes; we made the website ourselves using Shopify and have never had a customer-facing shop.
“We pay for our stock on the 20th of the following month, but we get cash up front from our customers, so it’s a cash positive business model with quite low overheads,” she said.
In 2018 Giftbox Boutique won the Westpac Best Emerging Business Award and in 2019 they sold their 10,000th gift box, leading their growth to nine employees.
“That was when we moved into a large commercial space and now, we’ve got 40 employees over the Christmas period.
“Some of our Christmas staff are temps, because we swell over this period. At the moment we’re sending over 1000 gift boxes per day,” she said.
In October 2021 the company made the Deloitte Fast 50 list, ranked at number 21.
This Deloitte index recognises New Zealand businesses that have shown significant growth and have a revenue of $1 million or above.
Making the list was one of the couple’s goals and this financial year they’re expecting just shy of $10million in turnover.
It might seem like the couple, who are parents to a two-year-old and are expecting twins in the new year, have had an easy ride to success, but fast growth brings with it many challenges.
“The biggest challenge for us was managing our growth, which was a lucky situation to be in. But if your business grows faster than your processes and systems there can be chaos.
“We had to slow ourselves down to make sure we had the processes in place, so things didn’t fall apart while sales were growing. As our employee numbers have grown, we’ve had to put in place solid systems for quality control, so regardless of who is packing a gift box, they all look the same.
“We’ve constantly had to evolve our systems, be agile and continue developing our technology.
“We’re always keeping up with new technology, for example a few months ago we launched video messaging with our gift cards. A QR code on the gift card can be scanned on your phone, which loads a video message recorded by the sender on the website at time of purchase.
“For us technology is really important, and we want to be at the forefront of digital trends happening overseas and try to be first to market in New Zealand, like we were with this video messaging.”