Startup Garage 2020: GiftBetter Co.

Introducing GiftBetter Co.: the new way for companies to send gifts to clients and employees. GiftBetter Co. is a custom gifting program that started as a way to create client and employee gifting programs designed with a price point and theme provided by the company, and a charity partner that aligns with the social values of the company. The company has since grown to offer permanent gift lines that can be purchased by any customer, whether they are part of a client organization or not.

GiftBetter Co. marries corporate social responsibility with corporate gifting by promoting usable gifts that also provide to the community, in an effort to put more meaning behind everyday gifts. “Every gift we have gives back in some way,” says Olivia Villalta, co-founder of GiftBetter Co. “We have specific social actions tied to every gift we offer.” For example, a purchase of a baby gift might include a donation to a Children’s hospital program like SickKids, or a Father’s Day gift could include a donation to the Ottawa Mission.

Olivia Villalta studied International Management at uOttawa, and was then recruited to work for RandStad Canada. “I was account manager, then promoted to operations manager of Eastern and Central Canada. Multi-million dollar portfolio. Managed operations and strategy as well as sales components, dealt with a lot of stakeholders, strategy, and day-to-day operations.” Her co-founder, Vanessa Griffiths, initially pursued a career in marketing after studying Communications at Carleton University. Griffiths started working in PR, but quickly moved into more digital marketing where she was working with various tech startups to foster their online communities and build digital presence. She was in charge of client gifting, and initially offered a choice between receiving a gift or making a donation of that amount. She realized that with this model, companies lost out on the opportunity to send a physical gift from the company to the gift receiver if they chose to make a donation instead.

“This idea actually came from when we were trying to send a gift to our mutual friend that lived in Los Angeles. All the gifts were the classic fruit and stale chocolate, so we talked about the challenge in the gifting market, and we wanted to create something she would be excited to receive,” says Villalta. “We wanted the gift to be personalized. We realized that gap in the B2B market in gifting and wanted to change it. Lots of gifts were being sent out that were dust collectors with a company logo on it that people didn’t want to use, or just gifts that never were put to use. We wanted to provide gifts that were appreciated, and put meaning behind them by aligning them with a social action.”

“We did a soft launch to test the business model in December of 2019. From January to April we worked on our permanent product line and developed partnerships with charities,” says Villalta. In April, GiftBetter Co. made their official launch. “Since our launch, we had a 33% growth rate quarter over quarter,” she continues, “and another milestone for us is the gifting campaign we’re doing where 100 percent of proceeds goes to the Ottawa Hospital Foundation for COVID Relief funds.” Two months after their launch, GiftBetter Co. has raised over 1000 dollars and gifted almost 100 packages to nurses and other front-line workers across Canada.

“I would say in terms of values, I think it’s really important to us as we move into a generation that cares what a company stands for, to give brands the chance to put a message and a genuine impact behind what they send out, to really stand for something. GiftBetter Co. gives companies a chance to do exactly that: to drive change and build more meaningful relationships with their customers and their employees.”

*This feature was published as a part of the Startup Garage Company Series, 2020.

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