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Online store sells personalized gift baskets

Photo: Dasha Shakov.

Dasha Shakov, a third-year marketing student at the University of Ottawa, is taking her business education to the next level—by starting her own online gift shop, called Parcelly.

“We offer personalized gift packages for all kinds of occasions,” she said. This includes life events like birthdays, weddings, even one for bad days—called ‘cheer up buttercup’.”

But before Parcelly could get off the ground, Shakov needed to find a business partner. Luckily she didn’t have to look too far. “Me and my mom started the company together,” said Shakov. “We’re always trying to pitch new ideas to each other.”

“It brought us together in a unique way, one that I never really thought would happen,” she said.

The idea for the company actually came while the two were putting together a care package for a friend living abroad.

“We were thinking ‘why isn’t there a service that allows for this?’” she said.

There are a number of very successful companies that sell curated packages through online stores, including companies like Quarterly and Birchbox.

But Shakov says these companies don’t provide personal gifts, a hole she wants to fill.

“The whole subscription box thing is pretty popular, but there’s not one that’s curated to special events,” said Shakov.

Shakov started building her company in May with a business plan, and hunting out suppliers.

They also worked on putting the site up early, along with a variety of social media accounts to broaden the site’s range.

After a summer of work the company was ready for action, and the online store went live on Oct. 1.“It’s doing well, better than I thought,” she said. “We’re selling between one and three a day, and our site is getting about 1,000 views a day.”

Shakov’s already had to contend with one obstacle many entrepreneurs don’t have to face—midterms. “It’s tough,” she said, “but it’s definitely doable.”

She also says that having a business partner—maternal or otherwise—was crucial in managing the workload. She also says doing all of the site’s construction and promotion during the summer made a big difference.

Despite the work, Shakov seems to have fallen into her new role as a student entrepreneur.

“I wasn’t really looking to be an entrepreneur, it kinda just happened,” she said. “It wasn’t something that I was specifically looking to do, but now that I’m doing it I love it.”