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Meet Mary Babiez of Thoughtful Presence in Niles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary Babiez.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Mary. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Owning a business was a lifelong dream of mine. I changed career paths a couple of times and wherever I landed, I always had the thought that I’d like to have my own business one day. After spending the last 15 years in ecommerce for United Airlines and Hyatt, I decided that my countless hours of work and energy would be better spent (and more fulfilling) owning my own business. So my husband and I began brainstorming the right type of business for both of us. While we knew I would be the first to quit my day job, we wanted the business to be a joint venture.

I have always loved selecting gifts and thinking up creative ways to wrap them. Crafting and design have been a passion my whole life. Combining that with my corporate background in marketing and ecommerce made it the perfect fit!

After considering everything from a coffee shop to a Bed &Breakfast to a senior concierge service, designing and selling gift baskets had all the right aspects to meet our goals, including the ability to start part-time while still in my corporate career. Most importantly, it was the perfect combination of my love of gift giving and passion for design.

Starting the business from the ground up and building it over the last 5 years has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It’s a constant challenge and a constant joy. And I have great ambition for what lies ahead.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I’m not sure any entrepreneur would say start-up is a smooth road as there are always challenges along the way. Unexpected obstacles are inevitable. Developing the operation was just as difficult as developing the product. Working through shipping, packaging logistics and other operational and product factors can result in unexpected challenges. Growing the business, getting the right exposure, and long work hours come with the territory, but persistence and determination has kept things moving in the right direction.

We also had an unexpected life event that required us to become family caregivers. This did impact the everyday operation, but I never considered choosing one over the other. Like any factor of business or life, you make adjustments and do your best within your realm.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Thoughtful Presence is a gift company specializing in hand designed arrangement of unique gifts within a basket or other functional container. We feature high quality, boutique style gifts combined with gourmet food products selected around a theme. We set our company apart by offering as many non-food gift basket designs as those with primarily gourmet items. The idea behind this is to create gift baskets with a collection of products that are equally useful and functional as they are beautiful and tasty. We select products based on quality, so the products in our gift baskets are not the typical products found in other gift baskets. We use a mix of products from local food and gift makers and well recognized brands, but never low quality or mass produced. All of the products we use are products we would give to our own family and friends.

When I initially researched the gift basket industry, I found much of the same thing offered by many different companies, and not truly themed products. So I wanted to create something that felt a little like a personal shopper did the gift selection, truly with the theme in mind, as opposed to what you find from a lot of drop shippers in the industry. One example is our World Travel Gift Basket, which is one of our most popular. It includes an RFID travel wallet, luggage tags, and travel journal, among other items useful when traveling. It comes packaged in a travel themed keepsake box, which is something you don’t see elsewhere. This past Christmas we shipped 40 of these around the country as a client/affiliate gift for a major resort company on the west coast.

We are also well known for customizing a gift basket or gift collection for a special theme, occasion, or personal interest. Our customer can pick and choose any products they like, including special order items not currently on our website. Last year we created a Tax Season Survival Basket for an accounting consulting firm where we special ordered Dammit Dolls, Blah Buttons, and custom designed cookies of a piggy bank. I have many examples of these special interest gifts. These are my favorite and those I am most proud of because we go to great lengths to exceed customer expectations, and they are always so grateful and pleased with the result. I love working with the clients and putting in the time to come up with the right gifts, which drives my husband crazy because my pricing is not based on hours. But I love providing the added personal attention.

Another stand-out feature of our business is our Chicago themed gift basket collection. We use locally made products and quality crafted Chicago themed gifts. I love to include artisan gourmet products from local companies to promote Chicago’s awesome food craft. Our Chicago Cubs themed gift baskets are especially popular right now.

What were you like growing up?
I am the youngest with three big brothers, so I was a little on the quiet side. But I was very into the arts. I started playing flute in 4th grade and still play today. I loved dancing, drawing, painting and crafts. I also discovered a love of writing in 7th grade!

I grew up in Chicago, Lincoln Park area, so definitely a Chicago girl through and through. I learned to ice skate on the Lincoln Park lagoon, and my dad raised us as avid Cub fans!

My husband and business partner, Ken, group up in Bucktown. We met just 12 years ago at a Ravinia Bodeans concert and discovered a lot of similarities including playing music, growing up in the city, and our love of the outdoors. Our vacations usually center around lots of trees, and either water or snow! He plays classical guitar and we have been known to perform together.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Rick Knuth

    June 8, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Way to go, Mary. Great to read about you and your business. I hope to see you at a cousins lunch one of these days.

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