As work goes remote and hybrid, corporate gifting is on the rise.
The market for corporate gifts in the US alone is expected to reach $258 billion in 2022 and $312 billion by 2025. A further nine out of ten¹ US businesses claim they are either maintaining or increasing their expenditure on gifts.
North Carolina-based founder, Caleb Musser, created his startup, Craftom, to help companies send gifts and office supplies to remote and hybrid employees. Soon, his business scaled to become both a logistics provider and ecommerce storefront for these companies.
Caleb’s path to employee gifting was convoluted. He first joined the high-end world of corporate gifting in 2015 as a marketing manager for a NASCAR team. Later, he founded a business that sent gifts from US sports teams and large brands to high-profile individuals.
But by specializing in high-end gifts, Caleb had pigeonholed himself into an unscalable, founder-centric company. To change course, he created a small piece of software for collecting employee mailing addresses which helped him land large corporate clients like Hitachi during the pandemic. Then he found what he believed to be an even more scalable business in the age of remote work: internal corporate logistics.
Large companies all over North America were hiring international employees at a record pace but couldn’t easily send them company assets like laptops and branded merchandise. Marketing and HR teams struggled with legacy logistics companies that couldn’t cope with order volumes due to poor tech integrations in their warehouses.
In response, Caleb changed course to help companies manage the logistics of remote employees. He created an ecommerce storefront and bought a warehouse in Charlotte North Carolina. Since its founding in 2020, Craftom made seven figures in sales after just six months and continues to grow.
Here’s how Caleb dodged burnout and growing pains by helping companies easily ship office supplies and gifts to their employees.
Getting High-Rollers to the Track
Caleb’s first corporate gifting experience came during a nine-month tenure as the director of sales for NASCAR team, Leavine Family Racing (LFR), in 2014 (later acquired in 2020).
Because LFR was a less popular NASCAR team then, Caleb brought high-profile individuals like CMOs of major brands to the track by sending flashy gifts. However, when he first began searching for “creative gifts for C-Suite” on Google, his searches always came up empty. He made the gifts himself, usually custom-made LFR memorabilia in creative packaging.
By the end of 2015, Caleb realized he’d created a valuable system for manufacturing high-conversion gifts. He left LFR to build his own high-end corporate gifting business, Musser & Company, and compiled a portfolio of over forty athletic teams.
“The whole thing cost between a thousand and two thousand dollars.”
He helped them create hyper-customized presents inspired by John Ruhlin’s book, Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention. Caleb says that for many in gifting, this book is the Bible.
“We arranged one gift for Arthur Blank who owns the Atlanta Falcons and Home Depot in 2015,” he says. “It was an engraved box with a quote from his book and an image of him opening the Atlanta United stadium. It included a journal with his mother’s favorite quote too. The whole thing cost between a thousand and two thousand dollars.”
Musser’s deep-pocketed clientele made for fast profits, but Caleb found the business deviously hard to scale. He spent hours designing most of the gifts himself and never seemed to find the time to train people to take his place.
Caleb’s breakthrough came in 2019 when North Carolina ordered residents to shelter in place for COVID-19. During those four months, Caleb moved equipment out to his garage and the USPS picked up packages right from his doorstop.
While still in his garage, Caleb and his team created Craftom, a gifting company focused on scalable software gifting solutions for large businesses. Soon, they’d created their first product and had enterprises lining up around the corner to become their clients.
The Rise of Corporate Logistics
On March 14th, at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Caleb’s team created one of Craftom’s first applications. It was a simple program for requesting mail addresses through an emailed form.
After employees entered their addresses, they’d receive personalized gifts from their company. Two weeks after Craftom launched the email tool, it won the Japanese mega-corporation, Hitachi, as its first big account.
At the time, companies were scrambling for third-party tech to help them reach locked-down employees. They needed streamlined services to help send massive numbers of employees onboarding gifts and company computers, phones, and other home office supplies.
Within a month Caleb and his small team sold 40 more B2B accounts and hit one million dollars in revenue. “We built a pretty effective lead machine using Sales Navigator,” says Caleb. “We’d scrape information using Seamless and then run campaigns using SalesLoft.”
But as the pandemic forced more offices to go remote, competitors appeared using the same email-address-finding feature. Caleb needed to find a way to stand out and scale his business.
“Most legacy logistics companies can’t help with the process because they’re antiquated.”
Caleb’s marketing manager connections told him privately that many of their internal HR and IT teams struggled with corporate logistics – things like sending and returning remote employees’ company laptops and other office supplies. They had to hire new teammates just to handle goods distribution and most were spending far too much time looking for logistics providers.
“Most legacy logistics companies can’t help with the process because they’re antiquated,” Caleb says. “You can’t hook any kind of software app up to them. You could maybe build an integration, but you’d still need to call someone at the warehouse to place an order for a laptop.”
Logistics wasn’t the only issue plaguing these companies. Even sourcing goods for their employees could take just as much time and resources. The disjointed process went against many tenets of gift-giving. It was hard for businesses to show employees they cared when new hire packages didn’t arrive on time.
“Large companies typically buy their employee goods from individual vendors,” says Caleb. “A marketing team, for example, might have to source forty-seven vendors to supply conferences, employee swag, and print assets. None of these vendors can be a one-stop-shop and ship anywhere.”
Within weeks Caleb decided that Craftom would become an enterprise products platform – the first one-stop-shop for every department to source, purchase, kit, and ship any physical product to anyone working from anywhere.
Using cash flow and a series of credit cards from his gifting business he went all in on a large warehouse in Charlotte as a base of operations and launched phase two of Craftom.
The Amazon Approach to Corporate Logistics
Caleb says Craftom’s biggest selling point was they took the Amazon approach to product fulfillment. After just a few months of work, his team launched an online marketplace where companies can buy everything from employee swag to chairs and laptops and ship them to their workers with the click of a button.
“IT teams use us for equipment management,” says Caleb. “They use our platform to buy and send laptops and receive returned devices. HR uses us to send things to employees, like swag or supplies like paper or pens.”
“The conventional wisdom is to build the bits, not the atoms. But many businesses get built using atoms.”
Many business owners could support building tech products like marketplaces or warehouse management software. However, running warehousing and fulfillment too was a gamble, Caleb admits.
“The conventional wisdom is to build the bits, not the atoms,” says Caleb. “But many businesses get built using atoms. It’s also really hard to do both logistics and software well, so there’s less competition.”
Caleb also believes controlling his logistics was essential to a positive customer experience.
“If you don’t control the last mile, you run into huge difficulties,” he says. “In the gifting space, some enormous SaaS solutions have outsourced that stuff and they have these four to eight-week lead times they can’t control. We can ship in zero to forty-eight hours within the US. Whether it’s a MacBook or Yeti mug, we decorate, pack, and get it to employees fast.”
Today Craftom has a team of 11 hybrid employees and four onsite warehouse workers. Caleb is confident they could see five to six times growth in the next two years. He thinks that even with remote work becoming a hybrid in the US, Craftom has little to fear.
“My friends asked if we’d lose our advantage once people start going back to the office,” he says. “I think it’s going to make employee logistics even harder. If you’re Salesforce and you need two hundred laptops for new hires, you’ll have much more trouble tracking which remote and hybrid employees have them.”
His only regret? He wishes he’d focused on building his leadership team early on.
“We would have grown faster if I’d grown the leadership team from day one. Initially, I was just trying to find people to do the work. I think being a solo founder is great because you get to hold onto more equity, but there’s a toll with that.”
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