Think Local for Corporate Gifts
Sourcing attendee gifts from your meeting destination is charming, and supports the local economy
Thinking local seems to have become a global mantra. Serving food and wine that was grown within a 100-mile radius of your event rather than across the world has become a wonderful way for meeting and conference planners to support the local area and bring meaning to their events.
In the realm of corporate gift giving, too, thinking local is gaining momentum. By searching out local suppliers and smaller gift companies who work with local artisans, corporate gift ideas can reflect a destination’s local culture.
Juliette Sale, president of Idea Incentives Inc. in Vancouver says she and her staff members are constantly on the hunt for something new and unique in the realm of corporate gift ideas. Sale says it does take time to discover these memorable local gems but that some great spots to look are farmers markets, craft markets and one-of-a-kind shows. “My staff members really love to shop so they are always looking for new products and items our clients would like.”
Just because you find an amazing product, it won’t guarantee that the order process and delivery will be up to par, says Sale. “We take a lot of time to qualify our suppliers so we can stand behind a product. Working with smaller companies can be scary in terms of whether or not they will get your product on time at the level of quality you need.”
Saul Brown is owner of It’s Saul Good Gift Co., a Vancouver-based gifting company that focuses on sustainable and socially responsible corporate gift ideas created by local manufacturers. Brown says most of his clients have found him through referrals or through Internet research, and he agrees that quality is key when going local.
“Make sure that your suppliers provide high quality products first and foremost,” he says. “Corporate gifts are about creating a memorable experience for people. Sourcing local, environmentally and socially responsible items help to build a powerful story. But if the products are of low quality this is what people will be most affected by.”
Brown says his most effective clients have a consistent plan with gifting that creates and instills a brand through corporate gifts and promotional products. But he often finds himself urging corporate event planners to broaden their spectrum of what’s considered beautiful and consistent. “One of our suppliers makes gift bags made from reclaimed upholstery fabric,” he says. “Even though each bag is cut and sewn the same, each bag will look a little different and have different patterns or colours. Since it uses waste materials they all can’t be the same. By giving up consistency one gains a powerful story of creativity, re-use and environmental responsibility.”
Take note: Give generous lead times for these local gems.
When working with social enterprises and small family businesses it’s always great to give as large a lead time as possible, says Brown. “Large volumes are possible when working with local companies and social enterprises,” he says. “We’ve ordered in the 1,000s of units for clients here in Vancouver, but having four to eight weeks lead time has helped to take pressure off small scale manufacturers.”
In Brown’s case the manufacturer trains women in carpentry living in Vancouver’s inner city. Value is created by training and empowering women. “Rushed lead times often lead to increased pressure and mistakes which can set marginalized people back in terms of their confidence, not improving their lives as per the mission of the programs they’re participating in,” he says.
If you do make contact with a local supplier whose quality you trust, but whose products just aren’t quite right for your recipients, consider developing a gift item with them.
Many local and smaller-sized businesses are eager to create products that the corporate gifting market would want, and will be enthusiastic to hear your ideas.
Juliette Sale, president of Idea Incentives Inc. in Vancouver, for example, has in-depth knowledge of her clients’ needs and recently collaborated with a local leather-product manufacturer to produce a leather Blackberry holder that can be logoed and folds down easily for shipping. “I saw a need and didn’t see anything like it in the market so I sought out someone who could produce it for me, and it has worked out really well,” she says.
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