This year will soon bring to a close one of the most unconventional periods in corporate history (many companies are planning their unconventional holidays to boot). With companies managing employees remotely across the globe and adapting to new paradigm’s like “contactless” and the “new normal,” there is still another tradition ripe for disruption: gifting. While corporate gifting has often become a perfunctory aspect of client retention and marketing, one founder believes it’s time for gifting to become a highly-intentional practice that becomes a vehicle for storytelling and strengthening company culture in an age where people are distanced. Further, corporate gifting should adapt to the imperatives of ethical-sourcing and zero-waste that align with a company’s values. That’s where Sofiya Deva saw an opportunity.
Sofiya Deva is the founder of This Same Sky, a company focused on ethically-sourced, artisan goods. When she launched the company, their early focus was consumer-oriented until Sofiya noticed the growing demand from corporate clients to rethink their gifting practices as a tool for strengthening relationships and practice organizational values. They now advise corporate brands on curating gifts as a means of storytelling. We sat down to get her insights on how 2020 has fundamentally changed how companies think about gifting and how entrepreneurs can use gifting strategically.
GritDaily: How do you feel 2020 has changed the way people do business?
Sofiya Deva: This has been a year. It has been a year of trials, tribulations and revelations. As small businesses, we have had to adjust to a pandemic economy and dramatically different customer behavior.
However, it’s not just small businesses that have had to readjust, larger corporations have also had to rethink the way they do business.
We’ve even seen industries change, as consumers have begun to demand more sustainable brands that decrease carbon footprints, amplify cultures and demonstrate intentional social stances with their business, products and services.
And that’s what we’re all about at This Same Sky. We look to provide sustainable, intentional slow fashion that spotlights the artisans communities we work with and their centuries-old techniques.
GD: What does it mean to be intentional?
SD: Being intentional simply means you have a clear sense of the outcome you’re out to achieve, whether that’s a way you want to feel, or a difference you want to make. At This Same Sky we strive to create wearable, functional pieces that not only elevate someone’s style but help them set their positive intentions for the day. Our customers feel a sense of purpose when they wear our pieces and we look to help them discover what’s most alive for them with each item, whether a scarf or a robe.
GD: Can larger companies set these types of intentions for their people?
SD: Absolutely! Companies are now looking at ways to help set intentions with their employees, clients or key partners. They want to share things with them that are meaningful and align with their company values, which is why we have really looked to increase our corporate gifting program, and are so excited about the zero waste, and customized gifting project we’re working on with Adobe at the moment.
We feel that it is key, especially in a year that has seen so many lows, to set a positive and bright intention for people.
GD: What is your advice to companies looking at their corporate gifting for the end of 2020?
SD: Gifting shouldn’t feel like an obligation or an afterthought, it should be thoughtful, meaningful and personal. People like to know that they are being thought of in a genuine way and that’s really what we want to help corporations do; we want to help create products that set a specific intention for the people they’re being made for.
GD: How should they go about finding the right gift so they’re not just giving a mug or thumb drive with their logo on it?
SD: I always recommend that people begin by reflecting on the relationship they’re honoring with the gift. Is it an affiliate partnership they want to strengthen? Is it a donor they hope continues to feel appreciated, and connected to your organization’s cause? Is it a team they want to delight because they’ve been working so hard and deserve to be celebrated?
A gift should reflect the relationship in some way, shape, or form. And if it’s a gift that’s being sent out to a large and diverse group of associates, the key is to find and/or create a piece that’s both ethically sourced and reflects the values of the community. For example, with our custom project for Adobe, the inspiration for the project which is top secret for a few more months, was their brand promise: creativity empowers transformation. I wish I could share more details, but I can say that every aspect of the gift enacts this very sentiment.
GD: How can companies follow Adobe’s gifting lead even if they don’t have Adobe-sized budgets?
SD: To gift something meaningful doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. We have clients that range from solopreneurs to enterprise level brands with a vast range of budgets. By being thoughtful about how a gift is sourced, whether through an artisan or small business; how it’s made, whether through renewable materials or by hand; and how it’s presented; whether through a handwritten note or process story postcard, we create an emotional connection that has little to do with the price tag.
GD: You make This Same Sky seem more like a community than a business, how do you find the balance?
SD: We are a business, of course, but we at This Same Sky also view ourselves as thought leaders, intention setters and learners. We want to interact, listen and educate ourselves on what people need and how they interact with brands. We want to see change but in a way that makes sense not only for us but for the people we work with.
Whether that is our partners, our customers, our artisans, whoever, we want to work with people that are passionate about sustainability, curation, cultivation and making the world a better place. Cheesy, I know, but true. So much has happened in 2020, how can we not take a good, hard look at how we’re doing things?
GD: Any last words or pieces of advice for budding or even established businesses?
SD: Now, more than ever, is the time to make a change. So let’s Re-Adjust, Re-Invent and Re-Think what it means to be a business, corporation, boss, leader and most of all, a person.
Let’s make our intentions known.