By: Francesca Cassola, Sophomore, Franklin & Marshall and KidBacker Intern
Meet Dasha Shakov, Co-Founder and CEO of Parcelly. Parcelly is an online store that allows you to send unique gift parcels to friends, family and loved ones based on specific occasions. I was very excited when I first learned about Parcelly because I think the idea is incredibly cool and useful, and I certainly can imagine using it to send to my friends and family. Many times, I have often thought about putting a care package together for a friend who may have just gone through a breakup, for example, but frankly, it’s incredibly time-consuming and while the thought was there, I simply never was able to make it happen. Parcelly solves this problem.
Dasha has a large universe of family and friends around the world, and because of this, frequently misses celebrations and special events. When she misses something, she usually creates and sends the person a care package. But, as an avid web user, Dasha was frustrated that she could not find a more efficient and creative way to send personalized care packages to loved ones regardless of their location using the web. So, like all entrepreneurs, she decided to solve this problem herself.
This past May, Dasha was able to turn her entrepreneurial dream into a reality when she and her mother created Parcelly. Dasha had to work hard to learn the ins and outs of starting a business because although she is majoring in business at college, she has not been taught specifically about entrepreneurship. Fortunately, Dasha’s hard work has paid off, and Parcelly will launch in October 2015. Dasha encourages other young entrepreneurs who have created products they feel could fit in a Parcelly box to contact Parcelly. Her passion is not just supporting her own entrepreneurial dream but the entrepreneurial dreams of other young people just like her.
I enjoyed talking to Dasha about her unique business idea and her experience in creating Parcelly.
KidBacker: What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
Dasha Shakov: Being an entrepreneur means being creative, passionate, and brave. It’s to believe in a dream so much that you’re willing to take risks to achieve it and stop at nothing to reach your goal. Entrepreneurship is a creative outlet that is extremely stimulating, exciting, and rewarding. The quote “Nobody said it would be easy. They just promised it would be worth it.” accurately defines entrepreneurship to me.
KB: Are your parents entrepreneurs?
DS: Up until recently I would have answered “no” to this question. However, when my mom and I came up with the idea for Parcelly, we embarked on an entrepreneurial journey together! On a side note: my mom is my best friend and I couldn’t have asked for a better business partner.
KB: What initiated the idea to start your business? What pain point do you solve?
DS: My family and friends are spread out all around the world so naturally I’m unable to attend a lot of celebrations like birthdays and weddings. When one of my friends is going through a rough time, like a breakup or a bad day, my first instinct is to make a care package. It’s so much more personal than a text message and it really shows that I care and I want to be there for them. One day, my mom and I were putting together a care package for some friends that live abroad, when I jokingly pitched the idea of starting a company that offers personalized, pre-packaged gift parcels for all kinds of occasions (with a celebration inside) to my mom. She loved it and the idea stuck. Our goal is to enable people around the world to effortlessly keep in touch with family and friends without distance being a huge issue.
KB: How did you fund your business?
DS: Fortunately, my dad was able to provide some start-up funds for us to be able to produce 6 themed Parcellys – the “It’s Yo Birthday”, the “Spoil Yourself Silly”, the “Cheer Up, Buttercup”, the “Getting Hitched” for brides as well as the “Help Me Get Hitched” for bridesmaids, and finally the “Love Stinks” for breakups.
KB: What were the biggest challenges you faced when launching your business? How did you overcome them?
DS: One of the biggest challenges that we faced was having to do so many new things at once in such a short time period. We wanted to get the business up and running during the summer since I will be returning for my third year of university in the fall. I had to build a website, design a logo, construct a Parcelly prototype, take photos for our social media pages, establish business partnerships with various companies, find unique items to include in each Parcelly… the list goes on! Also, we wanted to include as many Canadian products in the Parcellys as possible but this proved to be difficult since many of the products that really “fit” our brand are produced in the United States.
KB: What tools do you wish were available to you when you launched your business but weren’t?
DS: I really wish that I had some friends studying graphic design who could have helped me design a logo at no cost. Building the Parcelly logo with zero knowledge of Adobe Illustrator was pretty tough but we’re really happy with how the logo turned out. We kept the Parcelly pretty simple and sleek on the outside so that when someone opens it, there’s a surprise celly on the inside. We didn’t want the outside packaging to take away from the experience of opening the gift parcel and discovering 5 hand-picked “WOW!” items!
KB: How did you secure your first customers?
DS: This is a question that I’ll be able to answer in October, since that’s when the online store feature will launch. However, we have already established a pretty long mailing list. A lot of traffic comes from Facebook and Instagram, thanks to friends of mine who are actively sharing the Parcelly page. More traffic comes from social media thanks to the hashtags I use on Instagram to appeal to a certain audience who is looking for gifts or care packages.
KB: Do you have any mentors? If so, who? How do they help you? On what frequency?
DS: My mentor is definitely my mom. Does she have a business background? No. But her attention to detail and organizational skills are impeccable, which is very important for anyone who sets out to run a business. My mom and I teach each other new things every single day and it’s amazing how well we work together to achieve a common goal (and dream!)
KB: If you had three tips to give other young people who want to start their own business, what would they be?
DS: Start now and worry later! Have fun with it and be yourself. Don’t get discouraged. Keep hustling until you reach your goal!
KB: Why should young people consider becoming entrepreneurs?
DS: It’s extremely rewarding and every little achievement counts towards something! You learn so much and pick up so many new skills. Most of these are skills cannot be acquired by reading a textbook or attending a University lecture. They’re skills that are picked up through hands-on experiences and of course, through trial and error.
KB: Do you have anything you would like to add in closing?
DS: I would like to mention that we’re always looking for unique, “where’d-you-get-that” kind of items to include in Parcellys, so if any young entrepreneur thinks that their creations would be an awesome addition to our gift parcels, please give us a shout at email@example.com. If anyone is interested in our entrepreneurial journey, check us out on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, and visit our website www.parcelly.ca to sign up for the Parcelly newsletter! Can’t wait to celly with you all in October!
- Even if you major in business at college, you might never learn about entrepreneurship.
- A mentor for an entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily need to be an entrepreneur themselves, they just need to have qualities and skills that can be helpful. (I am learning that the best mentors are our moms!)
- Being an entrepreneur provides you with unique skills that you couldn’t acquire through anything else.
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Age: 3rd year marketing student at University of Ottawa
Business: Online Gift Shop
Mission: Connect loved ones through unique and meaningful gifts
Launched: October 2015
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