Lori Laub and Donna Novitsky launch Yiftee as easy way to buy small gifts from local merchants in mind

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on December 17, 2012

What’s a Yiftee? Think combination “gift” and “nifty” explains Donna Novitsky [pictured right above], who, along with another local mom and entrepreneur, Lori Laub, founded the Menlo Park-based startup of the same name.

“I was intrigued with the Groupon phenomenon but didn’t think it was necessarily good for small business,” said Donna. “Lori [pictured left] and I brainstormed along with Jon Kepecs about what would drive people into local stores.

“The big question was ‘how are we going to get merchants engaged?’ Jon came up with the idea of a micro gift, a little something that friends could give via social media.”

Yiftee gifts are real items (e.g. a latte, glass of wine, lunch, manicure, rose or boutique fashion item) that recipients pick up (gifts are never mailed) at favorite local cafés and stores, driving business to local merchants. Unredeemed gifts can be donated to charity, or they will be credited back to the Yiftee giver’s account after four weeks.

To send a gift, buyers use the Yiftee iPhone app or website, then choose a friend and their location. They view gifts from featured merchants in their area first with pictures, descriptions and pricing. Consumer feedback is used to prioritize other merchants in the area.

Any merchant can apply to be featured at Yiftee; there is no cost, commitment, special technology or discounting required. The buyer chooses a gift, writes a note, pays for it, and sends the gift notification via Facebook, email or text. The recipient “pays” with a prepaid credit card that he or she shows the merchant on a smart phone, and the merchant is paid by MasterCard®.

“Right now our focus is driving traffic into stores,” said Lori. “There are plenty of ways to buy online, but they don’t necessarily help the local community. The benefit to merchants is that they can charge anything. Yiftee is a free mobile sales channel for them.”

Added Donna: “We hope that others are as excited about this as we are and that we start a local gifting craze that helps local businesses thrive in an increasingly online and mobile economy.”

Photo by Scott R. Kline

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