Coffee with Sam: Dana Holmes, professional gift guru, on buying the perfect gift for the women in your life

I recently had the opportunity to have a virtual cup of coffee and chat with Dana Holmes, professional gift guru and hero of many lost givers.  What to do when you need that special something, but you just can figure out what that something IS?  We’ve all been there.  Dana, help us out!

Samantha Feuss—You have an interesting title as a gift connoisseur. How does one become an expert in gifting?

Dana Holmes—It has been an interesting journey for sure.  Being a Gift Guru is rooted in having a strong connection to people and a well-trained gut instinct that guides you.  That being said, training your gut instinct takes constant practice because trends and tastes are constantly changing.  I started my career by writing product descriptions for brands that were kicking off their dot com presence way back at the turn of the millennium.  Then, I transitioned into a product specialist who trained the show hosts & customer service reps at the Home Shopping Network on the latest trends, selling strategies and product details.  I then became a buyer where I wrote merchandising strategies and selected products based on specific demographics.  I learned a lot about matching up different people with the right product as a buyer.  Then I dabbled in writing local celebrity profiles for the newspaper which helped me learn even more about different types of people and what makes them tick.  Finally, I found my home at in 2006 where I have been honing my editorial and merchandising skills and helping people find the perfect gift for every person and occasion on their list.

SF—You help people choose gifts based on the giftee’s personality.  How do you do that without knowing them?

DH–It’s actually a lot easier to find the perfect gift as an objective outsider.  Once your personal connection and need for approval get involved, gift shopping gets stressful.  We created a quiz that takes common questions, ranks the answers, and reveals customized gift ideas to match their unique personality combination.  We rely a lot on what you know about the person you’re shopping for, but we try to make the questions fun and easy to answer so that you get the best gift ideas possible.

SF—Mother’s Day is right around the corner.  Most of us have mothers, grandmothers, wives, or girlfriends who are mothers.  Do you think that there is a good “go to” gift for Mother’s Day?  (Personally, I’m really over all the potted plants!)

DH—Flowers and plants are definitely a staple, but it’s hard to say that there is a one-size-fits-all Mother’s Day Gift.  I do have a few “go to”s that work for most moms though.  One of my personal “go to” gift is a SpaFinder Gift Certificate that can be used at over 7,000 spas worldwide.  Certificates start at $25 and the sky is the limit.  What mom doesn’t need some R&R?!  Also, who doesn’t like chocolate?

SF—So true.  And WAY better then a plant!  When the kids are young, dad often steps in to “help” them choose a Mother’s Day present, besides the fantastic macaroni art she is sure to receive.  Any advice for all those fantastic, helpful daddies out there?

DH—We love dads that get in on the gift giving!  There are a few things to ask yourself when shopping for Mom.  Tip #1: Listen.  Moms are great at dropping hints.  If she says she’s tired, let her sleep in and make breakfast…and clean up after breakfast too.  Tip #2: Think about how she spends her free time.  That can be a great starting point for your gift search.

SF—I always have the hardest time choosing a gift for my mom.  How would you help me pick the right gift for her?

DH—I would help you think of a few different and fun ways to find the perfect gift for your mom, or any mom.  Checking out our Stage of Mommyhood Guide helps you find an appropriate gift based on whether she’s a new mom to grandmom.  The Personality Quiz is a simple way to find a gift based on what you know about her.

SF—Depending on the person, I either love or hate buying gifts.  When they are really tough to buy for, I can wuss out and get a gift card, but hate doing that.  With Graduation season upon us (and Spring and early summer- which means lots of us are having anniversaries), how can we show our friends and loved ones that we really know them?

DH—The key to great gift giving is knowing yourself and knowing who you’re giving to.  If you know one thing about that person, completely go with that when shopping.  Don’t go out of bounds unless you are sharing one of your personal favorite products that you think everyone should have.  If you are closer to the person you’re shopping for, you have hopefully been listening to them talk about their dreams and frustrations and can give them a gift that reflects that.  If you’re unsure about a gift, it’s great to use your lifeline and call a close relative or friend of the person you’re shopping for to get a second opinion. Women generally prefer gifts that make them feel special by giving gifts that are stylish, creative or show off their success.

SF—What was your favorite gift you ever received?

DH—I know this probably sounds cheesy, but the best gift that I have ever received has to be my engagement ring.  I’m now married and the wedding ring is just as meaningful, but the surprise and the magic of being proposed to far outshines any other gift I have received so far.  Ask me again after I have my 1st child though…I have a feeling that will rank pretty high.

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