By Robbie Kaye
Maryann Christiansen is a Santa Ynez Valley native, and she is one of the friendliest people in town.
Her energy is always contagiously vibrant, and she is a talented entrepreneur who curates local products at her new business, S.Y. Valley Gifts & Co.
LOV: Did you ever feel like leaving the valley?
No. I never felt a strong urge to leave. This has always felt like home and I always imagined settling down here and raising a family of my own one day, hopefully very soon!
Where else do you work?
I work at Heaven Scent boutique in Santa Ynez for my dear friend, Maggie Winther. I have helped her on and off since she first opened her business over 10 years ago. I feel the retail world has always been my calling, which is why I have started and recently launched my own business, S.Y. Valley Gifts & Co.
What attracted you to starting your company?
I have always felt a great desire to own my own business. Knowing that I wanted to remain here in the valley, it wasn’t easy to pursue such a dream until just recently when I discovered the potential of a gifting service featuring local artisan goods.
This valley is full of so many amazing products made by true local artisans. … I felt there is a great need to showcase such items all together to support and experience the best of what the Santa Ynez Valley has to offer.
The business is a gift box company in which we feature all local wines and goods, mostly from the Santa Ynez Valley, with some items from other Central Coast regions. Our goal is to support these small local businesses and highlight them in our gifts in order to promote them and our beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Customers can choose from a selection of already curated gift ideas or they can customize a gift.
What makes your business partnership work?
My business partner, Sarah Gasch, is also my best friend. We have grown up together in this valley since the age of 7, and have remained great friends throughout that time. She really is more like a sister, which is why I didn’t hesitate to ask for her involvement in this … dream of mine.
What are some of the hurdles you had to overcome?
Luckily, I didn’t face too many hurdles. Perhaps the greatest challenge I faced was acquiring the appropriate wine license for the business. It took more time than I anticipated.
Did you find that people were supportive?
Extremely. I feel very fortunate to have such a positive support system in my family and close friends, as well as this community.
What is your long-term goal for the company? Or for your life in general?
Long term, I would love to see this company grow, as well as the businesses I work with. I would love to have a retail store front for this company. With those goals in mind, I would also like to find a way to give back to this community. As for my personal goal, I would like to be successful, which in my mind means finding happiness in everything I do.
What do you do for fun?
I love to stay active, whether it’s working out at the gym, playing tennis or hiking. I also love to go out to eat. Our valley has some of the best eateries around, and I love to enjoy a great meal with family or close friends and make a night of it.
What is your advice to other women who want to start their own business?
Just go for it! You have to take a leap of faith sometimes. It can be a scary thing to do but if you don’t try, then you will never know. I think that goes for a lot of things in life.
How do you balance your work life with the rest of your life?
Sometimes it seems a little overwhelming, but somehow I manage. I make sure to set aside time for both myself and for family and friends.
Where do you go for comfort or solitude?
My daily workouts bring me solace, whether it’s working out in the gym or taking a hike outdoors.
Without a storefront, how do people find your company?
Anyone can find our product online at www.syvalleygifts.com. Through our website, you can view our gift boxes and the inventory of products we have to offer, and from there contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
Robbie Kaye is a photographer, fine artist and author of “Beauty and Wisdom” and “Ladies of the Valley” documentary. Her work can be seen at www.robbiekaye.com and @robbiekaye on Instagram.