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The Golden Rules of Holiday Gift Giving on a Startup Budget

For entrepreneurs running lean startups, it can be tough to get into the holiday spirit. On the one hand, nobody wants to be a Scrooge. If every brand-new small business owner could, they would shower their employees, partners and clients with extravagant presents. However, the reality is that the real “bah, humbug!” isn’t found in any person but rather the small business budget. If your first year in business was particularly rocky, your pockets simply might not be deep enough to treat everyone to big bonuses and holiday gifts.

What’s an entreprenuer to do when they’re stuck penny pinching their way through the holidays? Embrace their inner Bob Cratchit, of course. After all, the golden rule of the season is to be jolly and there are plenty of festive, inexpensive ways to give (and receive) gifts that will make a lasting impression on everyone your small business works alongside.

From partners to employees to clients, here’s how even the most frugal startup can offer up the most meaningful stocking stuffers.

Give ‘em what they want (what they really, really want)

Don’t treat anyone on your team like they’re a bullet on your holiday to-buy list that needs to be checked off in a hurry. Instead, think about what everyone likes and would genuinely want as a gift. This will vary a bit depending on the recipient, but it’s worth taking the time to personalize the present. If you have an employee who loves to bake, for instance, you might gift them with a cookbook that specializes in dessert and baked good recipes.

However personalized your gifts may be, there are still a few etiquette guidelines to keep in mind for present picking for clients, employees and partners:

  • Avoid gifts that are too personal or send the wrong message about your working relationship together. According to CBS News, that includes anything that can be worn, sprayed or rubbed on the body
  • Leave the gag items on the shelf where you found them. What might be funny to you may not to be others
  • Be careful when giving group gifts like Edible Arrangements baskets and gift cards, especially to clients and partners. This might be an easy way to say thank you en masse, but it’s also a move that can be perceived as somewhat thoughtless, as well

Related: Take StartupNation’s Survey and Enter to Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Think outside of the box

If you really want to go the extra mile in creativity this year, skip gift cards entirely for presents that are unique and topical. Ditch the company calendar for a Snuggie or fidget spinner instead as an add-on gift for your team members or partners. It’s a fun way to play around with the gifting process since, in some cases, company etiquette rules may prohibit your clients from accepting gift cards.


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Add a bit of your brand to your holiday gift giving

To brand your gift or not to brand? In some ways, it’s a smart idea because it helps keep your business top of mind with clients and partners. In others, especially where employees are concerned, it can also be seen as an impersonal move to receive yet another ill-fitting company T-shirt. Where’s the middle ground for pleasing everyone again?

Branding this year’s crop of holiday gifts actually isn’t a bad move, so long as you do it in a way that is personalized and thoughtful for the recipient. You can subtly add your company logo to a gift that is useful for everyone, such as stationery or a planner, and add a handwritten note inside. Additionally, you can gift clients with bottles of wine (and send along nonalcoholic options, too) with a personalized label on the outside including your brand’s name and a “Happy Holidays!” sentiment.

‘Tis better to give than receive, as the saying goes, and the gifts that are remembered the most are always the ones that have a little heart and thought placed into them.

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