In The Media
HK People: Meet Monica Gounaropoulos
3 November, 2020 by Expat Living
Our series of online people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of individuals in Hong Kong. We spent 10 minutes with MONICA GOUNAROPOULOS to find out about her Greek background and to unmask her new gifting business.
Where are you from originally? What do you miss about it?
Well, ‘originally’ I’m from Greece – and in a lot of ways I am very Greek! I love to cook traditional Greek food, including the obligatory pulses every Monday; I love to feed people; and I pretty much believe that every word has originated from Greece!
But I moved to the UK when I was five, so a huge part of me feels British too, of course. I love London and miss it when I’m not there; I also feel like I’m ‘originally’ from the UK as it’s been my home for 33 years.
Tell us about your expat “trail”. When did you first come here? Where else have you lived?
I moved to Hong Kong last March with my husband, my then two-year-old daughter, and a six-month-old bump! It was an interesting time to relocate, to say the least! But we figured it was as good a time as any to experience living in a different country while the kids are young, so we tried to go with the flow…
I’ve always loved travelling and experiencing new cultures, but have never been brave enough to pack up and ship out to a different country before Hong Kong! It was definitely a leap for me as I’m inherently quite a homebody.
Is Hong Kong “home”?
For my kids who are so young, yes, this is ‘home’ … and I feel settled when they are settled, so in a roundabout way I guess it’s starting to feel like home! But there’s still a lot of Hong Kong I’m getting used to and discovering every day, so I often still feel like I’m on a journey.
What do you do here? Tell us about your business.
I’ve recently launched The Masked Gifter, a new gifting service that’s simple yet special. Offering a highly personalised service, I’m aiming to help people who are in gifting dilemmas. Whether they’re short on time or gift ideas, or they simply hate shopping (!), I provide them with a ‘personal shopper’ experience for gifting.
We all recognise that pre-planning for anything is always going to get you better results, and that’s the premise behind The Masked Gifter. While I do offer an expedited service for those forgotten, last-minute ‘Arghhh!’ occasions, the focus is more on planning your gifting needs in advance for the months ahead.
How does it work?
The process is simple: choose a Membership Gift Plan that works for you; complete a short form telling me about each of your lucky gift recipients; arrange a personal consultation via telephone to delve into your brief; then relax and leave the rest to The Masked Gifter!
I’ve adopted a five-step process (exploring gift concepts, curating, sourcing, wrapping, delivering) that allows me to expertly handle each stage of the journey to find the perfect gift that reflects the individuality of the recipient every time.
Plus, I offer an unbranded ‘discrete’ service for customers who want it to look like they’ve organised everything themselves (but better!)
Running alongside this, The Masked Gifter also provides a corporate gifting service that speaks more to my foundations. With years of experience working within the PR industry, I’ve honed my organisational, research and communication skills, while cementing the importance of impeccable execution with exceptional service. All these transferable skills help me ensure that every gift shines bright.
Give us an insight into a typical working day for you.
As my business is still so new, I don’t think I’ve plateaued to achieve a typical working day yet, as every day is so different! What’s a given is the mad rush to get my kids up, clothed, fed and out the door by 8am for nursery and school – it often feels like I’ve run a marathon yet it’s only 8.01am!
My work priorities shift between customer liaison, gift research and curation, mining new client opportunities, social media content development, website updates and SEO, marketing and promotions, vendor meetings, shopping, wrapping and delivering gifts… so, one day to the next is never the same! It’s a good thing for me and it keeps things fresh and keeps me energised to tackle the challenges that every new day brings.
What have been the surprises and challenges of doing business in HK?
I’ve had a lot of support from so many people in the HK community who have extended a hand to help in whichever way they can. It has really motivated me. From supportive vendors and suppliers, to professionals sharing their expertise or key contacts, right through to my mummy friends and my kids’ teachers who are helping to display my flyers, it really feels like a community spirit wanting me to succeed!
Launching this business in London would have seemed a lot more daunting for me – even though I’m so familiar with the workings of London. For some reason, Hong Kong seems more supportive of small start-ups.
A key challenge I face, which is probably shared by many expats, is the language barrier. I try to use local suppliers as much as possible – for example, with my branded wrapping options; but often it can seem like the process is made harder because I can’t speak Cantonese. Still, I’m navigating ways around it to make things work so hopefully this side will continue to become easier with time.
What neighbourhood do you live in, and why did you choose it?
We live very happily in Sai Ying Pun. When we were scouting out neighbourhoods to consider, SYP just stood out to us – it’s so close to Central yet not in the hustle and bustle, which for my kids I prefer. Plus, there’s enough to do in SYP to feel content with on a daily basis.
What are three things you like about your neighbourhood?
The wonderful and growing array of coffee shops; an eclectic mix of restaurants; and the waterfront at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park that provides a cool breeze on a warm day.
Describe your home to us.
Well, it’s small! But so are the majority of homes in Hong Kong; so, looking beyond that, it’s cosy! I’ve tried to create a welcoming environment that’s both comfortable for the kids to play in, yet calming for adults once the kids have gone to bed and there is finally some peace!
After a long day, I like to close my living room curtains to block out the highrises, light a Jo Malone candle (which I saved unlit for ages just to look at, but then finally decided to bite the bullet and actually light it!) and reflect on the day’s activity.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
Shopping! Hence starting my gifting service as it’s never a chore for me to shop!
I love to unwind with some ‘me time’ whenever I get the chance. For me, there’s nothing better than an amazing facial or mani to make me feel human again!
Last but definitely not least is socialising with close friends. I’ve been lucky to forge some great friendships in Hong Kong, perfect for guaranteed giggles and pick-me-ups if I’ve had a long day.
Quick questions about Hong Kong: what is your favourite …
- Casual restaurant? 11 Westside.
- Date night restaurant? Bedu.
- Bar? Shhhh… Room 309.
- Local food? A prawn dumpling noodle soup shop on Queen’s Road West by Centre Street (I never know its name but it’s so darn good and amazingly priced!).
- Thing to do with visitors? The skyline from the TST side at night is a must.
- Thing to do with kids? Anything and everything now COVID restrictions have eased a little! At a push to choose one thing: Ryze Trampoline Park.
- Nearby holiday destination? Thailand is always a winner for me; despite having been six times already, I never tire of it.
11 perfect gifts for every kind of Christmas persona
BY THE MASKED GIFTER SPONSORED | 3 NOVEMBER 2020
It’s been a long, long year, but Christmas is finally around the corner. Perhaps this time around, the annual Christmas presents are more important than ever as everyone can use some encouragement, a dab of familiar festive goodwill in unfamiliar times. However, gifting is a tricky business—one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure. That’s why our guide is here to help you! Read on to find out which Christmas persona your friends and family fall under, and what to get them.
1. The Grinch
Let’s face it: We all have that one friend who just hates Christmas for whatever inconceivable reason. Maybe it’s the noise and festivity, an undue dose of cynicism, or perhaps they’re just born grumpy. Even so, this doesn’t change our love for them.
Show the tough nut some warmth this season by gifting them a pair of the new Bose QuietComfort earbuds to shut out any rowdy merry-making on the streets—their weather-resistant technology makes them perfect for Hong Kong’s humid climate, too. If your friend is a Grinch of the nerdy variety, order them the 12 Terrors of Christmas by John Updike to treat them to some amusing escapism. Finally, all Grinches out there could do with a Toasst wine club subscription to toast to a better year ahead (or just drink their sorrows away).
2. The Whovillian
On the other side of the spectrum is the starry-eyed Whovillian, the antithesis of the Christmas-hating Grinch—you know, the people who put up all their Christmas decorations by 1 November in eager anticipation of Yuletide. Humour the Whovillians and gift them a set of classic Hong Kong-themed hanging decorations from Lion Rock Press, featuring the iconic Star Ferry, the tram, and more. An aromatic 10-litre box of mulled wine from Bauer is always welcome as well. Let the smell of Christmas accompany them before the special day is due!
3. The jet-setter
We’re sorry that all the globe-trotters out there have to stay home this year. But that means that for once, they’re actually going to be here for you to give them their presents in person! Satiate your friend’s wanderlust by putting together a country-themed gift basket. Are they an Italophile? Head to an Italian deli in your area, or shop online (i.e. at Simply Fresh) for the goods and have them delivered straight to your door before you wrap them into a hamper. For something they can use for years to come, treat the jet-setters to a copy of the Lonely Planet’s visually stunning Ultimate Travel List 2: The Best Places on the Planet... Ranked so that they can plan where to go once travel restrictions are lifted.
4. The party host
To the party host, Christmas means family. This could be extended family or even just good friends, but the party host feels obliged to gather everyone together for a splendid Christmas party. Applaud their efforts with a classy and simple Christmas-themed embroidered dinner napkin set from Mark & Graham, taking their Christmas dinner game to the next level. After dinner, it’s time for some fun family bonding games. Turn the house into a family-friendly escape room adventure with the Trapped: Escape Room Game Pack your party host would be sure to love you for.
5. The once-a-year auntie
Lastly, there’s always that distant relative you only see once a year, but good manners demand a material token of love. Give them a dainty small cheese board set from Franc Franc along with a small selection of cheeses. Even if so-and-so auntie’s already got a cheeseboard, the cost-effective yet chic gift can be easily repurposed to serve other morsels. Add a splash of colour with a small Poinsettia plant, and auntie’s sure to remember you forever.
Perhaps your loved one fits none of the personas above, or maybe you’re looking for something even more personalised. You might even have the perfect gifts in mind, but you just don’t have the time to hunt all of them down. If only there was something—or rather, someone—that could take care of all your present-shopping needs.
Enter The Masked Gifter, a bespoke gifting service based in Hong Kong. Simply tell them your budget and a few traits about the gift recipient, and they’ll find the perfect gift for your special one. From curating and sourcing, to wrapping and delivery, their highly personalised service has got it all planned out! If you want it to look like you did everything yourself, you can also ask for their discreet unbranded service option, too (we won’t tell!).
Seeing as Christmas is coming, the good folks at The Masked Gifter have prepared a gift for you, too. Starting from 1 November until 25 December 2020, get an extra free gift service—to be used within three months—upon purchasing any one of their gift membership plans. Get a head start and plan your gifting today!
Healthy Gift Hampers For The Health Nut On Your Christmas List
BY Liv Magazine | 14 NOVEMBER 2020
THE MASKED GIFTER
This newly launched personal gifting service takes the guesswork out of the process entirely, by handing gift selection and procurement off to a team of specialised gifting experts. Simply answer a few questions about who you’re buying for, what the budget is, and what the recipient is into, and the knowledgeable staff will throw together a festive and healthy gift hamper for you that’s sure to impress.
Gift plans start at $150/per month for a 12-month subscription, plus the cost of gift, visit themaskedgifter.com.
A Rescue for Gifting Dilemmas!
New Bespoke Gifting Service Promises to Expertly Handle Every Step of the Gifting Process
14 September, 2020 – Hong Kong: The Masked Gifter, a new bespoke gifting service launches today in Hong Kong aiming to help people in gifting dilemmas! The highly personalised service strives to get people planning in advance of important occasions, to avoid the inevitable last minute rush and stress! The gifting expertise on offer is also a welcomed service for those who may be lacking in unique, personal or fun gift ideas. By adopting a five-step process (exploring gift concepts; curating; sourcing; wrapping; delivering), The Masked Gifter expertly handles each stage of the journey to find the perfect gift, every time – so customers can rest easy that their gifting needs are in safe hands.
“The Masked Gifter is an exciting concept for the Hong Kong market,” comments Founder Monica Gounaropoulos. “Many find gift buying challenging, whether they are short on time, ideas or simply hate shopping! This new service makes the whole process simple as we take care of every step – but in a personalised way so it’s a special experience.
Some ‘off-the-shelf’ gift pack options available on the market do serve a purpose but can often be seen as quite impersonal, which to us defeats the purpose of gifting! Gifting should be considered… something that’s personal to the receiver, and which represents thought, love and care from the gifter. The Masked Gifter becomes your ‘personal shopper’ for gifts; we take the time to get to know each and every gift recipient - their likes, dislikes and personality - so we can come up with the perfect gift that’s truly right for them.”
Advance Gift Planning with Smart Scheduling System
Via the newly launched website www.themaskedgifter.com customers can choose between a three, six or nine Gift Plan membership. The Gift Plans are valid for 12 months, so customers can pre-plan their gifting needs for the year ahead and become super organised! By making a little effort at the start of the process to map out their gifting needs and recipient specifications, the customer can then sit back and relax in the knowledge that The Masked Gifter will expertly handle the rest.
Using a Smart Scheduling System, the customer receives a series of automated updates throughout the gifting process – to ensure they are aware off the progress, as well as reminders to never again forget an important occasion.
Furthermore, The Masked Gifter’s service fee is split into easy monthly payments throughout the 12 month period so customers can avoid an upfront bulk charge.
Five-Step Bespoke Gifting Process
The Masked Gifter has devised a Five-Step Process to expertly handle each stage of the gifting journey:
Explore: Upon signing up to the service, the customer completes a short Gift Recipient Form which details their gifting needs – the gift recipient’s statistics, likes / dislikes / hobbies; the occasion and timeframe to be planned for; and the gift budget. The Masked Gifter then arranges a short personal consultation call to deep-dive into the brief, providing a personalised service. The gifting process is kick-started by exploring gift concepts and researching the latest trends to identify a long-list of options that tick the customer’s boxes
Curate: After much thought and deliberation, The Masked Gifter consolidates the research and curates the best options to match the brief. They provide the customer with up to five gift options to choose from
Source: Once the customer has selected their chosen gift, The Masked Gifter does the leg work! They source the gift on the customer’s behalf, and wherever possible, buy locally to support the unique array of independents in Hong Kong. Depending on the customer’s gifting needs however, gifts can also be sourced internationally for those extra special occasions
Wrap: First impressions are crucial, and that stands true for gifting! The Masked Gifter takes the time to expertly prepare the gift to create a thing of beauty, either using The Masked Gifter branded wrapping or unbranded wrapping depending on the customer’s preference. Images of the final gift before and after wrapping are also documented for the customer, so they’re aware of exactly what their gift recipient will receive
Deliver: In the final step, the gift is securely packaged in preparation for delivery. The customer can rest easy in the knowledge that their gift will reach its destination in time for the special occasion
For customers who want it to look like they’ve organised each step of the gifting process themselves (and gain extra credit from their gift recipient!), The Masked Gifter offers a seamless, ‘discrete’ service which is anonymous and uses unbranded wrapping options.
Corporate Gifting Offering
Running in parallel to the consumer offering, The Masked Gifter also services corporates with a bespoke gifting service which can support many remits – from employee motivation; celebrating a milestone; creating noise around an announcement or new launch; right through to client relationship building and retention, to name a few.
The Masked Gifter's foundations lie in years of experience working within the PR industry. This backdrop has afforded the founder first-hand insights on the multifaceted benefits of corporate gifting, whilst cementing the importance of impeccable execution with exceptional service.
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