Wild Thing: Giving the Perfect Gift
Think back. During your life, have you ever received a gift that really touched your heart? One that showed the giver thought about what would make you the most happy? Wouldn’t it be nice to do that with all the gifts you give in your life, even the ones you send to your clients, distant relatives or neighbors down the street? But who has the time to do such investigation?
Lisa LoVullo, owner of Wild Thing in Eastport, does. She makes a living out of finding just the right gift or floral arrangement to put the biggest smile on a recipient’s face.
“I just think when people get a gift, they should say, ‘Wow,’” Lisa says.
Lisa helps people give on all sorts of levels, from simply sending flowers to a friend to decorating events to businesses trying to woo a client or show appreciation to a hardworking employee.
“If you take the time to acknowledge the people who work for you, it comes back to you tenfold,” she says. “And when it comes to business, you can’t afford to not do it because your competitors are doing it.”
But Lisa also realizes not everyone can afford to send flowers to every client multiple times a year. Therefore, she uses her background in business strategy to help businesses come up with a budget that adds a little planning to the act of giving.
“We come up with a financial plan that will spread the gifts throughout the year and balance referral gifts with client appreciation gifts,” she says. “People will notice a gift more that is sent at random times, rather than just the typical food basket sent around the holidays. And by putting just a little thought into that gift, such as giving a golfer an arrangement that includes golf balls, it becomes a gift that the recipient will never forget and distinguishes you from your competitors.”
Her idea seems to be working, as the number, and type, of her clients are becoming larger and more diverse.
“I work with financial firms, banks, caterers, dental offices, realtors, specialty doctors, lawyers, hotels,” she says. “Soon, we will open a specialty gardening center in the backyard of our store, offering supplies and accessories for container gardens.”
Sandra K. Alan, Vice President of Development for Hospice of the Chesapeake, says she goes to Lisa because Lisa gets to know her clients personally, learns their taste and “always goes above and beyond to make her florals and gift baskets unique.”
“For a recent open house at Hospice of the Chesapeake, her banquet table arrangements stole the show,” Sandra says. “Who would have thought to add artichokes and seeded eucalyptus to an arrangement? But they were fabulous. Lisa says the right gift gets remembered, and it does. She and her staff go the extra mile to ensure their clients’ gifts—whether floral arrangements or gift baskets—fit the occasion perfectly.”
The enjoyment of giving is something Lisa discovered at a very early age, growing up in Baltimore.
“I’ve always loved giving people gifts,” she says. “I’ve always made flower arrangements or elaborate gift presentations and people always said I should do it for a living. I used to joke to my boss on particularly stressful days that I was going to quit and open a flower shop. But I was completely kidding!”
One day, a neighbor called her bluff. “She handed me $50 and said, ‘Go buy my secretary a present and just start a business, will you?’” Lisa remembers.
And that was that. Lisa opened Wild Thing in her home in 2001, using every bit of business knowledge she had collected up until then.
Lisa initially thought she wanted to be a writer, studying political journalism and English at Cedar Crest College. “I was always reading and writing and I always loved to travel,” she says. “Of course, when I was little, I didn’t do much traveling. I just read books and pretended.”
Despite her love of writing, she discovered she didn’t love being a reporter. “I didn’t like asking people questions—it seemed rude,” she says.
Uncertain what to do next, she followed another passion she discovered in college and went to Johns Hopkins University to study bioethics, or the ethical consideration of medicine. Her passion for travel and other countries then led her to the U.S. Peace Corps as a volunteer chief librarian and documentation officer. Stationed at the Ministry of Health in Malawi, Africa, her many tasks included developing a central medical library with 23 library branches, securing grant money, and partnering with foreign governments and organizations to address existing and emerging public health crises such as HIV and AIDS.
Lisa then went on to serve as the health sciences librarian at Pennsylvania State University, the library director at St. George’s University’s School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies, and the outreach coordinator for the Southeastern and Atlantic Region of the National Library of Medicine’s National Network of Libraries of Medicine.
“When describing what I did for these organizations, it sounded like a lot but it was so easy after the Peace Corps,” Lisa says. “I had all the supplies, a staff... I had everything I needed to do my job.”
She eventually found her way back to journalism in 1993, when she was hired to be the library director for the Baltimore Sun and eventually the director of electronic news and information services. By the end of her career at the Sun, she was director of business planning and new business development.
“It was nice because I had come full circle in my life,” she says.
As with most dream jobs, though, her job at the Sun came with a price—one that eventually became too much for her.
“I was working too many hours,” she says. “I had to get out because I wanted to spend more time with my son.”
She opened her business in her home at first, but soon became overwhelmed and moved it to Fourth Street in Eastport, the community in which she also now lives.
“I come from the city, so I feel at home in Eastport,” she says. “There aren’t the cookie cutter homes in Eastport. Businesses are located next to homes. The community has just the kind of eclectic and diverse population that I like.”
Like many small business owners in Annapolis, Lisa does not want her business to grow so big that it takes over her life. She wants to ensure she still has time to spend sailing, kayaking, riding bikes and traveling with her family, especially her 12-year-old son, Drew.
“I love what I do and I’m content,” she says. “I don’t want to turn Wild Thing into some mega-company. I want to be able to lock the door but still make people happy. No one is in a bad mood when they are buying or receiving flowers.”