Startup profile: Gift Waffles

 
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Company name: Gift Waffles https://giftwaffles.com/
Founder: Joumana Lahoud
Sum up the business: giftwaffles.com is a website that helps friends and family club together to buy bigger and better gifts for birthdays, baby showers, leaving do’s or other special occasions. It provides an easy and secure platform for groups of people to pool money online and instantly convert the balance into vouchers from some of the UK’s most popular retailers including Amazon UK, John Lewis and many more.

So, Joumana, what’s the story behind giftwaffles.com? There isn’t really anything like it in the UK, how did the idea come to you?

Like many successful startups, giftwaffles.com was born out of a personal need. I had just moved back to London with my husband and 2 children. I was looking for a job, but as I started interviewing all I could really think about was starting a business of my own.It also happened that both my kids turned to an age where they were invited to a birthday party (literally!) every weekend. I found myself constantly shopping around to try and find a special gift for a child I did not know. At the end of the day, it’s very hit and miss, you’re trying your best, but sadly that gift you choose might just end up being the 10th version of a toy the child already has. I always thought if only there was a way for a few of us to club together and get a gift that is really wanted.
 

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Founder of Gift Waffles, Joumana Lahoud.
Then came Christmas time and as a class representative, I was tasked with organising a group gift for my son’s teachers. I found myself exchanging cash with other parents at the school gate and going through my personal bank statement to check who had paid and who hadn’t. As you can imagine, chasing others for their contribution was a huge hassle.This was the light bulb moment for Waffles. I wanted to create a website were friends, family members or even colleagues could pool money towards a gift that will be truly loved… be it a voucher or a specific gift the recipient is really keen on.

So how does it work?

It really is very simple and works in 4 steps. The organiser:
1) Personalises a gift page.
2) Shares its web link with friends/family/colleagues by text, email, WhatsApp etc.
3) Receives online contributions along with personal messages which are collated in a
nicely designed greeting card.
4) Converts the balance instantly into one or multiple gift vouchers that can be given to
the lucky recipient or simply used to buy a gift that is really wanted.

What problem are you solving?

The amount of gifts that get wasted every year, on every occasion is astonishing (birthdays, Christmas, baby showers etc.). Think of all the gifts that get exchanged, re-gifted or sadly end-up in our ever-growing landfills. With www.giftwaffles.com we are reinventing the way we give and receive gifts: in a way that is more memorable and less wasteful.
If you know the one gift the recipient really wants, then you can club together and get them just that: the camera, the bicycle, the designer handbag, a trip to Paris or to Rome. If you’re unsure what they would like, then just give them the voucher and let them choose for themselves.

What was your biggest challenge so far?

Starting the business is really the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Being a sole founder means I have to juggle different roles throughout the day from product development, design, marketing, social media management, accounting – the list is endless. Many of which I have never done before; it’s a constant learning curve. A really exciting one.

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Turning the engine ON was such a big moment for us. We’d been working for many months on the design, the flow, the partnerships with retailers and a million other aspects of setting up and launching the website. Obviously with many, many hiccups along the way. I am extremely lucky to be working with an incredible web developer, who has built the
website from scratch with a tight budget and in record time. We continue to improve and build on it as we scale the business.

Describe yourself in one word.

Persistent. I just never give up. I’ll keep going, tirelessly, until I get it done. If I don’t know it, I’ll learn it. And when I can’t do it, I’ll try as many ways as possible until I find a way.

What one tip would you give others starting out?

I’m still quite young in this world of startups and still have so much to learn. But if I had to give one crucial tip it would be: Build your network and reach out for guidance and help. I have purposely gone out and joined some amazing support networks for entrepreneurs, some of the people I have met have been instrumental in my startup journey.