Friday, August 14, 2009

‘Wrap’ artists take gift-giving to new levels

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:50:00 08/13/2009

Filed Under: Entrepreneurship

CALAMBA CITY—Using a borrowed table from her sister and a few gift wrappers, an entrepreneur here started a trade based on Filipinos’ love of giving and receiving gifts.

Chiqui Barretto, 46, began running her gift-wrapping business, Wrap it Up!, in November 2000, heeding the demand of many buyers in a small mall in Calamba City.

It was Christmas, and Barreto’s business was supposed to last just that season. In fact, she secured a contract for only three months.

“I was only trying, there were no plans of expanding [the business] during that time,” said Barretto, who admitted that she had no inclination toward the art of gift wrapping but she felt consumers needed this kind of service.

Wrap it Up! started rendering service mostly to buyers at a nearby appliance center within the mall.

But the demand that came was more than she was expected.

Wrap it Up! now has 11 branches, nine of which are franchised. All of them are located in malls in Laguna and Metro Manila.

Barretto said she started with a capital of P5,000. She couldn’t imagine the business would grow that much when she started out.

Barretto takes pride in training her “wrap artists,” as she calls her employees.

“We allow [wrap artists] to experiment, but training is needed in this field. Gift wrapping is an art,” said Barretto.

She still feels overwhelmed whenever she draws a favorable reaction from a client, she added.

“You need to be observant. Non-verbal cues of clients really matter,” Barreto said.

“You may be frugal in buying the gifts you would give your loved ones, but the presentation is very important,” Barretto said.

The receiver of the gift may feel more special if care is taken in the presentation of a gift, she added.

Even the “wrap artists” of franchised branches need to undergo training so the quality of service will be maintained.

Barretto said she is hands-on in running her business so she occasionally pays visits to each branch, not just to keep an eye on employees, but also to personally see clients patronizing the service.

Wrap it Up! frequently comes out with new designs and materials, offering customers a wider range of options—a far cry from the time it started out when the only option were P10 wrappers bought from Divisoria.

Given the novelty of the business, Wrap it Up! almost has no competitors, and this fact serves as a challenge for Barretto.

People would always come back to Wrap it Up! and look for something new.

“We need to think of more creative ideas each year, as well as introduce new raw materials,” said Barretto.

She added that, although an economic crisis had put a damper on people’s spending habits, the culture of giving still would not stop.

“Giving something is giving off yourself,” she said.

Barretto considers each gift to be important, both to the giver and receiver. And she takes pains in making sure that Wrap it Up! renders the kind of service clients will want to have.

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