Chanda Torrey has worked in the non-profit sector for nearly 20 years, including the Peace Corps in Belize, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and most recently, the Red Cross as the Chief Development Officer. Being exhausted from working 12+ hour a day for years, she wanted to relax and leave work behind. Retirement was glorious for about 2 weeks and then she felt a longing for something more.
For nearly a decade, she wanted to start a website with unique gifts for those who have everything to assist those who struggle with knowing what to buy, but she didn’t have the time or energy to do it. Once she retired, she had the time but didn’t have the web development skills to do it, so she read as much as she could and dove headfirst into her dream to create Gifter World to feature unique gifts for those who have everything.
As CEO of Gifter World, she can now travel the world while working on her laptop. Chanda expanded her company to include a gift concierge. If you don’t find anything on her site, reach out to her with information about the recipient and she will personally find the perfect gift even if it isn’t from Gifter World.
Chanda loves travel and exploring new places so she has been to 49 states (Maine is on the list for the future) and visited nearly 40 Countries, and she plans on visiting many more to come. She currently resides in West Palm Beach, Florida with her husband and two bonus daughters.
Where did the idea for Gifter World come from?
For my whole life, I hated buying gifts for people because I would panic and not know what to get them. I would try to avoid going home for Christmas and even break up with boyfriends so I wouldn’t have to freak out. I often bought gifts for people and then would chicken out and not give it to them.
Then, about 10 years ago, I found a website that sold unique gifts and it occurred to me that I was just looking at gift-giving the wrong way. I was trying to find gifts that someone wanted or needed, but most adults just buy themselves whatever they want. Unfortunately, that website ended so I was back on my own.
By then, I understood how to find the perfect gift and actually enjoyed giving gifts. I wanted to start a website for people who were horrible gift-givers like I used to be, but I was too busy with work. So, when I retired last year, I decided it was time to follow my dream.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I work from home so it often means working in my pajamas for the first couple of hours of the day. I spend the day researching the best, unique gifts that have 4+ star reviews and I read the reviews to ensure they are legitimate before I consider adding them to my site. I enjoy working on my website, so I usually don’t need a lot of extra motivation to stay productive but I do force myself to take a lunch break every day to clear my head.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The first and most important thing I do is set a date. If I want to get something done, I set a date and work backwards to figure out what I need to do to make it happen. Somehow, setting a date tells your brain that it’s happening.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The pandemic has been horrible but the one positive thing that has come out of it is that people are learning to trust their staff to work from home. I think this will allow many people to work a more flexible schedule that works for them.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I force myself to take breaks and vacations in order to restore my body and refresh my brain. After allowing myself to ‘check out’ for a while, I always come back more productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Always negotiate for a higher salary. As women, we often take the first offer, but we can get so much more. Men are taught this at a young age, but women are not. Ask for a very high number, be comfortable going back and forth a couple of times, and when it is a number you agree on, tell them you will take it if they give you more vacation. It is uncomfortable at the time, but you will be happy when you have extra money to spend on vacation.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Hot sauce that makes you cry is the best kind and nobody can tell me otherwise. The hotter the better.
But on a deeper level, people are kind and everyone wants the same thing in life. If somebody does something bad, I truly believe they were doing their best. Maybe they don’t understand how to cope with something and that is their natural reaction or maybe they were never taught about communication. I don’t believe people try to be mean on purpose so I have compassion for them and try to understand the ‘why’.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think curiosity is most important for entrepreneurs. I am constantly thinking outside of the box to find unique gifts for Gifter World. I read articles to help spur my imagination in hopes that it will lead me to the perfect product. I want to learn as much as possible and curiosity helps with that.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I am extremely persistent. The first few months of starting my company didn’t go as well as I wanted, so it was a bit frustrating. I didn’t know about web development, so I had to learn as I went along, so some days I questioned if I was doing the right thing. But I never gave up and was able to push through in order to see success. The key is to never give up.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Years ago, I made a bad business deal and ended up losing out on about $50,000 that someone owed me. It hurt my bank account, my ego, and my heart. I didn’t understand how I could let that happen, so I had to look inside myself to see how it could have had a different outcome. I learned to be careful who I do business with and to make sure contracts are in order. It took me a couple of years to recover from it but the lessons I learned from it were invaluable.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In this day and age, people are getting away from cable and are having multiple movie streaming services which make it difficult to find something to watch and then switch between the services looking for something. I wish someone would figure out a way I can search for movies on my tv from all of my video streaming services in one spot so I don’t have to keep flipping from one to the other to find something.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My family and I had a color photoshoot during the quarantine and it was such fun. We would shout out a color and we all had to run around the house looking for something to wear and hold that was that color then we took a group picture with the camera on a timer. We had props like a leaf blower, fire extinguisher, umbrellas, and more. We did it for 9 colors, so I blew them all up to 8×10 and framed them for the wall. That day was hilarious and it continues to bring me joy every time I walk by the wall.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Dropbox is very handy when having a team work remotely. We can all save our documents in one place and I don’t have to search my email for it. My content writers are able to save the stories in it and I can pull it up to check it easily.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us explains that the secret to motivating your team is not about money incentives but rather about allowing them to be free to create. When we empower our staff, they will work harder and more passionately, so the secret is understanding how to do that. I always encourage my team to think outside of the box and come up with new solutions and give them the freedom to make mistakes along the way. Because of that, they are motivated to go the extra mile.
What is your favorite quote?
“There’s a popular belief amongst anthropologists that you must immerse yourself in an unfamiliar world in order to truly understand your own.” I’m not sure who said it because I heard it in a goofy romantic comedy movie so it might not even be a real quote but it resonated with me. I have lived abroad a couple of times in my life and those moments opened my eyes tremendously.
- Set a date to put your goals into motion.
- Give your team the freedom to be creative.
- Persistence pays off.
- Taking breaks helps to clear your mind for better productivity.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.