Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tales of Reinvention: Dana Ostomel

Dana Ostomel is the Chief Gifting Officer for Deposit a Gift, an online cash gift registry site
This innovative new web based business takes the concept of a bridal registry and expands it to almost any event. 

Dana left the Corporate world in late 2007 after nearly a decade developing integrated marketing solutions for major brands  including Snapple, Century 21 and Mastercard to found Deposit a Gift.

The gift registry site went live this past December to rave reviews. Here's what I learned from my conversation with Dana.

Did you choose to reinvent or did  it choose you?
It was really a combination of both. In November of 2007, two months before my wedding I was downsized. I tried to find some freelance positions but it seemed everyone was looking for permanent employees. I wasn't ready to go back. At one point I was offered a really good job that I seriously considered taking, but when I remembered it would be another office with beige walls that would require a suit every day, I turned it down. At the same time we lost the apartment we thought we were going to buy.  I had the idea for Deposit a Gift for awhile. In fact I acquired the URL for it in January 2006. I talked things over with my husband. We had no debt and no kids, plus the money from the apartment. We made the decision to go for it, live on his salary and for me to launch the business.

Tell me about Deposit a Gift. It sounds like an on line desire list  for any event from a birthday to a wedding.
Deposit a Gift is an on line cash gift registry. It takes the concept of a bridal registry and expands to almost any event that might require a gift, from a baby shower to a graduation, bar mitzvah or retirement party. Our clients get to customize their own website complete with an individual web address.  It allows their guests to step inside their world. It's interesting because when there is an activity listed, like a trip, they go first. It seems gift givers like the idea of giving  the gift of an experience. They can contribute cash in any amount towards the items our clients list. We made every effort to make it  easy to use and as transparent as possible.

Where did you get the idea for a cash gift registry?
The idea had been percolating for a while, but my own experience getting married informed my decisions. I heard comments from people, like all the good gifts were gone so we didn't know what to get you, or we saw you like that brand but the bowl was gone already so we got you something else they make. This eliminates that, plus gift givers can contribute to a trip or a new addition to the house if that is what the client desires.

How has your work and education experience prepared you for this?
Again, my own wedding gave me hands on experience. Plus my background in marketing and advertising have proved invaluable for the business side. I had never built a website, but I knew how to manage a project. My corporate job had taught me how to look big picture, but still manage the details.
I created my own mood board, a collage of what I wanted the site to look like that helped tremendously working with my web designer. Plus I'm a networker. I 've been networking my whole life. You have to be able to network to set out on your own. Connections are everything.

What has been the biggest surprise concerning your reinvention?
I didn't know how hard it was going to be.

What has been the biggest obstacle?
I had to work in secret until the site  launched. Not being able to discuss my project was hard.   I was redefining myself without a title. I had always had a title.

What has come the easiest?
The project management part. I'm a great multi-tasker.

Do you have any regrets?
No, I really love it!  Plus I am very fortunate to have my husband supporting me every step of the way. He grounds me and reminds me of all I have accomplished when I forget to recognize it.

What do you love most?
I like that all my work is for me and the business. I really love my lifestyle.

What do you miss most?
Before the launch I missed having a title. but it all helped me to grow without a structure and a chain of command to give me feedback. Maybe I miss the social aspect a bit. That's why I try to make a workout class in the middle of the day.

What are you most proud of?
The actual launch in November 2009. It took almost two years. A lot of people would have given up. My husband always reminds me of that.

What advice would you give others contemplating shaking up their lives?
Surround yourself with like minded people. You cannot be around people who are negative for the sake of it. Be tenacious, have a good work ethic, those are qualities that cannot be taught. Enable yourself. Use your resources. I am a big believer in the informational interview. Get others to share what they've learned. Make connections.

Creating a Deposit a Gift website and registry is free. There is a 7.5% service fee of the total gift purchase balance which the creator can decide who pays for. 

No comments: