Web-based business provides special gifts for special friends

The Carmel Valley-based online gift company Girlfriend Grams is fast on its way to becoming the ultimate stop for women searching for that special gift for friends who have reached a milestone.

Girlfriend Grams (

www.girlfriendgrams.com

), which got its official start in March of this year, provides prepackaged gift boxes for special events, be it a new baby, a wedding or a birthday, with prices ranging from $35 to $60.

Staying in touch

The concept began when Lani Harr and Deanna Strickland were looking for a business they could start that would not only allow them to stay home with their children but help women like themselves maintain friendships.

"I moved out here from the East Coast a few years ago and I was looking for a way to stay in touch with my friends and family," said Strickland, who acted in off-Broadway productions and on the daytime soap "Guiding Light" before moving to California with her husband. "I find that people nowadays, just move all over the country. So Girlfriend Grams is a great way to stay connected with your girlfriends."

Maternal needs

In 2001, Harr and Strickland founded the party company Girls Night In, which is still in existence. When their children were born and they wanted to refocus their energies toward a more home-based business, Girls Night In provided the perfect testing ground for the gift packages that would later become Girlfriend Grams. The company quickly grew through word-of-mouth, and today they receive orders from all 50 states.

"We have a huge conversion rate of our customers," Harr said. "Of the people who receive grams, about 60 percent of them go on to send a gram within three months … we don't do a lot of advertising; we haven't paid for a cent of advertising. It's really word of mouth."

Event specific

Especially popular are the quirkier, more nontraditional packages such as the "PMS" gram (of which Strickland said they've had a few anonymous orders) and the "Breakup" gram. Custom packages can also be made through the build-a-gram link on their Web site. There are also grams for holidays, such as the Halloween-themed "Ghoul Friend" gram, the "Domestic Goddess" gram for Mother's Day and the "Jingle Belle" gram for Christmas.

A "message in a bottle," a rolled-up customized note in a corked glass bottle, is also sent with each package, along with a 10 percent coupon for future purchases.

Each gram contains items pertaining to the event. For instance, the "Get-Well" gram contains flannel pajamas, a spa candle and gourmet chicken soup mix. The "Housewarming" gram, which is especially popular with realtors, has an apron, "Domestic Goddess" coasters, an espresso candle and chocolate peanut butter M&M mix.

Along with being unique, Harr and Strickland wanted the items to be functional as well.

"We don't make grams just to make them, we want to make sure that its things that people are going to use," Harr said. "Sometimes you get a gift basket, and it's great, but you don't use half the stuff. We make these and we look at every single product and say 'Would I use that?' And if the answer is no, then it's tossed."

As for future grams, Harr said they are thinking of a menopause gram, an eco-friendly "Green" gram and a "Naughty" gram.

"The sky's the limit," Harr said of the potential of her young company. "We really want to be known as the go-to place for gifts … We want Girlfriend Grams to be a household name. And that's our goal. We want to get into everybody's hands."

Besides the Web site, you can also reach Girlfriend Grams toll-free at (877) 433-6611 or locally at (858) 735-6115.

   
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