When a cancer diagnosis rocked their family’s world, Dani Gilseth, mother Dori Walter and aunt Aimee Hanson were amazed by the kindness and generosity they received from their community. Now they are paying it forward with Grateful Cratefulls, a personal gifting business with an inspiring mission.
What is Grateful Cratefulls?
Dani: “Grateful Cratefulls is a personal and business gifting service dedicated to inspiring gratitude, kindness and joy. We have our brick-and-mortar shop here on Sheyenne Street in West Fargo, as well as an online shop.”
How did you decide to start Grateful Cratefulls?
Aimee: “In February 2018, our brother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. There wasn’t anything we could do medically to help, but we realized that we could support him financially and emotionally. The three of us, plus a couple of other family members, got together and held a benefit for him. We were blown away by people’s generosity and support. Plus, we all loved working together so much that when the benefit was over, I pitched the idea of starting a business, something to give back and spread the kindness that we received. We opened our doors that July.”
Dori: “Grateful Cratefulls was our way of creating something positive out of a very sad time.”
So why personal and business gifting?
Dani: “Every business idea that we threw around had the same concept: whatever we do, we want to recognize the truly good, kind-to-the core people in our community. We realized that we could fill a void in our market for comfort items for occasions when that would be appropriate — say if someone was in the hospital, you could give them a blanket, a hug in a mug or some cozy socks. But Cratefulls are also a way to celebrate the highs in life: birthdays, anniversaries, retirements.”
Aimee: “And if someone is going through a difficult time medically, if they are going through something like cancer, we do have a selection process and we donate for silent auctions.”
How do you select the products that go into Cratefulls?
Dani: “Our focus is on regionally made, quality products backed by really good people with good stories. If we are going to put it in a gift for someone, we have to truly love the product.”
Aimee: “The blankets that we use are the type that our mom loved when she was in the hospital, so that’s a piece of our heart that we added in. Some of the bath items are from a company that donated to the benefit we held for our brother-in-law, so that’s another way for us to give back to the people who have shown us such kindness.”
Tell us about your ND Kind™️ line!
Aimee: “Because our business is rooted in kindness, we try to think of ways we can scatter kindness throughout the community. There is such a need to teach kids to be kind. Some kids don’t grow up with that message, so one of our goals was to get that message into schools. With our ND Kind™️ collection, a minimum of 10 percent of a school’s total sales will go back to the school in the form of kindness resources — books that teach the importance of kindness, lesson plans for teachers. The first school we worked with was Aurora Elementary. We sold almost 300 shirts, and in turn, we were able to donate $1,000 worth of resources back to them.”
What challenges did you face when starting your business?
Dani: “I came from an accounting background, Dori was pulled out of retirement and Aimee has been in business consulting roles. There was a challenge of deciding who was going to play what role in this business. There were also fears of, how are we going to get our name out in this community? Is it going to be an e-commerce business that we run out of our houses? Are we going to be able to afford a commercial space? Those were all challenges that we spent many, many late nights around my kitchen table discussing.”
Aimee: “Initially, we thought that Dani might take the business on full-time, and Dori and I would come in a few days a week. But it is every day, long days, for all of us. And we have grown so quickly. Last Christmas, after we had only been open for six months, we shipped out 500 Cratefulls to 32 different states. So that was a learning curve, with things like shipping and packaging. We’ve definitely learned a lot.”
Why do you love what you do?
Dori: “My favorite thing is giving back. When I do deliveries, I get to see the look on someone’s face when they are surprised. They have no idea something is coming.”
Dani: “I wish I could bottle up the joy and emotion that you see on someone’s face when they are unexpectedly gifted something so thoughtful and authentic.”
Aimee: “We had a little boy in the other day who had four open-heart surgeries. We didn’t know it, but we had donated a Cratefull to his benefit, and he and his mom and sister and brother came in to say thank you. We were so touched. It’s hard not to cry sometimes.”
Who is your hero? Why?
Aimee: “All of us will tell you our hero is our sister Deb. It was her husband who died of brain cancer, whose battle inspired us to start this business. Ten days before he died, Deb found out she had breast cancer, and she had a double mastectomy 10 days after her husband passed away. She is the most selfless, kindest, most gracious person you could ever meet. She tells us every day how grateful she is, despite it all. We model our kindness after her.”
What is the best career advice you have ever received or have to offer?
Dani: “Keep your eye on why you started and don’t lose track of that. If we ever lose our way, we look at a photo we have printed of all the women in our family and that hangs on the wall in our office. They are why we do all of this.”