Once upon a time, an awesome person named Shane Geiser had an idea and that idea is now called giftUP! I recently had the opportunity to interview Shane, co-founder of giftUP, to learn about his incredible journey to solve all your gift-giving problems. Continue reading to learn about the ups and the downs in the life of an entrepreneur!
GU: What ignited the spark for you to start a new business venture? What came first the idea, or the desire to start a company?
S: My mind is always swirling around with ideas, so the idea definitely came first. Well actually, let me rephrase that, the problem came first, and then the idea of how to solve the problem came. I’ve always dreaded buying gifts and with a family of six, it seemed to be never-ending. It’s funny, I just recently looked back at the very first “mockup” of the business plan when I initially had the idea. It was dated February 2014, which makes a lot of sense because both my mother and sister have February birthdays and are notoriously hard to shop for. Added to that, I was coming off of the struggles of finding gifts for Christmas and didn’t want to think about buying more gifts…if someone else could just do it for me.
When I searched the internet, I wasn’t able to find any sites that offered this service. I started thinking, I know my family pretty well and if I could just enter information about them someone who is good at gift shopping should be able to find some gifts they would like. That is when the business idea came that maybe I could solve this problem myself! Coming from an information technology background, I knew technology had advanced enough to help with this process and if I could pair my knowledge in that area with the expertise of great gift shoppers, I could provide a service that helps a lot of people.
Well, that was 2014 and while I kept thinking about the idea and how it would work, I didn’t take the leap of faith until over a year later when I finally revamped the business plan, decided on the name, and partnered up with a colleague to put the plan into action!
GU: What year was giftUP founded and how did you come up with the name?
S: Gift Up, LLC was founded in November 2015 and as you can tell from the legal name the combining of the words wasn’t the initial name. Believe it or not, it was the slogan that came to mind that later helped identify the name.
I was trying to think of people struggling to find gifts and what would be going through their minds. I figured a lot of people would eventually give up and just give cash or a gift card. I was thinking, “Don’t give up, use our company…” but what was our company? Then, I kept saying it over a few times and Gift Up just came to mind making it, “Don’t give up, Gift Up.” Later, we decided to combine the words and put the focus on the “UP” to show that it is a better way to gift shop or an “UPward” improvement from the way people shopped for gifts in the past.
GU: What would you say are the top three things you have learned as an entrepreneur?
S: 1. Marketing is everything…and hard. I was so focused on building a great product and figured if the product works great, the customers would come. However, it quickly became a reality that we would need to figure out how to make people aware of how much better their lives would be by using our product. This is still the biggest struggle today as we try to continually reach potential customers and grow the business.
2. Everyone has ideas about the company and a way to improve the experience. It is important to capture all of this feedback. We have gone through several big product enhancements in just two years and the product we have today is a direct result of the feedback we have received from our customers. We will always have a to-do list of future improvements/changes to the site and business, but it is important to prioritize that to-do list based on what the customer is telling you. If you don’t ask, they won’t tell you!
3. Time management is a big one. I know everyone preaches this and I really don’t think there is a standard solution that can be provided. I think it’s something an individual must figure out on their own. My advice would be to start the business and then be FORCED to figure out the best ways to manage the responsibilities of running the business.
GU: What was one of the struggles you have experienced while growing giftUP? How did you overcome it?
S: One of my biggest struggles was designing the website, both of the graphical content and the workflow of the site. I am a functionality and operations guy and at the start, I focused really hard to create a product that worked great and a service that provided the best possible results. After working really hard to continually improve that piece, I realized I needed to put just as much focus on the look and design of the product. People want a product that is appealing and as easy to use as possible. With the help of the other founders, I was able to improve on this by capturing customer feedback. I would bug my family and friends like crazy to tell me what looked good and what didn’t, what was easy to use and what wasn’t…and I still do today.
GU: What are some of your goals for the future of giftUP? Where do you see yourself and your business in ten years? Twenty years?
S: My goal is to completely revitalize the gift shopping experience for all occasions. Gift shopping can be such a struggle for a lot of people, including me. I think giftUP has the pieces in place to eliminate all the struggles such as finding the time, remembering the event, and deciding on the best possible gift that the recipient will love. We obviously have not perfected it, but our goal is to continually get as close to perfection as possible. Then, with all the pain points out of the way, the joy of giving and receiving a gift spreads even further.
GU: Who has been your greatest inspiration in this journey?
S: One of my greatest inspirations would be my grandpa who started his business from the ground up without ever completing high school. He is a great example that by committing and working hard on building a successful business you continuously learn and grow your knowledge in ways a school can’t teach you. He has also taught me that a successful business is created by always doing right by people and building relationships along the way. That being said, my parents worked really hard to give me a great leg up by allowing me to receive a great education and now I am able to build on that knowledge with the new learnings of creating a business.
Be on the lookout for more interviews on the giftUP blog as we introduce several of the small businesses that we partner with! If you, or someone you know owns a small business and would like to be featured in our blog please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org