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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bay Area Company Allows Local Businesses to Thrive Through E-Shopping

Posted By on Thu, May 1, 2014 at 8:52 AM

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Small businesses, one sector that was greatly affected by the recession, have had to find creative ways to compete with the big guys who can afford to use technology to promote their company or offer deals to draw in customers. Thus, many small businesses in San Francisco have been struggling to stay afloat.

Those facing hard times have turned to daily deal websites such as Groupon to make their company accessible to the modern cellphone user who aims for instant access in all of their transactions. A lot of these daily deal websites proved unprofitable for small businesses that were making as little as 25 cents.

Yiftee, a gifting-on-the-go system that was founded in nearby Menlo Park in 2012, allows individuals and larger companies to send recipients gifts through text or email that can be redeemed at nearby shops, thus keeping consumer dollars local.

Donna Novitsky, the founder of Yiftee, was searching for a system that facilitated a culture of gratitude in the workforce and that also allowed small businesses to thrive. Novitsky noticed that many Millenials were accustomed to getting constant feedback from their parents and school for a job well-done or marked improvement. When they entered the workforce, many of them were suffering from malaise because of a lack of feedback from employers. A sign of appreciation, even something as simple as a gift card for a latte could "go a long way," says Novitsky.

It also allows employees and employers to get acquainted with the neighborhood by purchasing from local shops. The program was created as an incentive to connect larger companies with smaller ones. Sending a gift through Yiftee and purchasing from local shops allows larger companies to qualify for the Community Benefit Agreement, which offers tax breaks to businesses in the Tenderloin district that contribute to the local community.

Yiftee grants consumers the convenience of e-shopping and purchasing from their favorite local mom-and-pop shop.

Yiftee is not only designed for big companies, but is also used by individuals who want to send a gift to a loved one in a far away place. For example, Novitsky says that if she looks at her niece in Boston's Facebook status and sees that she has been staying up all night taking care of her new baby, she can use Yiftee to send her a gift. She knows that her niece likes frozen yogurt, but is unfamiliar with any local shops in Boston. Through Yiftee, she can look for local frozen yogurt shops.

"I pay on my phone with a credit card and she immediately gets that on her phone along with a message from me that says 'I heard you were staying up all night taking care of the baby,'" says Novitsky. The voucher is read as a Mastercard and similarly has a 16 digits and a cvv code.

Yiftee is free for merchants to subscribe and the ease of usage has allowed the company to spread nationwide to bring business to millions of local business owners around the country. As Novitsky puts it, it's a win-win for shoppers and local businesses because it "gives independents a channel and consumers a way to buy from the places that they want to thrive."


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Melissa Hellmann

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