Earnestly Co: A labor of love

Frustrated with the waste created by thoughtless gifts that end up in storage cabinets, junk drawers, and landfills, Emily Ashtiani launched Earnestly, a corporate gifting concierge.

Emily is a passionate champion for customer experience, which is one of the main reasons she decided to start her venture. Earnestly was born from Emily’s time leading a wide portfolio of initiatives within Deloitte Digital, at the intersection of best-in-class technology and empathetic, user-first design.

“After sending many gifts to clients and mentors during celebratory project milestones and holidays while working as a consultant,” she said, “I knew from experience how much help companies need when it comes to adding a personalized touch to their gifts.”

The solution is Earnestly. It functions as an all-in-one corporate gifting service that empowers busy leaders by helping them choose meaningful gifts that improve customer and employee retention rates.

Earnestly has been a labor of love for Ashtiani. She describes her business as “shopping for delight,” and she wants to help her clients – and those who receive the gifts – to feel a strong sense of joy and marvel in response to the gifts Ashtiani curates and sends.

Working on projects for which she has a personal affinity helps her understand the ethos of her clients, an important part of helping them choose high-impact gifts.

“Every engagement I decide to work on, whether it be rewarding pitch judges for volunteering their time or helping brides celebrate after selecting and signing their chosen wedding venue, I get to witness the recipient’s positive experiences and become a part of their story,” Ashtiani said.

One strong example of a previous client experiences comes in the form of LinguaeMundi, an international translation services firm based in Portugal. The company wanted to do something nice for their clients, and Earnestly worked closely with LinguaeMundi to tell their story with unique products from Portugal-based artisans, as well as hand-written notes with their branding and a personalized message. These gifts surprised and delighted their clients, and the owner even received a plethora of text and LinkedIn messages thanking him for the gesture.

There was another unexpected result too. When it was time to renew yearly contracts, the negotiated rates increased, and the working relationship between LinguaeMundi and their clients were better than before. They even hired Earnestly for another round of gifts to send their clients. At that point, Ashtiani knew she was doing something right.

On trend, Earnestly sources unique gifts from a network of small businesses, in addition to coordinating fulfillment and delivery for clients. Ashtiani has even found creative ways to work with her classmates and help uplift their ventures too—some of whom were former participants in the i.Lab incubator. “I was really excited to have multiple opportunities to source from and collaborate with past i.Lab participants such as Gretchen Pace (Goose & Willow), Elizabeth Blankenship (By Eilly), Liana Lei (La Foi), and Charity Dinko (NorthShea). It’s been really fun and energizing to work closely with these talented founders. The stories behind how they created their ventures and products are inspiring to not only myself, but to the recipients as well.” Ashtiani keeps a small, close-knit network to make sure every product is up to grade.

The most important thing Ashtiani learned through this process is the importance of a strong network and supportive mentors. She has met many people who have given her advice on sales, legal, and market strategy, to name a few things. Some of these mentors include Damon DeVito and Murry Pitts. Early supporters such as MJ Toms, Maggie Dodson, and Carolyn Miles were critical as well. Having this network available to assist her has been instrumental as she continues to grow Earnestly.

Ashtiani, a recent graduate of the full-time MBA program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, has enjoyed the journey of entrepreneurship. She started Earnestly during her second year at Darden, because she wanted to take the risk to find out what kind of value and impact she could create in the world. One of her recent clients, Damon Devito, says “Emily has already helped two of my businesses with projects that had been shelved or stuck because we don't have (or need) a director of gift giving. Earnestly serves that role for us and it's been so impactful that one of the gifts inspired a broader marketing campaign featuring women led startups."

The results were beyond Ashtiani’s initial projections. Earnestly’s booked revenue has increased by 150% over the past few months. Ashtiani is looking forward to servicing new clients and is excited to see how her venture continues to grow and take shape.

Earnestly offers free 30-minute consultations with prospective clients. You can find out more by visiting her website www.Earnestlyco.com or contact her at emily@earnestlyco.com