Copping out on corporate gift-giving means missing a prime relationship-building opportunity.

But sending a bland fruit basket or not-so-subtle branded junk is unlikely to be very memorable. Plus, giving gifts that people aren’t too excited about can be downright wasteful.

That’s why Packed with Purpose is a gift. The specialty gifting company hand picks high-quality products from businesses that are positively shaping their communities. It’s corporate gifting with a social mission. 

Founder and CEO Leeatt Rothschild came up with the idea in her previous job helping companies use their social responsibility budgets. 

“It dawned on me that here we were helping companies do good with hundreds of millions of dollars, and yet there was no way to thank your clients or vendors with a gift that truly demonstrated your desire to do good,” she says.

A Packed with Purpose gift isn’t just about supporting businesses that are making a difference. It’s also an effective marketing tool that demonstrates your brand’s values.  

“It’s such a great opportunity to showcase who you are: here’s a small something that we want to share that also helps U.S. communities,” Leeatt says.

Her way of thinking is catching on: she says they have plenty of repeat clients as well as new ones seeking them out, and she was recently featured in Forbes. Leeatt came by the WGN studios to explain how doing good makes you look good.

Leeatt Rothschild, Founder, Packed with Purpose (Sam Fiske/Technori)

The gifts you send reveal your values — so give wisely

Scott: I’d love to learn more about the company, and where you started to recognize there was an opportunity to do good, and also a business opportunity.

Leeatt: Packed with Purpose is a gifting company with a social mission. We focus on corporate gifts and personal gifts where all of the products in our gift boxes do good. As we like to say, they create an impact. 

The story of how I started the business is that in a previous job, I was consulting to chief sustainability officers, helping these individuals figure out how to invest their corporate social responsibility (CSR) dollars — oftentimes millions of dollars — into doing good and also furthering their company’s bottom line. 

It was a typical Chicago cold winter day and our office was riddled with holiday gifts — pears, baskets of fruit, cookies, brownies, etc. It struck me that all of these gifts were pretty forgettable, and I couldn’t really differentiate one from the other, nor recall who gave us what. And it dawned on me that here we were helping companies do good with hundreds of millions of dollars, and yet there was no way to thank your clients or vendors with a gift that truly demonstrated your desire to do good, and your desire to have the same mission or values as your company.

We offer items that can be branded, like notebooks and tumblers and pens, but the majority of our business is focused on gifts. It might include coffee, granola and brownies and other items where there’s nothing being branded. What we’re seeing is that the companies that are doing it in a smart way are not necessarily thinking what product can I put in the hands of my customers that has my logo? They’re taking a step back and saying, what kind of experience do I want to create, and what is the business outcome I want to produce? And for many of them, it is an engaging experience with whoever the recipient is, and how do I share my values or my mission in the gift that I want to send?

Scott: How long have you been been in business now?

Leeatt: We soft launched in 2016, fully launched in 2017.

Scott: Companies are not only finding that this helps leave less of an environmental footprint, but it’s also on point with their brand.

Leeatt: Absolutely. We work with companies who use our gifts in such a wide range of ways. We’ve got some clients that use our gifts for their employee onboarding. They really want to recruit young talent and they want to make sure that they know that they’re coming to a company that has purpose front and center, and so as opposed to giving them a typical tote and water bottle that have their logo, they are giving a Packed with Purpose gift where you’ve got a branded tote that’s made from recycled cotton, you’ve got coffee that’s produced by adults with disabilities. And so the message that that company is telling their employees is, you’re joining a company that has a purpose, and not only are we welcoming you to us as a brand, but we’re sharing our values through the actual products that we’re giving you

It’s cool to be kind

Scott:  Companies have been getting pushback for being irresponsible with gifting, so you’re going to have a lot of people who realized how wasteful they were who are looking for an alternative.

Leeatt: I think that’s accurate. I think there are a lot of enlightened individuals who are in charge of gifting budgets at companies who are very conscious of how they make purchases themselves, and so they might be driving those decisions. Or you have CEOs that are asking their executive assistants or marketing managers to look at alternatives to whatever they’ve usually gifted in the past. I think that we are seeing that, but as times continue to change, that’s going to become more of the norm, where you’re expecting a double bottom line from whatever you’re purchasing for your business, whether it’s office supplies, gifts, or some other service.

In the few years we’ve been in business we’ve seen a high reorder rate, because their customers or clients are calling them and sending emails saying this was amazing! One of our clients sent us an email that they got from their client that said, I just walked into the office and all of my employees were standing around the kitchen table talking about how they give back, so I wanted to say thank you because you really created a moment for my employees to talk about giving back to the community.

Turning a trend into a habit

Scott: I’d like to see more companies like yours: I’m hoping that we can start changing the dialogue from this is something you should do and could do, to this is something you can do — it’s viable.

Leeatt: Absolutely — and I would say that’s already happening. As a business, we’ve grown 2X since launch, and we now have well over a thousand different corporate clients. All of those companies are coming to us with the desire to actually use their gifts to communicate who they are, and they recognize that whether they’re sending five gifts or 5,000, it’s a representation of who they are as a business, and that whatever their gifting budget is, they can use that to also make a difference. 

It’s such a great opportunity to showcase who you are: here’s a small something that we want to share that also helps U.S. communities. ‘Purposeful purveyors’ is the affectionate term we give to our product suppliers, and the majority are from the U.S., so the impact is in Chicago, and Detroit, and LA, and New York, and businesses all around the country want to create an impact in their own backyards. 

Scott: How do you make sure that people stay engaged in this, and it doesn’t become, yeah, everybody does that?

Leeatt: For us, scaling is really going to be focusing on technology. We want it to be easy. You might want to talk to someone, you might want to chat with them on a computer. You might want to upload your order form, get confirmation that your gifts are shipping in two days, and know that everything is all set. So for us, it’s an investment in the tech platform to make that easy from a user experience. And then internally, there’s the logistics behind it. 

So I would say it’s the tech component, and it’s bringing those stories front and center. We include a beautiful booklet in each of our gift boxes that showcases the stories behind our purveyors, so what ends up happening is the thing that really wins them over and what makes them pick up the phone to say thank you so much for sending this gift is that you have exposed them to all of these fantastic organizations. And obviously that’s how you grow the relationship: because you sent a gift that was purposeful in a different way.