Not set in stone
We created a unique end-of-year recap that celebrates the past year and decade of Cultivate. A behind-the-scenes look at who we are, how we got here, and where we’re going.
More than a stroke of good luck, Cultivate started in a basement circa 2010 and has since become a thought leader and the gifting expert in the world of corporate meetings, events, and incentive trips. The road here has been ten years in the making and lined with ambiguity, small spaces, hilarious stories, unforeseen obstacles, and the courage to become.
THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
All big things start small and Cultivate is no different. In the beginning, Tom and Natalie Romine knew only two things: there’s a better way to gift on-site, and they wanted to build a fun, dynamic company of their own. They saw an opportunity to start something that no one else was doing: offering guests a choice. At the time, other gifting companies were focused on one-and-done streamlined gift programs. Tom and Natalie agreed that people have different interests, and the idea that everyone would like or use the same gift just didn’t make sense.
Aside from constantly asking “what’s next?”, Tom Romine is a man who values a true work-life balance, runs on a never-ending list of ideas, successfully implements his instincts, and will happily drop just about anything to join you for a game of hoops. After building a career with companies like Callaway and Maui Jim, Tom voluntarily stepped into roles that he wasn’t particularly fond of and diligently learned the in’s and out’s of being a business owner. Since 2010, Cultivate has gifted thousands of people and continues to create memorable on-site gift experiences for clients and their guests all over the world. If you ask Tom what thoughts and emotions come to mind as he looks back to the last 10 years, he’ll just smile and humbly say, “It’s been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.”
It’s been said that behind every great man is a great woman. But in this case, that man and woman are equally standing side-by-side. In the early days, Natalie wore many hats of responsibility; from checks-and-balances of the accounting department to managing logistics for events around the world and running a one-woman human resources department for a short while. Natalie’s commitment to creating workplace equality has allowed her to sculpt an office culture where women of all ages feel regarded and empowered. A lot of what Cultivate has accomplished and become is due in large part to Natalie.
“We sold a program! Now what!?”
Prepare to launch
Planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve the desired goal. Planning combines forecasting with the preparation of scenarios and how to react to them. Once established, Cultivate began preparing and planning for rapid growth, and the importance of recruiting brand partnerships and new hires quickly became two top-tier priorities.
GAMBLING ON A GOOD IDEA
Once established, Cultivate began preparing and planning for rapid growth, and the importance of recruiting brand partnerships and new hires quickly became two top-tier priorities.
For brand partnerships, it was more about learning what brands and products people were interested in but normally wouldn’t buy for themselves, then finding a way to obtain them.
Knowing they needed to hire employees sooner rather than later, it wasn’t until a round of golf with a previous colleague and personal friend, Jason Lang, that Tom realized it wasn’t about hiring people for daily tasks and checking off to-do lists, it’s a lot about putting the right people in place. Asking him to take a gamble, Tom offered Jason a position to be the first salesperson on the team.
Learning as you grow
In 2011, Tom had called in a favor to land a meeting with a Brand Rep from Fossil. And like many entrepreneurs and those who work remotely know, getting dressed for another day at home usually falls pretty low on the priority list. While working from home like any other morning, Tom’s doorbell rang. He assumed it must have been a usual delivery, and he didn’t pay much attention. Then it rang again. And again. Tired of hearing the doorbell ring, Tom opened the door and the Brand Rep from Fossil asked, “Tom Romine? I’m Tiffany from Fossil. We have a meeting scheduled for 10:00 am this morning. I’m here from Fossil.” In sheer embarrassment, Tom invited Tiffany in while he brushed his teeth and quickly changed clothes.
A place to call your own
As Cultivate expanded sales into new territories and new hires were quickly coming on board, Tom and Natalie’s basement was bursting at the figurative seams. In reflection, Tom remembers thinking, “You can’t really run a business out of your house when you have kids on summer break.” Moving into a small upstairs office in downtown Boulder (shown right), the space held a handful of people and was a little over 700 square feet in size. Talk about growing pains.
“We were going to figure it out or go out swinging”
This must be the place
After outgrowing cramped basements and conducting meetings in small co-working spaces, it’s hard to believe our modern downtown Boulder office now features seven holes of golf, a slide for when taking the stairs seems too mundane, and free-roaming office pups. Our office is more than a place where we come to work, it’s a space for us to develop the best parts of ourselves, dream big, catch up with co-workers who have become friends, be ourselves, collaborate as a team, and think outside the box.
Overcoming the inevitable
Openly admitting that we’re a team of human beings who make mistakes and learn from our glitches, it has been an ever-evolving journey to reach this point. Cultivate has experienced its fair share of hurdles and obstacles; from finding and maintaining desirable brand partnerships to hiring the right people, correctly paying international invoices, and losing sleep over unconfirmed client contracts. After all, what is life without challenges?
Before it was Homebase
Built by Hobart “Hoby” D. Wagener in 1958, Cultivate’s downtown Boulder office was formerly home to the Mountain Savings and Loan Association. Wagener was an architect in Boulder from 1950 to 1985, and designed over two hundred public and private buildings in Boulder.
Make it human
It’s important for Cultivate to make genuine, personal connections with the people perfecting the aspirational gifts we offer to guests on-site. Today, the team invests only in the great brand partnerships Cultivate has created and only committing to programs that can be delivered flawlessly.
Let’s bring you up to speed. In 2019, Cultivate executed 41 events in over 11 countries in the same week, delivered 600 events, and gifted well over 135,000 guests this year. The team added 15 new brand partnerships and connected with a countless number of industry professionals and new clients.
Invitation to IMEX
Every year more than 3,000 suppliers from every sector of the global meetings industry come together in Las Vegas. Not only does IMEX put you face-to-face with the right buyers, it’s also a gathering mecca for the entire industry. In 2012, Jason represented Cultivate at our first IMEX appearance from the Fossil booth and was the only other gifting company there aside from Maui Jim. Looking back to one of his fondest memories, Jason is proud of the strides we’ve made and has a heightened appreciation for Cultivate’s latest IMEX booth.
Looking Better Than Ever
In the beginning we were learning as we went how to bring our clients and their guests a truly unforgettable experience. In time, Cultivate added pop-up boutiques with eye-catching branding walls, professional on-site staff, and merchandising assets to create an exclusive experience for guests.
Today, over 80% of our clients say a more attractive on-site pop-up boutique display is important to them. Our on-site merchandising is created to resemble a high-end retail store and provides an instant wow factor, guaranteed to impress. Our pop-up boutique displays are a great measure of how far our on-site gift experiences have come.
Our kind of people
Keeping a clear eye on what they believe in and always considering the why the team works every day to appreciate and inspire amazing people.
Fostering a positive work environment ,Tom didn’t deliberately design the culture initially, though, he always knew what he wanted. While Cultivate is ever-evolving, the workplace culture is still all about the people who work here.
Going from start-up to scale-up calls for a celebration. It also calls for forward-thinking because, without question, Cultivate’s greatest accomplishments still lie ahead. A decade later, and we leave you with one piece of advice every person can profit from: don’t be afraid to change course if something isn’t working out; be nimble, adaptable, and open to what’s next. Because who wants to be set in stone anyway?
Tom ended the interview to go play hoops.
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