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Sunday, 6 August 2017

Meet female power duo Danielle and Sarah from ethical gift brand Thanks I Love It

'Thanks I Love It' is not just a gift brand, Danielle and Sarah have built their business supporting the British industry. As well as having a passion for ethically made products, from fairtrade chocolate to organic skincare, each box of treats offer something completely unique, taking gifting by post to whole new levels.

I wanted to meet the female duo creating waves in the ethical gifting arena and find out more about the brand, as well as their work with Women's Aid.

Q. So who’s behind Thanks I Love It?

We are Danielle Fenton and Sarah Kinsey-Learoyd, the two-woman team who run Thanks I Love It.

We met around eight years ago in Leeds when we were both just out of university and volunteering for a conservation charity. We went our separate ways into careers in marketing (Danielle) and the voluntary sector (Sarah) but stayed close even when Sarah moved away from Yorkshire.

Gift giving is something we both love to do, but it can take days or even weeks of planning to find the perfect present, with busy lives often getting in the way.  Sometimes it’s tempting to nip to Tesco for a bottle of fizz and a card, which is nice, but not quite the thoughtful gift we originally had in mind; we’d also prefer to know our money is going directly back into local communities.

So, Thanks I Love It was born! We want to make meaningful, thoughtful and beautiful gifts easily accessible. We put a lot of consideration into the story behind each product; who makes it? Where does it come from? Will that purchase make a difference?

We share almost all of the work we put into Thanks I Love It, although we both have our own areas of expertise. Danielle is mainly responsible for developing the commercial side of the business, continually developing new growth ideas, PR management and digital marketing. Sarah is responsible for managing business operations, developing and maintaining supplier relationships and managing production and distribution. What we both love doing is finding new designers and makers to feature in our boxes, and building strong relationships with them. We’re constantly scouring Instagram and attending trade shows to find exciting, innovative and ethical suppliers.

The business is currently split across two sites, one in Hampshire, and the other in Leeds. Working normal 9-5s and running a business long distance has its own unique set of challenges - there have been plenty of video calls, late nights and very full weekends trying to fit everything in. But we’ve had a lot of fun along the way, learned an enormous amount and we’re changing, developing and hopefully improving all the time!

Q. What’s ‘Thanks I Love It’ all about?

At Thanks I Love It, we create high quality, thoughtfully curated gifts that bring together fantastic products by independent designers and makers and arrive beautifully wrapped, direct to your door. We give a proportion of our profits to charities that do vital work in local communities, so the money our customers spend is invested back where it is needed.

We created it with people like ourselves in mind – women in their 20s and 30s who might live away from friends and family, enjoy treating their loved ones and put a lot of thought into the gifts they buy and the stories behind them.

When we develop a new box, we start with a person or personality trait in mind and go from there. 

We have The Lush (an early favourite of both of ours!), which is full of alcohol-themed treats including Prosecco-flavoured sweets and a martini glass charm bracelet (Ivy Lace London).

We have The Glam, which contains a selection of luxurious make-up-type treats including rose gold nail varnish (Mrs Cross Nail Shop) and an organic cotton makeup bag.

Our current favourite is The Minimalist, which has a beautifully muted colour-palette and includes a luxury gold foil notepad (LH Designs), a rose gold concrete tea light holder (Naturecraft Moulds) and a screenprinted storage pot (Mellybee), but we have hundreds of ideas we can’t wait to work on, and we’re really excited for all the boxes yet to come.

 Q. Did you always know your brand would be one with ethics at the heart?

We met when we were volunteering together at an environmental charity, and charitable giving, whether it be time, money or resources, is part of who we both are, so I suppose it was inevitable that ethics would be at the heart of Thanks I Love It! We aim to make our gifts matter, giving our business a further purpose and intention.

Giving back doesn't necessarily mean donating money, it can also include giving your time, knowledge, resources or advice, and if donating money is how you choose to give, it doesn’t have to be a huge amount if you can't afford it at the moment. Small actions can lead to big change, and every pound spent is a vote cast for the cause you believe in. We want to bring this into gift-giving, to make giving back as simple as possible – that way, you give twice!

Q. What makes you different?

We want to support UK businesses, so all of the products in Thanks I Love It gift boxes are UK designed or made, and come from small independent suppliers. We look to build strong relationships with these suppliers in order to support each other, and we do this right from the start, from our #tililoves hashtag series on social media, where we hold each product up to the spotlight, to our Supplier Stories blog posts; we appreciate a good background story.

We love our suppliers, because of their fantastic products but also because of the faith they’ve shown in us as a new business. From product development to support on social media, we really appreciate the work they put in.

Additionally, we’re really proud to be female owned and female led, and we’ve found ourselves working with a lot of female directed businesses in turn.

Naturally, we want to provide a brilliant product and service, so all of the products are well designed and of exceptional quality, as well as being unusual or even exclusive to Thanks I Love It. We want the products in our gift boxes to be loved, used and enjoyed, so we sample and test each and every item before including it, gathering feedback from our focus groups and ensuring that we delight in it as much as we hope the receiver will.

This approach goes right down to our packaging – all of our boxes and printed materials are designed and made in the UK from recycled and recyclable materials, and we work with small local designers and printers to produce our packaging and marketing materials.

And we’re really proud that for every gift sold, we donate a proportion of our profits to charity, so every Thanks I Love It gift gives again and again.

Q. Tell us more about your chosen charity who you currently donate to

We’ve chosen to work with Women's Aid as our first charity partner. Women’s Aid work to provide life-saving services and to build a future where domestic violence is not tolerated. The projects they run, the campaigning they do and the training they provide all sit alongside our own aims and fit with our main customer base; in the vast majority of cases, domestic violence is experienced by women.

Any woman can experience domestic abuse regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, sexuality, class, or disability, but some women who experience other forms of oppression and discrimination also face further barriers to disclosing abuse and finding help.

They are a grassroots federation, and this is important to us; putting resources into local communities is vital, because as well as providing support for those in need, local charities have a unique understanding of local needs.

They aim to empower women who have been affected by domestic abuse to live independent lives free from fear and abuse. We’re really proud to support them, and proud that every gift bought contributes to the fantastic work they do.

Q. What is your top tip for gift buying for that person who seems to have it all?

Danielle: We all know that friend who is tricky to buy for – I certainly have one or two I can think of! The first thing I think about is giving a gift that’s a little different, maybe there’s something more to it than meets the eye. I love brands that have a story.

Sometimes it could just be chocolate, but it’ll be chocolate that’s handmade from organic fairtrade ingredients, or with beautifully-designed packaging. Even though it’s consumable, they know it’s come from a good place. And that’s the approach we take with selecting products for all our gift sets.

Sarah: I’m a big planner, so if someone’s got a big occasion coming up, a milestone birthday or a wedding, I try and think about it weeks or sometimes even months in advance, to give me time to find that perfect gift. There really is something for everyone these days, but finding it can be so time consuming! I have been known to make entire Pinterest boards dedicated to the perfect gift; Danielle’s 30th gift was nearly a year in the planning and making!!

That’s why we’re really excited to have recently launched our first build your own gift set, where you can choose from some of our most popular products and create the perfect gift for that person who has it all. You can really tailor your gift to suit the tastes and personality of the recipient, which we know our customers love, and our build a box is exclusive to - you won’t find it anywhere else!

 If you'd like to know more about 'Thanks I Love It' or you'd like to buy one of their beautiful boxes, visit their shop HERE

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