Caroline Stanbury, the Queen of Luxury Gifts With 100% Annual Growth & a £2m Turnover
Caroline Stanbury, Founder and CEO of the Gift-Library, is respected around the world as the authority on luxury gifting and style.
Having built a successful personal styling business over ten years, Caroline developed a large and loyal clientele with designers and artisans across the globe.
In 2008, Caroline launched the Gift-Library, a bespoke service providing select luxury gifts from more than 100 elite designers including: Anya Hindmarch accessories, bespoke Katherine Pooley glassware and Tusting luxury leather luggage.
The Gift-Library now ships to 80 countries and has an annual turnover of £2m which is set to grow considerably this year.
Each product is handpicked by Caroline and the company is the only website to unite the best brands for womens, mens and children’s gifting and caters to those on any budget. The selection of products is suitable for all occasions; birthday presents, 50th anniversary gifts and more. Prices start from £5 up to £10,000 and over..
In conjunction with American Express, the company is also the go-to place for those who want a unique gift, made to their bespoke specifications and within a short deadline.
Orders have included a gold-plated football table with the models made of the client's favourite footballers to a complete set of carved marble statues of the client's children.
We spoke to Caroline about how having a child gave her the space to follow her dreams; how she raised funds for her company; and what aspects of running a business keep her awake at night.
TNW: How did you come up with the idea for Gift-Library.com and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?
CS: I founded Gift Library in 2008 after realising I wanted to move my career into an area I was most passionate about: luxury gifting. I’d been working as a stylist since I was a teenager, but had always been asked by clients to source the most luxurious, ‘money-can’t-buy’ gifts for their loved ones.
I absolutely relished the opportunity to source out the best gifts, sometimes commissioning designers and artists to create bespoke products, and realised I could be most successful if I followed my passion. I formed Gift Library after the birth of my first child and have never looked back.
TNW: What is your business model?
CS: The whole business is founded on one principle, to provide the best luxury gifts that suit any budget. Every product must adhere to my strict guidelines on quality and luxury and so we have carved out a place in the marketplace as the ‘go-to’ website for luxury gifting.
I also knew that in order to make the business a real success, I’d have to offer this service at a range of price points without compromising on quality. Gift Library caters to every budget, with gifts from £5 all the way up to £10K.
We also have a focus on customer service. We have many VIP clients who want a quick service or have bespoke products made for them, and they always return to the site as they know they will find the best product in the quickest time.
TNW: What makes your company different from your competitors?
CS: Gift Library is a pure e-commerce site and stands out from its competitors by having the best range of luxury brands in one place from designers including: Anya Hindmarch, Temperley London, Rolex and Penelope Chilvers. I’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful contacts as well as business ‘know-how’, which allowed me to quickly establish a network of highly sought after suppliers that competitors would have not been able to secure.
It’s very important to me to ensure that the Gift Library has the quickest delivery time in London and throughout the world. I’m very proud to have cornered a part of the gifting market in London by offering a concierge service that provides customers with a personal shopper, who will help pick out the perfect gift and have it delivered in less than two hours. No other website can boast of quicker delivery times.
TNW: What is your top tip for balancing motherhood with a career?
CS: As a businesswoman, I constantly have to balance my workload with motherhood, but having my own business has allowed me to be in one place for most of the time, as before I was travelling the world with my styling business.
Having my own business has given me the flexibility of creating my own hours, while having children has provided me with the ‘space’ to think about what I really want to do.
My daughter, Yasmine, was two when I started the business and it was having some time out after she was born that made me realise I should follow my passion and change the direction of my career.
So, my tips would be: use the time off when you have a child to think what you really want to do, tailor your business to your new lifestyle (try and have something you can work on in the evenings or whilst your child is asleep in the day), and embrace the fact that your lifestyle is going to change.
TNW: What does your day look like?
CS: My day starts when my alarm goes off at 7am. The first thing I do is wake up my twin boys for some morning cuddles. I normally have scrambled eggs with a skinny latte from Starbucks, without which I don’t feel like my day has kick started. I drop Yasmine off at school before driving to the office. On my way, I call my assistant and we plan my day. Every day at the office is different. I look at new products, see what our strongest sales have been but also to see if there are any gaps in the website or in our product lines.
I also like to be very hands on with our VIP clients. Many of them are personal friends or have been using the business since day one, and I want to make sure they are receiving the best service.
My free time is spent with my children, my husband and my blackberry! I also don’t see my job stopping in the evening.
I like to use evenings out as an opportunity to make new contacts for the business. I never really have down time – the business is constantly on my mind but I love what I do.
TNW: Briefly describe your history in raising investment for your company.
CS: I had some money from my styling business that I could invest when I first started, but I gained my first investments from a close friend and my Godfather. I did not want too much investment initially as I thought it was important to have control of the company in the early years—plus I partnered with people I could trust and knew very well.
I did, however, seek advice from a number of entrepreneurs about how to set up a business. Brent Hoberman the Founder of lastMinute.com, was particularly inspiring. As one of the most successful internet entrepreneurs, he gave me a real insight into the ups and downs of setting up my own business.
TNW: Do you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?
CS: My best advice to anyone thinking about setting up a business is to speak to people who have already been there and who are ‘in the club’. Mentors are key in the early stages of setting up any business, regardless of industry, as they can give you guidance as to how to get through the good and the bad.
I also think it’s vital to know your marketplace and your customer. If you know and understand both the marketplace and who your customer is then you will always have the right product or service to grow your business.
TNW: What is the most challenging part of running your own business?
CS: I found the most challenging part of starting the business was learning about areas of the company in which I had no prior expertise. Google analytics felt like a foreign language to start with, but I knew that it was imperative to make sure that I understood every area of my business. I credit the staff we have hired and agencies we have worked with in helping educate me on some areas that perhaps I was not aware of before.
TNW: Do you lie awake at night sometimes thinking about the company? What aspects of it specifically keep you awake?
CS: There’s always so much going on, it can be difficult to turn off at times. This company is about fashion one minute, personnel another, and SEO and online marketing another. Your head spins with the different tasks you have to be involved in. So I really believe in quality time – alone time, that is – to wind down. I now run a business, a household, and have three young children. Juggling everything can seem challenging, but I love all of it.
TNW: What has been your greatest achievement since starting the Gift-Library?
My greatest achievement since founding the business was simply that. I started the business during the recession and it took considerable effort to raise the funds.
However, I was lucky, as my backers were confident of the concept and knew that I had the expertise and understanding of the luxury market to source great products that would fit with the changing consumer spending habits. The fact that we have grown at 100 per cent every year has been very rewarding.
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