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Real Life Planning Podcast Episode 31: The Philosophy of Business Gift Giving with Lucia E. Robles

Business Coaching

In Episode 31, I speak with executive chef turned entrepreneur, Lucia Robles of Lucia and Company, about the philosophy of gifting to clients and customers.

“...a really great professional gift to give is something that really is exciting to you and resonates with you. And I think in order to have that, you need to be really clear as to why you're giving the gift in the first place.” -Lucia E. Roblesx

This week on Real Life Planning Podcast:


How did Lucia get started? [00:02:23]


What is the philosophy of business gifting? [00:05:37]


What are the advantages of outsourcing business gifting? [00:08:07]


How can Lucia’s company help financial professionals? [00:15:51]


What is Lucia’s advice for budding entrepreneurs? [00:19:24]

Takeaway Quotes:

“...one of the mistakes people make is that they overthink it without realizing it.” - Lucia E. Robles

“...we create financial success by creating value for other people.” - Cynthia Meyer

“ With a financial advisor, there's a limit; there's a cap. They have to color within certain lines and so it's just really fun being able to help them connect with their clients and help them create that wow factor.” - Lucia E. Robles

Connect with Lucia E. Robles:

Connect with Cynthia Meyer:

About the Real Life Planning Podcast

Host Cynthia Meyer welcomes fascinating guests to share real life stories of how they are realizing their financial potential. Each episode explores practical, realistic steps to create results.

Transcript of Episode 31

[00:00:06] Cynthia Meyer: In business, would you ever consider outsourcing, giving gifts to clients and customers to somebody else? Welcome to the Real Life Planning Podcast. I'm Cynthia Meyer with Real Life Planning, and today we are talking to Lucia Robles of Lucia and Company.

[00:00:22] She is an executive chef turned entrepreneur, and we're here to talk to her today about the philosophy of gifting to clients and customers.

[00:00:32] Lucia, welcome to the Real Life Planning Podcast.

[00:00:34] Tell us a little bit about your story and how you got started in your business.

[00:00:40] Lucia E. Robles: So I got started as a hobby. I was between jobs and I was wanting to- I was looking for fulfillment and I wanted to do things a bit differently.

[00:00:51] The way I had been experiencing the restaurant and the chef and the food industry, wasn't exactly how I had envisioned it. And so I started my business as a hobby and little by little it evolved into a little bit of a business and then it just kept growing. And eventually, because at the time I was doing personal cheffing and catering. We eventually evolved that out and just focused on gift baskets, which turned into gift boxes, which is a lot of fun for me because it fulfills the need of playing with food. It fulfills the need of touching people's lives with food because I do believe there's a people food connection.

[00:01:28] I love presents. I love receiving presents. I love giving presents. It was a little bit of an unplanned surprise. But that's basically how we got started.

[00:01:36] Cynthia Meyer: Did you think when you first trained as a chef, because as I understand, you're a professionally trained chef, so when you went through culinary school, what did you originally think you were going to be doing?

[00:01:46] Lucia E. Robles: I thought I was going to be some rockstar pastry chef. That was what I had in mind. I remember sitting in my class and having one of our chef instructors say how many of you want to be caterers? How many of you want your own restaurant? How many of you want this? And people raising their hands. None of that really sounded very interesting to me. I thought I'm going to find a job working for somebody and I'm going to just be happy; getting my groove on with playing with sugar and making pastries and doing all that kind of stuff.

[00:02:13] So that was the original plan.

[00:02:14] Cynthia Meyer: If I understand correctly, you started your gifting business kind of as a side hustle. Like a lot of people start side businesses. How did you get the idea to do this and what are some of the things that you did to take action on that idea when you were first getting started?

[00:02:30] Lucia E. Robles: I got the idea because somebody asked me to make them a gift basket and I didn't want to say no. I never sat around and doodled out and thought, "Oh, you know what? I'm going to create a business and this is how it's going to go and this is the service we're going to do."

[00:02:42] I didn't start with that. I had literally one person ask me who knew I was a chef and knew I was catering and doing all these things, and he says can you make me a gift basket for my clients? And I was like, "Yeah, sure." And then I thought, I have no idea how to do that. And fortunately at the time, I was sharing a kitchen with somebody and that's exactly what she did.

[00:03:00] So she taught me how to make actual gift baskets where you anchor the items down and all that kind of stuff and it was fun! It was really fun. But with that, I also saw the limitations of the gift basket, and I noticed that a large portion of the money spent for the client goes into just the packaging materials. It's very little in terms of the contents because all of that costs a lot of money to produce. There's a lot of packing material to make sure that things arrive well and safely not broken. I wondered, is there a better way to do that where more of the money is spent on the contents versus the packaging itself?

[00:03:37] Cynthia Meyer: When did it first occur to you that this might be a complete career path? That you should devote yourself completely to your business as opposed to trying to go out and work for somebody else?

[00:03:49] Lucia E. Robles: I think it was just over time and realizing that side of my hobby - that side of the business was growing and it was taking interest and the other side wasn't as successful.

[00:04:02] So that was one of the things. And I really never wanted to do catering anyway, so it wasn't like I was living my dream and this pulled me away. This was just another avenue and I just- I noticed that the people that we were working with were all business owners. And that was really exciting to me. I just saw a lot of areas that other gift companies left a lot to be desired on the table. And I realized because of how this is getting set up, we could really serve people in a different way. It was just honestly, it was just over time and then I just thought, I think we have something here.

[00:04:32] Cynthia Meyer: Sure. So if you had to describe what you do for your clients or your customers with one word, what would you say that was?

[00:04:41] Lucia E. Robles: Wow. I would dwindle it down to wow. I've had many clients describe what we do and the gifts and the way that they're presented as the wow factor, right? And that's actually how some of the smallest gift boxes that we offer- the physically smaller ones came to be.

[00:04:56] We had a client that was looking for something smaller and said it would be really nice if instead of just by itself, we could get it in a gift box. We really want that wow factor. And I thought, "Wow! I never thought of it that way. That's a really great description."

[00:05:09] And it's funny because once he said it...

[00:05:11] Cynthia Meyer: That's so powerful.

[00:05:11] Lucia E. Robles: ...I heard other people using that descriptive- that adjective and I thought this is really cool that's an organic thing. So I'd say, wow.

[00:05:18] Cynthia Meyer: So talk to me a little bit about the philosophy of gifting because as a financial planner, for example, there's a lot of discussion in the financial planner community.

[00:05:26] Particularly, I'm a fee only financial planner with some regulations on how to show appreciation to clients. What are appropriate gifts around holidays and birthdays and things like that? How would you describe perfect professional gift?

[00:05:40] Lucia E. Robles: Perfect professional gift? That's kind of a tall order. I think a really great professional gift to give is something that really is exciting to you and resonates with you.

[00:05:50] And I think in order to have that, you need to be really clear as to why you're giving the gift in the first place. So, if this is a gift, it's always going to be a marketing piece because the money's coming out of the business account- out of the marketing dollars. So it needs to be treated like an investment.

[00:06:04] But beyond that is this, why are we giving this gift? Is it an onboarding gift to your firm? Is it a birthday gift? Is it a holiday gift? Like, why are we giving this? And 9 out of 10 times, the idea behind it is a personal touch. So, if it's going to be a personal gift, then we really have to look for something that's personal and I think one of the mistakes people make is that they overthink it without realizing it. And so they think, "Oh, if it's personal, then that must mean your initials are on it." That must mean it's got your name monogrammed on it. And that is a style of gifting, for sure. But I think it also, after a while, there's only so many of those gifts you can gift before it becomes overdone.

[00:06:46] Nobody wants their whole house monogrammed. Everywhere they go, to see their initials on everything. I know my name, I don't need that. So it, it really just depends on why you're giving the gift. So that just comes down to working with somebody that you enjoy working with. Somebody that actually understands your needs and can help you; finding a gift, like I said, that's exciting and resonates with you because when it does, it'll make more sense to your brand and it'll land a lot better with your clients because then they'll look at that and go, "Of course she sent that to me!" Not, " Oh my God, did you even know? Who would've thought?"

[00:07:17] You don't want it to be a stranger...

[00:07:19] Cynthia Meyer: I don't need that. I don't drink that. Or, oh my gosh, how'd you know I love dark chocolate or coffee or whatever? Yeah.

[00:07:25] So, Lucia, in my business, I often talk about how people are hands-on or hands-off real estate investors, right? Are they going in and doing it themselves or are they using a property manager or are they completely hands-off by investing through a syndication or something like that? And when I was looking through your website and the service offerings that you have, it struck me that you have that same offering to your clients. So people can tell you what they want. You can do it with them or you can do it for them.

[00:07:57] So talk to me a little bit about how you slice and dice that in your business and how you work with clients, and particular the ones who want you to help them choose and you to help them execute on a gifting purpose.

[00:08:12] Lucia E. Robles: To get that going, we have a whole system in place. So it becomes a very much, just walking them through a process and the idea behind that process is a high level of efficiency. So once we get things decided and predetermined, they can rock and roll and so can we. But it also needs to make sense to the client. So some people are not really wanting to do that. They're just wanting to order, like on demand. When they need something and they want to leave on card on file, and they just want to as things pop up, they want to do that and that's fine! Especially, if that's what's going to serve them best.

[00:08:46] For those clients that are looking to do things more consistently, it's a stressor because they're wanting to be consistent. They're wanting to reach out to their clients. They're wanting to connect with them, and maybe they're dropping some balls.

[00:08:57] Maybe they're not a hundred percent happy with what they're sending.

[00:09:00] Maybe in the back of their minds they're second guessing and thinking we probably could do it better. Who wants to send a gift to you, for example, for your birthday and say I could have probably sent her a better gift. Do you do that for your friends and your family?

[00:09:12] Do you do that during the holidays? Hopefully not. Hopefully not. And so, when somebody is having that kind of experience, I think that's probably a good time to really consider outsourcing it and really looking into who can help automate that process- who can help support that person in that process and what that looks like.

[00:09:31] Cynthia Meyer: Yeah, sure. I think it's really interesting that of course, I think many of us, we could do this for ourselves, but as business professionals it can be helpful to outsource something like that, right? And I can spend that time, for example, meeting with clients or finding new clients or producing content like this podcast, for example. This is a wonderful thing that people can outsource with comfort. I think is really great. Especially digital technology. Yeah.

[00:09:59] Lucia E. Robles: And I'm glad you brought that up because so many times we think about and we're all guilty of it. Something happens. You're like, " It's right here, I'll just do it myself. It's just so much faster." And maybe in a pinch that makes sense but that is a great point to make. And that is one of the things that we talk about to our clients. If you're spending five minutes every time there's an occurrence for a birthday and you've got 12 clients, that's an hour that you've spent in a month, in a year, every quarter, however often this is popping up for you. How much is your hour worth? Hopefully it's worth more than what you're paying your staff. I think because people don't feel that instant, like I had to pay for it. They think, "Oh, I'm saving money." But they're not, because it does take away from revenue generating activities.

[00:10:40] If you've got an assistant that you're saddling with this activity, with this task, is it taking away from something more valuable that they should be doing? I think it's worth exploring. Like I said, there's different companies. So, it's worth exploring.

[00:10:53] Cynthia Meyer: Tell me about a real problem that you've faced as your business has grown and what you did about it.

[00:11:00] Lucia E. Robles: There's- this is going to sound funny. Like any other business owner, there's something that pops up. There's always something. They're like dandelions. Some are bigger than others, and it's not any one thing like that...

[00:11:11] Cynthia Meyer: Obstacles are like dandelions. That's...

[00:11:13] Lucia E. Robles: They're like dandelions. They just pop up. Another one is whack-a-mole. As soon as one goes out, this other one- other one sprouts up and they're different sizes; different senses of urgency. I think it's about being nimble and being open to other ideas. I think it's really important to hire people that will bring ideas to the table and that come with their bag of tricks to work every day with solutions and are resourceful people. That's probably the best way to handle those kinds of things. I don't live in a silo. I don't work in a silo. I've got different advisors and professionals that we interact with as well.

[00:11:48] So, it's important to maintain those relationships because things do come up. It's not realistic to always think that you're going to come up with the answer. So that's kind of how we do that.

[00:11:58] Cynthia Meyer: How did your business change during the pandemic? I'm guessing that something like that might supercharge your business since you were working remotely, right? Were you working at a particular location or a kitchen or were you still bootstrapping your business? Like how did that go during the pandemic?

[00:12:13] Lucia E. Robles: It was really good for us to be very honest with you. It created a lock, stock, barrel captive audience because everybody was now basically forced to be online. So, where else were you going to go? For us, our business has continued to grow.

[00:12:28] We were always virtual. So we've never had a studio where people can come in and where they can look at examples of things or do tastings or that kind of thing. We're not a retail store. I remember before the pandemic, sometimes people kind of criticizing a little bit how come it's always a phone call with you?

[00:12:45] How come we can't meet for coffee? And it was like I'm trying to be a little bit more efficient with my time and I saw the value of working virtually. It's not that I never came out from behind my telephone; I did but I was very strategic and very planned with it. With the pandemic, it completely turned everybody on their head and all of a sudden people were discovering Zoom and were finally understanding I think, the value of being able to be mobile and nimble.

[00:13:13] Cynthia Meyer: So what's next for your business? If we were having this conversation 10 years from now and everything had worked out exactly the way that you wanted it to- what does that look like?

[00:13:24] Lucia E. Robles: Honestly right now what's next is just continuing with the growth. We are branching out and we are doing some micro stores for some RIAs which is really nice. Helping them as they recruit new FAs and as they continue to grow their practices and their businesses- to help them create a really nice seamless end-to-end experience for their FAs.

[00:13:43] Like I said, just continued growth.

[00:13:44] Cynthia Meyer: Ah. And now I'm asking this because I know you're in the LA area. Have you been on cooking shows or do you see yourself as somebody that could possibly promote your own brand through like cooking competitions or pastry competitions or something like that? Or is that not really your jam?

[00:14:02] Lucia E. Robles: Oh my gosh, that's a great question. I really haven't spent a ton of time on TV for that particular reason. I've done other things on tv. I'm trying to think- just recently actually entered a contest, but it was online for mac and cheese, or cheese and mac, however you want to pronounce it. Recipe contest. The last segment that was done was for a TV show called The List TV, where we did a little cooking segment. So those come up every now and then, but they're not- there's not a bunch of them, to be honest with you. I know it seems strange since I'm here in the heart of entertainment.

[00:14:31] Cynthia Meyer: As your business has grown what's the most important thing that you learned about yourself?

[00:14:36] Lucia E. Robles: Probably resilience. Just when you think, " Am I really resilient?" There's a whole new level that comes up. I think- and somebody said this and I absolutely agree, it is probably one of the best lessons in personal development that you can ever have because you learn so much about yourself from feedback, not just from your results, but feedback from the people around you. The people that you work with- clients and everybody else. I'd say probably the first thing would be resilience. And second thing is really being open and being willing to surrender to that because it becomes very easy to get in your own head. It becomes very easy to think, " I'll just do it myself. This is my brain child." So of course I have all these great ideas, which could be true. But again, as I'd said earlier, you don't necessarily have all the answers. So it's being open to that.

[00:15:21] Cynthia Meyer: I find it really interesting that you have a niche, if you will, you can help all sorts of people. But I think you found me originally because you helped other financial planners and financial advisors because there are some compliance regulations on the limits that you can spend to give gifts to your clients and customers.

[00:15:41] So how did that happen? How did you decide to go all in on serving that population of professionals?

[00:15:49] Lucia E. Robles: Honestly, they are a lot of fun to work with and I love the business. I love what you guys do and it's a totally underserved population. So as opposed to say an attorney or a real estate investor or just about anybody else. Outside of government agencies or people who work directly with government agencies, these other people can spend whatever they want. It's entirely up to them how much money is spent on a gift and what they do. With a financial advisor, there's a limit; there's a cap. They have to color within certain lines and so it's just really fun being able to help them connect with their clients and help them create that wow factor that we talked about and really help people connect and develop those relationships with a really great gift and help them color within the lines. 

[00:16:35] They're happy. We're happy. Much to their dismay, as we work together, they realize that we also can help them have more than one touch. They can have multiple touches with a client, which a lot of them at the heart of it really want to do, but don't see how that's possible because things get expensive. Things end up costing more than then I think- Not so much that they should, but I think it becomes more of a surprise. They're wanting to get flowers. They're wanting to get something in order to get something decent, they end up spending more and then they're done. They're capped out, and it's what can I get for 30 or 40 bucks?

[00:17:04] And so it's fun to be able to help them break that up and break it up into multiple touches and to be able to send out a really cool gift for them.

[00:17:11] Cynthia Meyer: So what would you say is the best piece of advice that you've ever received as a business owner?

[00:17:16] Lucia E. Robles: Best piece of advice. I'm trying to think. There's two comments that I'm rolling around with. One piece of advice is, to be a quick decider. And I think the other piece of advice is just to ask myself like how badly do you want it? Because I think sometimes, especially when we're bumping up against things and we're like, maybe I'm thinking to myself, I don't know, I'm hesitating. Then I gotta figure out, do I even really want this to begin with? And if I do really want it, how far am I willing to go to have what I want? I think that's one metric. In terms of deciding quickly, I think a lot of people can get into their heads; overthinking things and getting into, "Maybe I should talk to my partner about this? Maybe I should consult with so and so about this?"

[00:18:00] Second guessing themselves and we each have a really nice internal guidance system, better known as your intuition. If you're going to be successful and successful people do know how to trust their gut and part of that decision making process is utilizing that. It's important to do that.

[00:18:17] Cynthia Meyer: So what are you curious about right now?

[00:18:20] Lucia E. Robles: Oh my gosh. I'm curious about a lot of things.

[00:18:21] Cynthia Meyer: Yeah, like trying to learn about, or...

[00:18:24] Lucia E. Robles: I'm curious about all kinds of things. I'm curious about life. I know that sounds- I'm curious about other people. I'm curious about their stories.

[00:18:31] Cynthia Meyer: You're from California. I used to be from California. That's totally cool.

[00:18:34] Lucia E. Robles: I'm curious about their stories because I think everybody's got a story and it's worth hearing and it's worth telling. I think the more curious you are and the more you learn, the better off you are. You never know how that may serve you later. How that might enrich your life. But I believe it does. So I think it's important just to stay open and just to stay curious about everything. Even the thoughts in your own head.

[00:18:56] Cynthia Meyer: Yeah. Yes, that's right. To question the narrator, if you will.

[00:18:59] That's a good one. So Lucia, would you say are some of the qualities that you discovered in your yourself? That have helped you, basically, you created something from with it, right? Like you took these talents and skills and this idea that you had and you created a whole business out of it. Like a thriving business out of it.

[00:19:20] Lucia E. Robles: That's true.

[00:19:20] Cynthia Meyer: So if there's somebody listening or watching right now that has this little idea in their head and what if I tried this? What? What would you tell them to pay attention to?

[00:19:30] Lucia E. Robles: I would probably say pay attention to why do you want it and really map out what that idea really looks like. And I don't mean a business plan, but really think through what that really looks like. Okay, so if I have this idea, and so I'll make this widget or offer this service. Okay, so it'll be utilized this way, or it's designed to make so and so happy, or to make this easier. Try to sketch out a little bit of a story around it, I would think and then just go from there.

[00:19:57] It needs to make sense to that individual. It really does. It needs to be something that's really understood by them and something that's going to make them happy. So I think that's the most important piece is if you're going to create something then make sure you're creating something that's going to be happy and that you're going to be happy doing because what happens if you know your staff quits and you're by yourself? And you're the one making all the phone calls, or making deliveries, or offering the service or whatever it is that you're doing, you have to really think about is that something that's going to be worthwhile to pursue?

[00:20:28] Cynthia Meyer: Yeah. I really believe that we create financial success by creating value for other people. I don't think it's a zero sum game. That everybody can go out and make money at something or many somethings by using our own personal life experience to create some kind of product or transformation for somebody else. You know that you're creating value for people by taking this task off of people's plates who are super busy, who want to to maintain relationship touches but are having a hard time, like executing on that- on a really systematic way.

[00:21:00] I think that's super valuable and I could see you're going to make a lot of money at it.

[00:21:03] Lucia E. Robles: Thank you.

[00:21:04] Cynthia Meyer: So anything else before, before we finish up today? Anything else that you want to make sure you tell us?

[00:21:10] Lucia E. Robles: Oh gosh. I can't think of anything off the top of my head. Yeah, I can't think of anything off the top of my head.

[00:21:15] Cynthia Meyer: Lucia, where can we find you online?

[00:21:17] Lucia E. Robles: We've got our website, www.luciaandcompany.com.

[00:21:21] Cynthia Meyer: And social?

[00:21:22] Lucia E. Robles: Social. We're on LinkedIn. So we have a company page on LinkedIn. You can always find me as a person on LinkedIn, as well. We are on Instagram and on Facebook, as well. So we are on all the social platforms.

[00:21:32] Cynthia Meyer: All right. Fantastic. Thank you so much for this conversation today, and if anybody who's listening wants to hear more conversations 

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