Finding the perfect gift can be stressful. That's where Outgift comes in - a service for gift-givers to take away the stress of thinking about what to give. It works via an intelligent algorithm that generates gift recommendations based on your recipient's personality and interests and runs routine checks on how each recommendation is performing relative to personality type to ensure these are gifts your friends and family will be genuinely excited about getting. The site also takes into account your budget, finding awesome gifts at any price point. We sat down with the woman behind the idea and new mama to a beautiful baby girl, Alice Kittrell, to chat about balancing work and family, how the site works, and her advice to fellow entrepreneurs.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey so far.
About two years ago, I quit a decade-long career working in consulting and private equity investment to start my own company doing something I love - helping people find gifts for their loved ones. On my last day with my previous firm, I found out I was pregnant and it’s been a roller coaster ride since then. I spent my pregnancy building my MVP (Outgift Version 1.0), validating and continually refining my idea and then ultimately hiring a development team to build version 2.0 so I could bring it to market. Once my daughter was born, I found it incredibly hard to find the time and energy to grow the business without help but have since re-found my rhythm. Outgift is currently in Version 3.0 and the best version of itself so far!
What inspired Outgift?
Growing up, my family would tell you, I was obsessed with Christmas. I absolutely loved discovering new products and the emotions and reactions from my friends and family when they opened gifts they loved. I toyed around with the idea of starting a personal shopping type business where I would buy products, hold inventory, recommend, wrap and deliver gifts but market research and proprietary surveys proved that people weren't interested in paying a premium for someone to do all of this when their main problem was not knowing what to get. So I did a zoom-in pivot and decided to focus on solving just this problem.
How does it work?
After three iterations (so far), it will now take users less than one minute to find the perfect gift. You go to the Outgift website, complete two sentences and the algorithm selects the best gifts based on each recipient's unique profile, interests and your budget. The service is absolutely free and you don’t have to sign up for an account. The free membership includes additional features like saving your recipient profiles, setting annual reminders for when you need to buy your gifts, saving items for the future, and marking things as purchased so you'll never get someone the same thing twice. Plus you get early access to discounts and promotions.
Where do you hope to see it go in the next few years?
I want Outgift to be a household name. My hope is that Outgift will help eliminate some, if not all, of the stress related to gift-giving - whether it's remembering dates of occasions or just figuring out what to get within a certain budget.
What gifts are you most excited about giving this year?
It's my daughter's first Christmas so definitely her gifts and stocking stuffers! I know she won't remember this or know what's going on but my husband and I will remember it forever.
What's it like to be a brand new mom?
It's easily one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and the most rewarding. I spent the first six months at home with my daughter and suffered from both PPD and the loneliness of being a sole startup founder so it was a tough time. Luckily I have started to feel more like "myself" with every day that passes and now my daughter is at such a cute fun age that my heart feels perpetually full.
How are you navigating the balance between work and family?
To be honest, I'm still figuring it out. I was fortunate enough to find help with my daughter when she turned 7 months (she's now 9 months) and it has helped tremendously in allowing me to get work done. Most mothers who I speak to about balance tell me that help is key and I couldn't agree more. More then ever in my career, I am incredibly motivated to be as productive as possible when I am away from her (I'm huge on to-do lists) and when I am back with her, I always give my daughter 100% - that means no work, no TV and no phone (well except for the few occasions I need to turn on Elmo's World as a distraction to get her to eat).
What does a day in the life look like?
My daughter wakes up at 6 am which means I wake up at 6 am every day. For the first two hours of the day, it's all about spending time with and eating breakfast with my family. I start work at 8 am and the first thing I check is the number of active users on Outgift from the day before. I then move on to my to-do list and re-prioritize daily. My days are filled with everything from calls and meetings with potential partners, analyzing all the metrics on the site from what users are buying to how marketing campaigns are doing, creating new blog content, to the backend work of updating our product database. There's never enough time in the day.
Best advice to fellow entrepreneurs?
Find a supportive network. It could be one person or one hundred people - the most important is that you have access to people who can relate to all the emotions you'll go through being an entrepreneur. It's what has gotten me out of ruts and helped re-ignite passion for what I'm trying to create when I need it most.
Top 3 self-care tips?
- Give yourself a break - like a lot of people, I tend to be incredibly hard on myself. Now, I try to extend myself the same compassion and forgiveness I extend to others.
- Sleep, sleep, sleep.
- Regular "me time" or date-nights - whatever helps you get your mind off work or something that's stressing you out.
Words to live by:
"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be." - Ralph Waldo Emerson