Interview by Mateja Plaskan
Anna Bojic, is an inventor, and is the founder and CEO of Merisier. She studied art at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin, and also Cultural Studies at the Freie Universität, Berlin. She is interested in culture and communications, and for her, gift-giving is one of the oldest forms of communication.Merisier presents a new and fair direction for idea-creation as an online shop for stylish and sustainable gifts. Fair trade and sustainability play a central role in the selection of their products, because they believe that they can change the world with many small decisions. Merisier helps customers choose a handsome, elegant and original gift to give straight from the heart.
Does the name 'Merisier' have any special meaning for you, or for what do you do, or did you decide on the name at random?
Well, it’s a little bit of both. One day, back in August, we were just thinking of which name to pick as we were walking through Kreuzberg, where there are a lot of wild cherry trees. The wild cherry is an almost-black fruit, and the ones that had fallen on the ground looked marvelous, like little dark rubies. They were everywhere on the street, and were glittering beautifully; and we thought that would be a really nice picture with a lot of glamour. We wanted to take these colours and make a logo out of it. The German name for wild cherry is ‘Vogelkirsche’, which means ‘bird cherry’; and in French, the word is ‘merisier’. We picked the latter because it somehow matches what we do: we pick the most beautiful things that we find out of everything, and then put them together. I am like a little bird: I pick all those little things and try to match them with each other.
Nowadays, we are overcrowded with online shops. How do you handle the competition, and what makes you unique?
Well there are a lot of online shops, and also a lot of online shops that sell gifts, but I haven’t yet found a online shop that actually combines gifts in a narrative way - a way in which the gifts are telling a story. So this is what makes us special: we have a narrative approach to making and giving gifts, taking small components that we put together to tell a story. We find something new, funny, tender, loud; something that reminds you of the 80s, or of when you were little. We make those kinds of combinations, and that’s what makes us different.
Another thing is that we can send gifts you buy online directly to whomever you want - even outside of Berlin - including greeting cards with custom text, gift wrap, and so on - without having to receive and repackage it yourself.
"Himmel und Erde" - one of the many themed gift packages from Merisier
Your website shows us different target groups, such as “for her”, “for him”, babies, and business associates. Which one of those is your main consumer client?
So far, we haven’t found a lot of gifts for babies yet, but a lot of birthday presents for either men or women, and an increasing number for business clients nowadays.
How are you inspired to create and design the right gift for the right target group, and make them happy?
I try to find a gift that you wouldn’t throw away. I try to find a gifts that are both usable and special; that you cannot find in just any store or supermarket. Somebody can then get a present that he or she cannot easily find. And maybe that makes the gift more special and surprises the person, as they would be getting something they may not have seen before.
"You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" gift package
Are you collaborating with any other firms at the moment?
We work with a few other brands, such as the independent film store Arthaus, and the cosmetics company Uslu Airlines, and create gift packages with their products. We are also starting collaborate with Lego, the toy company. They introduced a new line called Lego Architecture, which is aimed at adults who remember playing with Lego as children. I’ve created some really fun and interesting packages from the Lego Architecture series.
How long has Merisier been existence? What are some of your plans for the future?
We just went online in the middle of November last year. Anyone who speaks German at this point can use this website, because we haven’t translated it into English yet - though we plan to do that in the next 2 to 3 months. You can also send gifts worldwide as well: there’s no problem if you want to send a gift to China, USA, or France. We actually have sent some gifts worldwide, which is kind of fun because it can travel across the world and make someone happy there.
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Cost is a big one here. In regards to total transportation costs, the last mile comprises up to 53% of those - making it the least efficient part of the supply chain. Expectations of free shipping and next day deliveries add up to this.
Due to increasing digitalization and convenience services in every area of people's lives, the smooth and flawless process of getting the delivery to one's doorstep is exceedingly becoming what customers care most about. On top of that, for companies that package being delivered is an extension of their brand. The consumer is basically coming face-to-face with the brand, which makes it the biggest opportunity to heighten customer satisfaction.
If you live in a city and have even slightly observed your urban surroundings you’ve probably witnessed it first hand - urban congestion and crowded cities make it pretty tough to satisfy the growing demand and rising expectations of super quick deliveries. Add unpredictability in transit (like weather conditions), an incorrect address or remote locations, just to name a few, and you can see where this is going.
The worst part is, all those delivery trucks and vans that also produce a fair bit of emissions, are often only half full when they roll out for deliveries. This is mostly due to low drop sizes and stops along the route that are far and few between.
It’s not all hopeless though - Where there is a problem, there are solutions.
Same old, same old - isn’t always all that bad. Sometimes, all that’s needed are some new perspectives! The city of Utrecht, for example, implemented a zero-emissions electric barge nicknamed the “Beer Boat”.
Since 2010 it’s carrying beer and food to the city’s downtown restaurants by using waterways. Other electric barges in Amsterdam not only deliver but even collect organic waste, which is then turned into biofuel in processing plants! Isn’t that cool?
It becomes clear that cities, logistics, as well as urban planners, are equally part of solving the inefficiency of the last-mile. Tackling this mountain of issues calls for teamwork!
A centralized platform, hub or network for similar companies, could do the trick to fill up the delivery vans & trucks that are barely loaded. Parcels could be distributed more efficiently between different companies and their delivery vehicles.
Like a big pool of parcels from different companies with every single parcel going into that one van with the same route!
Delivery Driver Experience and Smart Delivery Vehicles are also areas with huge potential for improvement and innovation.
Ellie: Two years ago we adopted a new legal structure for Jolocom GmbH according to the purpose model of ownership, manifesting our commitment and dedication to building a self-sovereign organization. That means we can’t take VC funding or sell public shares of the company.
Volker: Jolocom is a community driven organisation – both in a tech sense but also much further beyond. We’re hugely involved in the DWeb community where we organize and attend events for the decentralized community. Every year we also help organize and attend the DWeb Camp in San Francisco, which brings together all kinds of creatives so this technology of tomorrow is built in a collaborative way.
Next to that on-demand experiences have become firmly embedded into people’s everyday lives - be it a mobile app to book a ride, send flowers to your loved ones or order lunch to your office. It’s all possible and has made premium features like real-time tracking a standard. The online consumer expects nothing less and certainly doesn’t like to wait.
Making that quick and instant gratification happen is another story though. Groundbreaking ideas and innovations are needed to tackle all these factors. Does your startup have one?
Volker: There is this really nice place, called Green Rabbit with salads and baked potatoes where I like to go to. Sometimes I just keep it simple and go to Lidl.
Ellie: I eat a lot in west.berlin cafe which is here around the corner and I love the Matcha Lattes from Starbucks.