Local stay-at-home mom starts business during pandemic with a focus on gluten-free gifts

After staying at home with her two kids, a local mom wanted to get back to work. Instead of returning to her office job, she decided to start her own business, right in the middle of the pandemic.

Now, her gifting company has become so successful that she recently opened a new store in downtown Quincy.

“This is a super popular container,” said Calli McPherson, the Owner and Founder of William James Gifts.

Calli McPherson has always had a knack for finding the perfect little gift.

“I love these glasses,” McPherson showed off as she put them in a gift basket.

Calli also loved her job in health care.

“I loved what I did,” said McPherson. “I love the patient interaction. That was always something that was near and dear to my heart. However, I knew that I wanted to do something different.”

Calli left to become a stay-at-home mom. But on a buying trip for her mother’s store, she found inspiration and excitement—to start a business of her own, calling it William James Gifts.

“I decided at that point to do the gift baskets from our home,” said McPherson. “And as the world shut down, I started the business online.”

Her gift baskets cheered people up—but Calli was facing a struggle of her own. She had been recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and found there was a void in the gluten-free gifting space.

“Gifting is supposed to be such a joyous occasion to give, to receive,” said McPherson. “And for people with food allergies, it just is a really difficult thing.”

All of the treats you find in her William James gift baskets are gluten-free. Calli sold them mainly online and also at farmers’ markets, but her big break was getting some exposure from the Food Network.

“We were featured on one of their gift guides for Father’s Day gifts, and that kind of gave our business a big boost of big visibility that we hadn’t had before, and also kind of gave us the boost to feel confident in starting the storefront as well,” said McPherson.

Calli opened her Quincy store in October of 2021, really at a time when a lot of businesses were moving online. But she says having the physical store has really helped boost her sales.

“While covid made things obviously difficult for in-person events, there’s still something very real about being able to touch and see and smell gifts and products and all of that,” said McPherson.

Calli’s gifts all come from small businesses

“The more local, the better we love it,” said McPherson.

And 70% are women-owned. Calli also uses her business to host fundraising shopping nights and donate to charities.

“I’m very lucky and very blessed to have this store, and I’m very blessed to have been embraced by the community,” said McPherson. “And the very least we can do is give back to them.”

And the proud, former stay-at-home mom is giving back to her kids—by naming the business after their middle names.

“I love being here and I actually think my kids really enjoy seeing their mom do something that makes them so happy,” said McPherson.

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