GiftSimple CEO on Lessons Learned on the Entrepreneurial Adventure
Guest blog entry written by Jessica Lachs, CEO and Founder, GiftSimple
GiftSimple is a social gifting site for all of life’s events. GiftSimple lets you register for the gifts you want and tap into your social network to pool contributions from friends and family. The money is accessible at any time and you are free to use it on whatever you like, whenever you like, and wherever you like!
Instead of putting a new SLR camera on a credit card, concerned about the ability to pay the bill in full, users can list the camera on GiftSimple and access their network to help them afford it. Whether the occasion is a birthday, holiday or no occasion at all, small gifts from many people add up.
We have a demo video that walks users through the entire process. It can be found on our homepage or on YouTube.
While in business school, I started developing GiftSimple to address inefficiencies in the gifting space. The idea originated several years prior from my own gifting experiences and those of my friends. It started at college graduation when my brother asked what he could buy for me. I wanted new luggage, but it was too expensive for him to buy alone. So he organized a group gift from my family and friends to buy the luggage. He complained that the process was a hassle, and I thought to myself, ‘there has to be a simpler way.’
Then I heard a friend’s story. She was a schoolteacher and had received a slew of unwanted gifts at the end of the school year from her students. While she appreciated the sentiment, the gifts just ended up in the back of her closet. What she really wanted in her closet was a new Burberry coat, but at $500 it was outside her price range. The following year, she told the class mothers that she would prefer everyone chip in to buy her one large gift—the Burberry coat! And they did! It worked out for my friend, but not everyone is comfortable being so forward.
Finally, when my birthday came around last year, I was elated to receive so many good-wishes and birthday-drink invitations on Facebook. It occurred to me that if I could collect the price of a NYC cocktail from a few friends, it would go a long way towards paying for my new laptop. And GiftSimple was born!
Group gifting is not a new concept; people have been doing it offline for years, and several websites have recently sprung up to facilitate the splitting of gifts. However, GiftSimple is different in a few important ways. First, it is the gift receiver who initiates the process. We provide a simple tool for users to set up and spread the word about their own gift registry. Next, our site is completely integrated with Facebook, giving users seamless access to their entire social network. Finally, we have very few restrictions on listing and giving gifts—we want our customers to have the flexibility to give as much as they like and as frequently as they like. Cash is widely viewed as the most practical gift but is often seen as impersonal. GiftSimple offers the ease and practicality of cash giving while assuring givers that their gift is meaningful.
Some Lessons Learned on the Adventure:
1. It’s OK to ask for help. I was very lucky to have met some experienced entrepreneurs (women and men) who were willing to answer my questions and give me advice from their years of experience. I just had to ask! They were happy to help me as I fumbled along the startup path, just as I am happy to help anyone who asks me.
2. Just do it. Nike really nailed it with that slogan! It’s easy to get bogged down with analysis—models, focus groups, etc. sometimes you just have to make a decision and move forward. I am naturally a very risk-averse person, and as a former investment banker I love a good excel model, but until you get your product out there, you really will never know if it will work.
3. Cheer up! What’s the worst that can happen? I tell myself this all the time. The conversation in my head usually goes like this: Sure, you are an adult who moved back in with your parents. Sure, you have put all of your savings into this new venture. What if it doesn’t work? What if people hate it? Relax. First off, you did it. You built something from nothing just like you set out to do. Good job! So what if it doesn’t work. Look at all you’ve learned along the way. You will go on and do great things. Lather, Rinse, Repeat!