600 N. 29th Street | Richmond
As the owner and lead curator of Gifted, Charlottesville native Noelle Parent is a true ambassador for the Richmond maker community. Her gift box business features local products, meaningfully packaged for personal and corporate occasions. Gifted is an entrepreneurial endeavor that transpired after 14 years in event and hospitality sales management with organizations such as SMG Management (Richmond Coliseum, Richmond Center Stage, and Altria Theater), Quirk Hotel, Boar’s Head Inn, and Starwood Hotels. In addition to operating Gifted, Noelle is a wedding planner for the Hive Collective. I interviewed Noelle at 804RVA, a place that helped launch her business.
How did you grow your brand without burning bridges in the process?
I was very upfront with Quirk when I decided to make the change [to self-employment]. I gave a six-month notice with a flexible agreement. There was no conflict of interest. I was not going to another hotel, so I was able to transition my role to another person without a sense of urgency. The business I was going into was complementary, so I was open and honest, and they supported that next step in my life.
You could use any products for your business. Why are your boxes curated with items from local makers?
I like the story behind the products—who makes them, where and how they are made, and what inspires them. While we are changing as consumers and starting to lean more local, it is still hard for makers to create the products and get them to our hands. It is a very eye-opening experience to meet these makers in their home and see first-hand their hardships in getting products to the market. Etsy helps, but I thought we were further along than we are. I like being another resource.
We’re conducting this interview from a place that enhanced your early business development, 804RVA. You worked with one of its program experiences called COSTARTERS RVA. Tell us about it.
My business formation attorney, C. Stinson Mundy, informed me about COSTARTERS. While I had this idea, I had never started my own business, and I knew that I needed some help and guidance. COSTARTERS was a good, quick crash course in startups. I gained invaluable lessons in terms of structure, financials, investor relationship and more. It encourages learning as a part of the business process. I keep that in mind when I make a mistake. While you may think you can do everything on your own, COSTARTERS taught me that was not possible from the very beginning. Know your role by evaluating your strengths, and find a team that can support you in the areas that need help.
You are collaborating with Church Hill bridal shop, Urban Set Bride. With recent renovations, Gifted and Urban Set Bride are physically connected via a passageway created by knocking down some walls. How did that collaborative business arrangement evolve?
After COSTARTERS, I started working out of 804RVA, but we all knew that my product space requirements would quickly outgrow it. Christine Greenberg, owner of the Hive Wedding Collective, was keeping an eye on the building next store. She called me as soon as it was available. She wanted to share a space with me, because Christine’s other business, Urban Set Bride, needed a larger waiting room. Our businesses seemed like a logical fit, since I sell custom wedding party gift boxes.
What is the most rewarding part of your business?
The community that I have built around this business has been great. The female entrepreneurs have been very supportive, and I would not have a business without them. The maker community has been amazing. These people are putting a lot of themselves into these products for their family. It has been really rewarding to incorporate a giving back element with the sale of gift boxes to the charity, Safe Harbor.
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