Leeatt Rothschild has always had a desire to give back throughout her life. In 2002, she immersed herself in community as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay. During her time there, she helped launch an income-generating fertilizer business with local farmers, proving out the positive impact that economic development can have on the lives of individuals in underdeveloped communities.
This experience could have taken her in several directions, but for Leeatt, she wanted to take her skills and knowledge beyond the non-profit world and it solidified her focus on a business-for-good model. Business school was the next natural step, where she added marketing and strategy skills, and furthered her growth as a business leader.
Post-MBA, she worked in social impact consulting for Fortune 500 companies, helping their corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams better invest their marketing and CSR funds to have both a business and societal impact.
Then it t dawned on her. When holiday season came around, heaps of corporate gifts started piling up in the office. But there was something missing. Why was it that companies who are so eager to do good wind up with a typical corporate gift void of any social impact? It was the aha moment she needed, a recognition that there must be a better gift of gratitude.
Set on curating a more impactful gift, Leeatt founded Packed with Purpose, which takes products from various organizations and tells their story of impact, thereby creating a more powerful gifting experience. A Packed with Purpose gift box could contain candles made by young mothers who are survivors of abuse, or dried fruit snacks that support organic farming practices and job creation.
We were able to sit down with Leeatt and talk more about her background, growing her company, and insights around corporate impact.
While doing consulting for Fortune 500 companies on social impact, what did you find makes a strong strategy for social impact? And what doesn’t work?
A strong strategy for social impact is one where corporations align the primary causes they support directly with what the company does. The social issues that a company supports should make sense to its employees, shareholders, and most importantly, customers.
In other words, the framework has to align with your company’s core business and values. Otherwise, the authenticity and impact won’t be embraced, visible or impactful.
A great example of this I’ve seen is UPS. They started this unique initiative that supports efforts against human trafficking. UPS has trained its drivers on how to spot signs of sex trafficking and what to do once they do. This is not only impactful, but it uniquely fits UPS’s mission, because their freight drivers are on the frontlines during deliveries.
Companies that have been around for a long time often have a clear passion to give back, and they do with donations. However, donations don’t translate well to the strategic framework of a company’s outreach.
It’s more important than ever that companies take a stand on social issues that directly affect and impact the company’s core values in an authentic way. Companies and business leaders that thoughtfully align their CSR programs with their core values will have more impactful results, collaboration from their stakeholders, and an easier time benchmarking the success of the program.
What was one of the biggest challenges in the process of starting Packed with Purpose and how did you overcome it?
In all honesty, the challenge wasn’t starting Packed with Purpose because I believed it was going to be a success. The real challenge came as we grew. Dozens of customers and product SKUs turned into hundreds, and the challenge is keeping up with that growth and thoughtfully innovating to bring solutions to keep customers happy as your volume increases exponentially. This is something we’ve experienced a lot through our significant growth. In the past three years, our revenue has grown by 8555% and our client base has increased by 3342%.
My advice is, yes, you need to know there are challenges. But if you’re convinced that there’s an opportunity, seize it. Once you do, your clients, partners, employees, and experience will tell you what works. Actively listen to, and take action on, their feedback.The real challenge is maintaining that growth and continuing to innovate along the way.
You doubled your revenues year-over-year for Packed with Purpose. What are some of the top contributing factors to that growth?
One of the major factors contributing to that growth is listening to what our customers want. Everything from the types of gifts, the prices, products, and occasions our customers are shopping for — we listen extremely closely to what they want and how our offerings and services can improve.
One example of how we’ve listened to customers is navigating how to gather customer and client home addresses to send gifts. Since most people are working remotely, asking for a client or prospect’s home address is more sensitive than getting the address of their office. That’s why we’re working to help our customers gather that information in a more private and turn-key manner.
It has been valuable for us to not just listen to our customers, but gain insight into our larger target market. We just conducted a market research study of the types of business gifts people find most valuable, and which are less impactful. The results, published in our 2020 Business Gifting Report, show that people want gifts that are 1) memorable, and 2) have a positive social impact.
It’s crucial to our business growth that we are constantly listening to customer requests, hurdles, and gaining insights on what the larger market values in order to make the gifting experience that much smoother and more meaningful.
You’re a for-profit, for-good company. We are too! Could you talk a bit about how you think about that structure in conjunction with the social impact you’re trying to achieve?
I always say if our company isn’t successful we can’t be a social impact company. We have to deliver exceptional gifts, when and where customers want. We must flawlessly delight our customers and their gift recipients. Assuming we do that well we can then bask in the joy of also doing good. It is an honor to create impact day in and day out by virtue of the fact that our gifts create a social impact.
What did you feel were the most useful parts of your MBA experience and how has it helped where you are today?
The everyday problem-solving of different cases with fellow students, and simulating the real world work of collaborating across teams and functions. This meant I was working through advertising, marketing, and various parts of the business to drive company’s success.
One of my biggest takeaways was that you don’t need to be an expert in everything to be a good leader. You need to know enough to ask critical questions, understand the gaps in your knowledge and honestly know your strengths and weaknesses.
The MBA experience is about opening yourself up and learning that you don’t have to have all of the answers on your own. If you’ve dabbled enough, you start to know what you don’t know and that makes room for growth and collaboration with a team, who can fill in your gaps.
You spent some time on Easter Island studying Female Entrepreneurship. What did this entail and how was the experience?
While in school for my MBA I was enrolled in a dual program to obtain my Masters degree in international studies from the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. Participants in the program are deeply interested in global and business affairs, have all lived abroad, and speak other languages fluently.
There was a unique opportunity through this program that allowed me to participate in the Goldman Sachs ‘10,000 Women’ initiative. The initiative provides 10,000 women across the globe with practical business and management education. As a Lauder Institute student, I was able to write a case study about two incredible female entrepreneurs in Costa Rica and Easter Island.
I traveled to and researched an inspiring entrepreneur on Easter Island who was preserving the indigenous language of her community through comic books. A truly fascinating application of business principles and cultural preservation.
Leeatt Rothschild has over 15 years of experience at the intersection of business, sustainability, and brand purpose. In 2016 she founded Packed with Purpose, a corporate gifting company that embeds social impact into the everyday act of gift-giving, from empowering underserved women with job skills to supporting sustainability efforts. Packed with Purpose gifts enable companies (from Fortune 500 to nonprofit organizations) to create societal impact while positively influencing their business across employees, clients and other key stakeholders.