Gemnote's Holiday Gift Guide 2017


It's that time of year again--our favorite season here at Gemnote! Since last holiday, we've grown our team 2x, expanded our office space and have partnered with some incredible supplier brands. Companies like Amazon AWS, Capital One and Credit Karma have looked to us to strategize their gifting initiatives for candidates, employees and clients this year; we're excited to share some of our top 2017 gifts with you, so you can make the best impression.

 

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STAY CONNECTED // FOR THE TECHIE

Prices from $39.99 - $299

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1) Beoplay H4 Wireless Headphones $299 2) Google Home Mini $49, 3) Beoplay P2 Personal Bluetooth Speaker $169, 4) Native Union 'Night' 10ft Lightning Cable $39.99, 5) Click & Grow Smart Herb Garden $59.95, 6) Le Cord Earbuds with Remote and Mic $49, 7) Apple 4k TV 32GB $179.99, 8) Google Pixel Translating Earbuds $159, 9) Google Wifi $124


 

READY, JET SET, GO // FOR THE WORLD TRAVELLER

Prices from $59 - $280

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1) Tanner Goods Goodman Wallet $60, 2) Rains Waterproof Weekend Duffel Bag $80, 3) Baggu Leather Box Bag $220, 4) Away Bigger Medium Luggage $275, 5) State Bag 'Spencer' Backpack $155, 6) Incase Laptop Case $50, 7) Baggu Oversize Leather Tote $280, 8) Rawrow 340 Small Messenger $59, 9) Everlane Nylon Commuter Backpack $68


 

HOME CHIC HOME // FOR THE DESIGNER & HOST

Prices from $23 - $200

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1) Cole & Mason Electronic Pepper and Salt Grinder $44.99 each, 2) Yield Design 16" Spun Planter $180, 3) Bodum Epebo Electric Coffee Maker $200, 4) Vitruvi Diffuser and Essential Oil $120, 5) The Kinfolk Entrepreneur Book $23, 6) Poketo Cotton Patch Rug $58, 7) Umbra Shift Hoop Magazine Rack in Pink $58, 8) Aplat Vin Horizontal Wine Tote $50 


 

HAPPIEST HOLIDAY // FOR THE FAMILY

Prices from $12 - $299

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1) Corkcicle Dipped 16oz Classic Canteen $27.95, 2) Woolrich Rider Wool Blanket $95, 3) Ritual Chocolate Granola $11, 4) Mahabis Classic Slippers $110, 5) Tabletop Fireplace $68, 6) Amazon Fire HD 8 with Alexa $79.99, 7) ShedRain WindPro Auto Open Umbrella $27, 8) Nintendo Switch $299, 9) Rains Zip Bag $95, 10) W&P Design Moscow Mule Syrup $12 


 

SLOW BREW CREW // FOR THE DRINKS LOVER

Prices from $21 - $79.99

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1) Corkcicle Dipped 16oz Classic Canteen $27.95, 2) Fellow Joey Mug $25 each, 3) S'well Traveler Bottle $35, 4) Miir 12oz Camp Cup $24.95, 5) Fellow Stagg Kettle $79, 6) Kinto SCS-S03 Mug $18.90, 7) Espro P5 Coffee Press $79.95, 8) Menu Design Wine Decanter $79.99, 9) SCS Brewer $21

 

Interested in getting $100 off your first custom order?

www.gemnote.com

The Secret to Starbucks' Hiring Success

Our CEO and Founder Ashley Wong recently sat down with Daniel Whitney, Director of Global Talent Acquisition at Starbucks, to talk about the company’s recruiting strategy, candidate experience, and focus on diversity & inclusion.

 The new Starbucks store in Shanghai's Disneytown. (Photo courtesy of Starbucks) 

The new Starbucks store in Shanghai's Disneytown. (Photo courtesy of Starbucks) 

(The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity)


Ashley Wong: You came from Microsoft recruiting. What was it about Starbucks that attracted you to join their team?

Daniel Whitney: There are a lot of companies that are out there, but when I weigh them, it’s not only how viable is the company and how interesting are the products, but who are they as a responsible corporate citizen?

We were one of the first retail companies to offer full-time benefits to our employees years and years ago when nobody was doing that. If you’re a barista working 20 hours a week, the company will pay for a 4-year-education for you. We said we’d hire 10,000 military veterans in a four-year period of time and we did it in 2 and a half. Now we’re saying 10,000 was too small, we’re going to hire 25,000. We said we want to go out and hire 10,000 opportunity youth. We hired over 40,000 in the first year of doing that. It’s all of that on top of being a big, cool, recognizable company.

AW: What are some of the things you look for in hiring that is specific to Starbucks and its culture?

DW: Obviously anytime you’re filling a role, you’re asking “Does the person have the skillset to do the job?” I’d say, much more so than other companies that I’ve worked for, the cultural fit is very, very important here. If, through the interview process, it’s clear you’re the type of person that delivers results, but you do it by leaving a trail of dead bodies in your wake, you’re probably not gonna get hired here. [Laughs] It’s people that are very warm, very collaborative, that are open to asking for help. And that’s checked for at literally every level. Even the executive recruiting team that I have -- the number one thing we’re screening for is that culture fit.

 
"People kept coming up to us asking, 'Oh, are you guys serving coffee?' And we’re like, 'Nope, we’re here to hire some people.'"
 
 "From our earliest days, diversity and inclusion have been at the heart of how we do business." (Photo courtesy of Starbucks)

"From our earliest days, diversity and inclusion have been at the heart of how we do business." (Photo courtesy of Starbucks)

AW: Starbucks isn’t necessarily known as a tech company. How has recruitment been for technical talent and what are some strategies for hiring engineers, product managers, etc?   

DW: You’re right in that a lot of people don’t think “technical company” when they think of Starbucks. But if you look at a lot of our strategic initiatives, we very much have a technology underpinning to the company and a lot, if not all, of our forward facing strategy has a technology component to it. So for us, it’s really getting that visibility with candidates and showing them what we’re building. Once they see it, they get intrigued, and it’s pretty easy to pull them in from there. We went to Grace Hopper last year and set up a booth there to make engineering hires. But people kept coming up to us asking,“Oh, are you guys serving coffee?” And we’re like, “Nope, we’re here to hire some people.” [Laughs]

AW: We’re similar in that way, because oftentimes people just think, “Oh, they’re a gifting company,” but there’s a lot of tech and automation that goes into what we’re building to scale thoughtfulness with companies. It’s the equivalent to people saying “Oh, they’re a coffee shop.”

DW: Exactly, and candidly, that’s why we chose Gemnote originally. There’s a lot of other options that were out there, but the fact that you approached an older problem with a technology solution was really why we initially went with you.

 Starbucks store at Upper Saint Martin's Lane in London. (Photo courtesy of Starbucks)

Starbucks store at Upper Saint Martin's Lane in London. (Photo courtesy of Starbucks)

AW: Thanks, Daniel. That’s very encouraging for us. What do you think the biggest challenge is with recruiting top talent in the industry overall, and how is Starbucks tackling that problem?

DW: I would say right now, there are a lot of companies out there that are doing just crazy stuff from a compensation standpoint. For us, being the majority of what we sell are $5 cups of coffee; there’s not as much margin that’s in there, so it’s hard for us to go pure dollars-for-dollars. We are selling what we represent as a company: our culture. And as a comparison for me: [at past companies], I was working 80 to 90 hours a week, and that’s basically all that I did. Here, I have my day job, and it’s more than 40 hours, but it’s very manageable and it allows me -- and it’s almost encouraged-- to be part of the community and have that balance as well.

 
"The sheer volume of people that list [Gemnote] as being one of the more magical moments of the whole process is very, very high."
 

AW: Are you interested in what candidates are doing outside of work? What they’re learning and how they’re impacting the community? Do you consider all of that in hiring at Starbucks?

DW: Yeah, I would. I would more here than at other places just because being active members in the community is such a core piece of what we do. So that demonstrates that they have balance and that they are giving back. That would definitely score extra points with me over someone who didn’t.  I mean, if I looked at someone’s resume and I didn’t see that on there, it wouldn’t preclude me from talking to them. I would just be basing it purely off of their experience.

AW: Moving onto candidate experience -- what are some ways you ensure that candidates have a great experience with Starbucks?

DW: I’ll say we’re not where we want to be across the board. But we’ve highlighted all of the times where the candidate experience can be either positively or negatively impacted, and ask ‘How can we take each one of those pieces and essentially step up that part?’ Gemnote was obviously a piece of that. With the previous gifting service we had, we felt they missed in a number of different ways that Gemnote hit on. We’ll also do coffee tastings and tea tastings, we’ll take someone to visit the roastery. We’ll take them to Pike Place Market. We try to truly weave as much of who we are into the interview day as possible.

 Candidates receive the opportunity to visit Starbucks' Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle. (Photo Courtesy of Starbucks)

Candidates receive the opportunity to visit Starbucks' Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle. (Photo Courtesy of Starbucks)

AW: We’ve talked to your team before and it’s been almost 100% positive feedback with the candidate gifts. Are there any other metrics you guys use to show that it has a positive impact on the employer brand and candidate experience?

DW: Well, one of the hard things of exec recruiting is that there’s not as many metrics to grab onto. But every single candidate that comes through, regardless of whether they’re hired or not, we reach out to them and inquire about how their experience was and anything they recommend we do better. The sheer volume of people that list your service as being one of the more magical moments of the whole process is very, very high. We get a ton of comments from people that we didn’t hire that say, “Hey, sorry it didn’t work out. I guarantee I’m gonna steal this gifting idea and pass it onto my existing teams because we don’t do anything nearly as cool as this.”

 
"At the corporate level, if I was giving us a report card, I’d say it would be an ‘incomplete’...We’ll be trying some interesting and creative ways of solving the problem that everyone struggles with."
 
 Custom wrapping Starbucks' candidate gift boxes. (Photo courtesy of Nathalie Cheng)

Custom wrapping Starbucks' candidate gift boxes. (Photo courtesy of Nathalie Cheng)

AW: That’s really our goal: to help companies with these magical moments whether that’s with candidates, employees or clients. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) is a big topic in Silicon Valley right now. We see companies really focusing on forming diverse teams, more now than ever before. How is Starbucks implementing more recruiting initiatives around that?

DW: Yeah, it is something that I think, no matter how well you do it, you can always do better. So it’s definitely a hot topic up here, and it is something that we look at all the time. What we have done as a company though is, a number of years ago, we looked at where our actual store footprint was, and asked, ‘Are we unintentionally contributing to not being as diverse as we should be by where we choose to put our stores?’

So we’re putting stores in places that maybe have higher unemployment rates, that may have a lower average income, average property value. What we’re saying now is, “Put a store there, and bring the community around it. That might drive other business and economic growth for that area.”

At the corporate level, if I was giving us a report card, I’d say it would be an ‘incomplete’.  It’s something I think you’ll see progressively more and more that we’ll be trying some interesting and creative ways of solving the problem that everyone struggles with.

 
"Always be recruiting even when you don’t have jobs open."
 

AW: I love that you’re opening stores in those areas. Paying for 4-year education. It’s really inspiring. Why don’t more people know about this? We go to Starbucks almost everyday and we had no idea!

DW: If there’s anything we’re really terrible at doing, it’s telling our story. Like people who work here, we all know the story. But it would almost be counter-our-culture to kind of be announcing it to the world too much. So it’s one of those things we’re all super proud of, and we wish that more people knew, but we’re maybe a little shy with how we put it out there.

AW: For companies like ours that are growing and developing their recruitment strategy, what are some tips you can give to startups who are recruiting and growing their team?

DW: I would say, be genuine, be authentic and be as creative as possible. Like, if you ever read a job description that I’ve posted for one of my roles, it doesn’t read like a corporate boilerplate-type of job description. But then if I’m proactively going after people, I make sure they know exactly why I’m interested in them. So I personalize every note to anybody that I reach out to. But I would also say--and this is a strategy that takes a little bit of sticktoitiveness to do--but always be recruiting even when you don’t have jobs open. What that leads to is you get to know a ton of people, and the more people you talk to, obviously the easier it is to make a hiring decision.

To find out more about openings at Starbucks, visit their Careers page.

 

Best Places to Take PTO & What to Bring With You


Summer is officially in full swing and we're thinking of the best places to take our paid time off this year. Whether you're looking for an Eat, Pray, Love trip, a relaxing excursion with your partner or an overdue family vacation, we recommend these 7 destinations.

Already booked your ticket(s) for one of these cities? Here are also some travel essentials you'll need to bring with you.

 

The Maldives
Situated in the Arabian Sea, the Maldives is home to some of the most beautiful resorts and marine life in the world. Some may compare its geography and climate to Hawaii, but don't be fooled--one visitor writes, 'Hawaii is like going to an island. Maldives is like going to another planet.'

 

Machu Picchu, Peru
Our Head of Biz Ops, Diane, just came back from a 4-day hike up Machu Picchu and found it incredibly fulfilling. 'If you're looking for a physical challenge, this has got to be your next vacation spot. My favorite part was learning about the Incan culture as we hiked. My less favored part was getting smoked by an elderly couple that made it look too easy.'

 

Bangkok, Thailand
Recently ranked the second biggest tourist destination in the world, Bangkok is rich with cultural attractions, incredible food and beautiful beaches. The Thai capital has been an international favorite for the last few years, but be sure to book your tickets soon! According to experts, Bangkok is slowly sinking and could potentially be submerged in less than fifteen years.

 

Mount Buller, Victoria, Australia
Did you miss ski season in Utah this year? Head down under, where our summer is Australia's winter. Mount Buller, located in the small town of Victoria, is a popular destination for skiing, snowboarding, and snowball fights. Where else would you be able to pull out a beanie and gloves in July?

 

Marrakesh, Morocco
We can't think of a better reason to visit a country (where movies like the Bourne Ultimatum, Babel and Mission Impossible Rogue Nation were filmed) than its intricate art, rich culture and famous souks (Arab market/bazaar). These souks are like Amazon.com IRL; you can get anything from solid gold jewelry to handcrafted furniture. 

 

Kenya, Africa
If you have kids, this is the place to bring their Safari storybooks to life. There are few places in the world you can run (or drive, rather) with wild zebras, giraffes, elephants and more. The best wildlife viewing months are June to October, so it's the perfect time to surprise your children with an unforgettable summer vacation.

 

Kerala, India
Calling all tea-lovers! The Southern Indian state of Kerala is known for its beautiful backwaters, fascinating wildlife, and vast tea plantations found in the town of Munnar. This is the ideal destination for the adventure-loving tea connoisseur. Book a plantation tour in advance to get the full experience, and enjoy the various cups of chai you’ll be sipping along the way.

Between product launches and talent recruiting, many of us spend 40+ hours in the office and have little to no energy by evening. Once a year, take some time off to explore a new city, country and culture; you'll definitely come back to work with new perspective and likely a few great ideas. If we recall correctly, Steve Jobs took a seven-month pilgrimage to India before he began working on Apple-I. TBH, most of us probably don't have the luxury of taking half a year off, but one week is certainly good enough to relax and recharge.

How to Celebrate Your Employees on Mother's Day

 

According to the US Department of Labor's latest annual data, 70% of women with children under the age of 18 participate in the labor force, which has almost doubled since the 1970s. That means, a good number of your employees probably are or will be mothers; and yet we rarely see companies recognize them.

Sheryl Sandberg, who runs one of the most successful companies (Facebook), sits on 5 boards and has authored 2 best-selling books, said, "Being a mother is the most important—and most humbling—job I’ve ever had." We repeat: the most important job she's ever had.

If we care about our employees, what's important to them should also be important to us. But sadly, being a mother is often a thankless job--definitely no PTOs or pay raises. And no matter how far we go to celebrate our moms, they most likely deserve more. But here are a few ideas that might help say thanks:

 

Host a catered brunch at your office

Invite all the moms on your team to share a meal together in a beautiful setting--tables lined with flowers and placards for each mother. Keep costs low by catering from places like Tender Greens, ZeroCater, Corner Bakery or Panera Bread. If you have more time to plan, invite a private chef to come to your office and cook next Friday (5/12).

This is a great opportunity for employees from different teams to get acquainted with one another and talk about something other than work. It also builds a culture that recognizes and values working moms, since we love inclusive workplaces. You can sit with us.

 

" It also builds a culture that recognizes and values

working moms, since we love inclusive workplaces. "

 

Send a gift to their home

They’ll never expect this and will definitely freak out when they receive it. There’s something about receiving a gift at home--where you’re most comfortable--that makes the experience especially sentimental. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but it should be well-made and practical for a woman to use. Talk to one of our curators if you need unique gift ideas!

 

Surprise them with flowers on their desk

Fresh flowers always give life to an otherwise boring desk. You can DIY by purchasing flowers/planters in bulk from your local flower mart and arranging them. Or you can order airplants (that never really die) with customized planters that fit your company’s brand. Either way, you’ll make every mom’s day/weekend.

 

Send a Mother’s Day email

No time or money? This might be the most simple act, but it won’t go unnoticed. Make sure the email comes from your CEO, so your employees know that the company values them from the very top. The key is making the message meaningful and personal to your company values.

 

Let's use this age-old holiday as an opportunity to motivate and acknowledge the moms who spend 30-40+ hours working alongside us. Thanks to all the engineers, CEOs, designers, managers, coordinators, accountants, chefs, etc, etc, who are first and foremost moms. Happy (almost) Your Day.

 

Photos courtesy of Nathalie Cheng Photography, Vitruvi, Baggu, Blue Bottle Coffee and Sea & Asters.

Holiday Gift Guide 2016

 

FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES

The people who spend 40+ hours a week building a great company with you. They're often under-appreciated, so make sure to thank them for their dedication and hard work this holiday.

$2 customization with your company logo.

 

For your boss

Something thoughtful, but never over the top. Keep it around $50 and make sure to include a meaningful message in your card. They'll remember it! 

 

For your coworkers

The ones who keep you sane at the office. They're really just your friends, so gift them something playful and practical. And no, you don't have to give everyone something different.