Sometimes when you can’t find something you want, you have to go out and make it yourself. In Douglas Elliman agent Maryam Zadeh’s case, she wanted to provide her clients a great closing gift but couldn’t seem to find the perfect one (especially something local). So in the fall of 2016, Maryam decided to start Lafayette Gifts.
Elliman Insider: What made you want to start the business? What was your goal?
Maryam Zadeh: Honestly, the simple answer is I wanted more choices. Like most people, but especially as a real estate agent in NYC, I was constantly looking for a nice “closing” or “thank you” gift. Something thoughtful, beautifully put together (preferably with local items if possible) and more often than not I always wanted it fast!
Being an agent for so many years I kept asking everyone for new recommendations—from fellow agents, attorneys as well as friends in other industries (from music to fashion), yet I kept hearing the same choices and they all expressed the same frustration with wanting something new. Fruit baskets and champagne was often the “easy go to” and like them it simply didn’t always cut it or feel genuine. Also, I personally am not a fan of baskets or all the cellophane that is often used. It’s not very New York to me and with such limited space, the baskets usually get tossed as well.
With all that in mind, I eventually collaborated with a few designer friends and shortly after Lafayette Gifts was born in the fall of 2016. We did a lot of research and reached out to so many local businesses. It was tough and eye opening. We learned so much. Sticking to local is not easy, but it was so important to us and we only wanted to include products we loved. We even hosted a private presentation in my home one evening with several experienced agents who I knew well—we wanted true and trusted feedback. We took it very seriously with a powerpoint presentation, gift display in person and even provided full samples of products for each of them to take home with questionnaires. The event was amazing and so helpful. I still remember all their feedback and each of their suggestions.
With the holidays approaching, we decided to begin with designing one holiday gift. I guess you could’ve called it our “soft opening” and it was with a limited edition gift box with various items and included your choice of candle scent. Even the wood boxes were made local (and still are). It had a great response and we even got orders by some well-known individuals and large companies. One company sent our gifts to offices of executives at luxury retailers such as Bergdorf, Neimans, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom’s all over the country as their holiday gift. It was so exciting and their feedback was also very validating.
Since then, my goal has been to continue with more local custom options. I love featuring new products from local businesses and giving customers a chance to be more involved in what they want to include.
EI: How do your items differ from typical options out there?
MZ: We try to include unique options that people will really appreciate and want to use. Not just a gift box full of chocolate, although we do include some great chocolates!
We include items like candles from The Brooklyn Candle Studio, sea salt from Amagansett, olive oil from Frankies 457 as well as chocolates from Marie Belle and chocolate caramel popcorn from The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn. (To name a few).
Another unique option is you can add pet treats to any gift box. I mean how amazingly thoughtful is that? Shows a true effort and that you know them well. Don’t get me wrong, a bottle of champagne is also nice, but far less memorable.
EI: Why are closing gifts so important? And what are some mistakes that people usually make when choosing them?
MZ: The smallest gesture really means a lot. It amazes me how often people tell me their agents didn’t give any kind of gift. To think that your clients may not notice is a big mistake. Whether its their first time or their 10th time buying a property, it is still a big moment. The cost of a gift is secondary to the thought behind it. Your gift could remind them for years of all the great things you did and how well you know them. It can make a huge mark and that small memory can also help erase any frustrating or emotional moments that client may have felt at times. In the end though, this is your business and as we all know, a referral is far more valuable than any walk in.
EI: How do you manage a full-time real estate career, a brick-and-mortar store and online brand all at once?
MZ: I’m always learning, but as most experienced agents know self-motivation and time management is key.
EI: In your career, which closing gift have you given that you think are most well-received?
MZ: I drink my own champagne, as they say! I am very proud to say I was at a closing not long ago with a long-time client who has very particular taste. He had just received one of my gifts for a closing that happened a week before. Without prompting, he told me in front of everyone at the closing how it was the best gift of its kind he had ever received. When I told him it was a company I had started he was in shock. That for me was a highlight and a moment that’s kept me motivated.
Gift giving can be difficult, and in a professional setting can be even harder. Every client is different. Whether or not you choose to send a Lafayette Gift, my advice is to make sure your gift is a thoughtful one.
For any questions or to get your gifts, you can visit Lafayette Gifts online or in person at their pop-up location in Tribeca at 123 West Broadway (located inside A Uno Tribeca corner of Duane Street). Pick up, hand delivery, and shipping options available.
And to keep updated on new products and custom options follow them on Instagram: @lafayettegiftsnyc
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