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Alumni & FriendsKristine Dang surrounded by her signature Red Envelope gift boxes. Kristine Dang suggested the name 'Red Envelope' for a company that has become a leader in internet gift retail. She also introduced red gift boxes with hand-tied white bows. Photo by Lui Gino de Grandis



Seeing Red
If a gift from Red Envelope has brought a smile to your face, you can thank the gift-giver as well as Kristine Dang (attended '85–'90).

The San Francisco-based company, known for its luxurious yet affordable gifts, is largely the result of a risk she took seven years ago when she left her job at Williams-Sonoma to join a startup Internet retailer with the not-so-appealing name, 911 Gifts.

Her gamble was well worth the seven-day work weeks and the lack of sleep that followed. Dang is now an executive vice president overseeing the merchandising and creative efforts of a thriving company that reported $79.3 million in sales last year.

Once an aspiring fashion designer, Dang was attracted to SFSU's apparel design and merchandising program as well as its proximity to her parents and nine siblings.

For five years Dang studied fashion illustration and apparel design, took marketing and computer classes and grew savvy in the relatively new arena of Web design. The broad range of skills she picked up at SFSU made her an ideal candidate for the startup.

Dang redesigned the company's Web site, wrote a new business plan, attended trade shows and forecasted sales for the company. Eventually the progress piqued the interest of investors who helped bring in top-level executives.

But most importantly, there was the name.

Dang looked to the New Year's traditions of her native Vietnam for inspiration.

"When I was young, every New Year's my dad would hold red envelopes behind his back, our eyes would widen and we'd start screaming because we knew there was something great in that envelope," she says, referring to the Asian tradition of giving children money in red envelopes.

Dang enjoys passing on that same type of excitement inside the company's signature red boxes with hand-tied white bows, each arriving with its own story -- all ideas which came from her.

She feels fortunate to be part of a rare dot-com success story. Dang has worked hard and apparently the red envelopes from childhood have proven true to their promise: In Vietnam the contents are known as "lucky money."

-- Adrianne Bee


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Last modified Sept.2 , 2005, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications