Q&A with the Founder: A Reflection on 2020 and Looking Ahead to 2021

I attended a financial roadmap webinar for entrepreneurs a few weeks back, and one of the sessions had us do a journal prompt asking ourselves 13 questions about our companies and reflect on this insane year. It was really helpful for me so I wanted to share this with you all as well. Whether you're curious about the background of Gotcha Packed and want some transparent insight, or you're a fellow business owner and want to answer these questions for yourself, either way I hope you enjoy.

Cheers to a fresh start and to the journey ahead. Happy 2021 everyone!

1. What first inspired you to start your business?

I absolutely loved styling people and helping them to feel better about themselves. I’m a giver at heart, and I love beautifying all things. I’ve told the story of my inspiration for starting the business stemming from my Peace Corps travels and figuring out how to pack for 2 years in West Africa, but to be totally honest I think the lightbulb really went off after I met my wife. She was traveling to London and Denver for work a lot. Maybe she'll kill me for saying this, but she's often at a loss when it comes to putting together an outfit, so I figured I’d help her pack for her trips.

When I was helping her pack, it occurred to me how different Denver and London are. They have vastly different vibes and styles when it comes to fashion. I wanted to help her feel confident going into the new offices and thought it would be awesome to pack items that reflected the style of the city and the people you may find there.

For instance, at her Denver office, people were much more laid back in their styles, wearing shorts and casual clothing. In London, everyone was much more polished, dressed to the nines every day. Even the color schemes of Denver’s earth tones versus the neutral black, white, and tans of London I found interesting. I also wanted to take into consideration the time she would spend outside of the office exploring the cities and what people might wear for the tourist activities available.

We started joking to friends and family about how I help her get dressed and how nice it is to have a spouse that helps you pack for work travels! Everyone I talked to kept saying how stressful packing can be. Whether we're overpacking and paying for heavier luggage then not wearing half of what we brought, or we're not bringing enough, either way it sounded like people often feel unprepared.

This is when I decided to start the business – I realized what a pain point packing is and how there’s a gap in the market for this service.

2. What was your “Aha” moment that made you realize you want to invest time into this?

I was really burnt out in my career as an interior designer and wanted a change. I realized what brings me the most joy and energy is helping people feel better about themselves and beautifying things. It’s what I’m best at. I also never realized I could combine my love for culture, travel, fashion and giving back, so when all my passions molded into one concept, I couldn't help but dive right in.

3. What do you do, how do you do it, and what sets you apart from everyone else?

I’m a Stylist and a hustling entrepreneur with a passionate spirit. I have a natural eye for things, so the way I approach styling is selecting items that will be the most flattering and timeless for people versus what comes in and out of style. Gotcha Packed in unique in that way. My vision is to not only pick items that I know people will love, but to also research the weather and culture of the destination, and mix in our customers’ personal styles to create the perfect outfit. I don’t select things that you couldn’t wear again for everyday purposes, but everything does have a little flare that makes their outfits special.

The other major thing that sets Gotcha Packed apart from other e-commerce Styling companies is our values. Diversity and culture are a huge part of the traveling experience, and that makes diversity and culture something I love to celebrate. I also strive to source products from as many small women owned businesses and minority owned businesses, as well as fair trade, charitable, and eco-friendly brands with sustainable practices and materials. Those ethical elements are the background behind every decision I make – from packaging, to the clothing and accessories I select for my customers.

4. How do you talk about your business to potential clients in a compelling way?

I think when I'm face to face with people who don’t know about Gotcha Packed, they can see the passion behind the concept, so it’s easy to talk about it in a compelling way no matter what. They see the value in having someone make their life a little easier, but there’s also value in the fun and excitement they experience when they order a box.

Our customers don’t know what they’re receiving which makes it feel like Christmas morning when their Gotcha Packed box arrives. I surprise them because I believe seeing a picture of a product online doesn’t do it justice. You need to feel the fabric and see how it fits your body. I've always hated shopping online! Having the opportunity to try on products in the comfort of your home is even better. Our customers are always pleasantly surprised by their selections and I get feedback saying "I would have never thought to pick this out for myself but I love it!"

By simply talking about the Gotcha Packed service, experience and values, they can better understand why it’s a great thing to be a part of.

5. What people or groups are you seeking to help or influence?

My most loyal customers have been all genders in their 30’s. However, Gotcha Packed can be for everyone who want to look and feel their best. I want to influence people in the education behind the products I purchase and help people understand the value in supporting brands who are doing great ethical things for their workers and for the planet.

6. What worked this year? What do you do well and want to continue doing? Were there new initiatives you took that you felt were successful?

When the company was first launched, my core vision was based around travel and the unique items we wear when we're in a different location. So when COVID hit and the world experienced lockdown and travel bans, I was incredibly nervous that the concept would no longer work. I know everyone has had a hell of a year, I realized I wanted to contribute to the small joys people can still have. I realized how valuable e-commerce is to the safety of the public, and how people want to feel as normal as possible by sticking to their routine best they can. This meant still getting dressed everyday and taking pleasure in those small things that still bring us joy, like getting new surprise things in the mail.

Because of COVID, I started getting requests to be styled for everyday purposes. Requests came in for new work from home clothes that were comfortable and stylish for Zoom meetings, new looks for date nights, weddings, photoshoots, etc. By expanding my services and not limiting myself to travel related orders, I was able to stay afloat. I've also narrowed down my favorite most reliable brands which has made the selection process a lot quicker, however there’s so many amazing partnerships left to discover out there.

I also started doing small in person styling services for customers in the local area. I partnered with Key Wines to incorporate a whole VIP experience with wine and cheese. Creating a fun wine party atmosphere while having a Stylist there to help with the little style details really helped people. Of course, with the safety of COVID, in person styling services can be tricky, so if things get better, I may very well continue that option more and more.

Other things that worked well this year - continuing to take every virtual meeting and networking opportunity available. Spreading brand awareness and getting the word out about Gotcha Packed in every way I can is important because people can understand the concept of Gotcha Packed and see my passion the more we’re able to talk about it face to face.

7. What partnerships or mentor relationships do you want to nurture? What new people do you want to network with?

I have met some amazing brands and women this year who have become great friends. Most of them are local designers and small business owners who have been impressively creative in our collaborations. Of course, I would love to keep growing and expanding by getting more acquainted with the other people I source from. I would also love to network with other fellow entrepreneurs to simply continue getting advice and inspiration.

8. What did not work this year? Did you spend money on initiatives that flopped? Any partnerships that didn’t blossom? What were the lessons learned?

I took some chances on marketing efforts with ads on platforms that didn’t result in any new business. It’s always a test to see what works and what doesn’t, but it can be tough to see money go down the drain. But if you learn something from it and pivot, that's okay too. Ordering new items in is how you grow and learn what customers like, but I've tried out new brands that didn’t meet my quality expectations or business model.

There were times I needed to fulfill the requests of customers but I didn't always have the vendors lined up for what they needed. Taking shortcuts with brands that don’t align with my values was the biggest thing I don’t want to continue doing, however it allowed me to see what new vendors we need so I'm more prepared next time. I want to do my best to stick to the ethical products that make Gotcha Packed unique.

9. Are you working to address any social issues with your platform? Do you think you should narrow your focus or expand?

I have too many passions! I certainly want to make an environmental impact by reducing use of waste in packaging as well as our carbon footprint in shipping. I also want to select quality items that will last and not end up in a landfill a few months later.

My other focus is supporting and supplying any brands who focus on women’s rights. There are a million of amazing initiatives out there so it’s hard to choose just one! I wouldn’t mind expanding my focus and supporting any brands who are doing something good in the world.

10. Comparing your business to others doing something similar, where do you feel you should be focusing your efforts?

Since most of our business has grown from word of mouth, I think we could be clearer on what makes Gotcha Packed unique with better marketing efforts. That includes email marketing, social media, and new and improved photo and video material.

11. Do you feel your personal and company values have changed or stayed the same? What could you do to align them again?

I think it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and lose motivation for what originally drove this idea. Remembering to keep those values at the forefront of everyday tasks and decisions can be difficult. Especially when you’re seeing other brands use cheap marketing efforts to make a buck. It’s easy to feel pressured and influenced by that but I think I've done a good job of maintaining the vision of the brand.

12. What is the impact you want your business to have in 20 years? What impact do you want to have as the Founder?

I not only want to be the go-to source whenever someone is traveling, but I also want to be profitable enough to have our own charitable platform. Something that ties into travel and celebrates culture and helping people around the world. I foresee myself and my team traveling and meeting face to face with the fair-trade artisans that we source from. I foresee every single product our customers receive having an amazing story behind it. I foresee a customer going to incredible destinations like Thailand and South Africa and Peru and receiving unique diverse boxes that give them a preview of their destination and help them to feel connected to the culture they’re about to experience.

13. What exciting new initiative would you start tomorrow if you could? What problem would it address?

My dream is to be the one stop source for all things travel. I always hated getting ready for a trip and running around thinking of all the last-minute items you need to pack. I would love to develop a platform that allows our Travelers to plug in their destination, then provide them with a check list of what we recommend they bring. If they already own some of the items, then great. But if not, I want to provide them with quality organic toiletries, eye masks, luggage, reusable water bottles, or any other travel accessories they may need on top of their outfits.

My second initiative would be the option to have your luggage of new outfits and accessories delivered to your destination so our Travelers wouldn’t have to mess with checking a bag. The convenience of having their products shipped for them at an affordable rate would be the new way to travel.

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