By Sarah Mauet
Four undergraduate McGuire Entrepreneurship Program students are developing a personalized gift giving web service as their new venture project. The team hopes the business will solve a problem that they’ve each faced personally.
“We’ve all been in relationships where when the holidays or Valentine’s Day comes around our girlfriends give us something really nice but we’ve had trouble thinking of good gifts in return,” said Hunter Kroll (Eller Finance and Entrepreneurship ’14).
He teamed up with Ross Kroll (Eller Finance and Entrepreneurship ’14), Alec Nickell (visual communications/business administration minor ’14) and Juan Diego Veintimilla (Eller Business Management, Economics, and Entrepreneurship ’14) in the McGuire Program to develop Givalo, a gift giving website that aims to help stymied men find the perfect gift for a partner.
“The idea comes from their personal experience of not being able to think of good gifts for their girlfriends,” said mentor-in-residence Emre Toker. “I’ve been married many years and it’s still a struggle for me. This is a new venture concept that aims to solve a common problem.”
While picking the perfect gift can feel complex, the team thinks it can provide a simple solution: let its website pick the gift for you.
“Studies have shown that a stranger actually has better success than a recipient’s husband when it comes to picking out a meaningful gift,” Veintimilla said. “That’s because a husband often picks a gift based on his idea of his wife and what he thinks she needs whereas a stranger picks it based on objective information.”
Armed with that knowledge, the team is developing a website where a visitor can fill out a short survey about his partner and, based on her hobbies, style, and personality traits, be given a selection of tailor-picked gifts that are likely to thrill the lady in his life.
“We want to take all of the stress out of gift giving,” Ross Kroll said.
Having the perfect set of questions to determine the right gift is critical to the success of Givalo. In the future, the team aims to have an advisory board of women to counsel them on stylish and seasonally on-trend gifts, but in the meantime, the team is refining its questionnaire to make sure it returns the type of results that its future customers – and the women they’re shopping for – would like.
“Each gift needs to be meaningful and right,” Ross Kroll said. “We’re going to offer a satisfaction guarantee.”
The team is hoping to provide a little incentive for men to help them test and refine their questionnaire. Getting traction for a new venture concept is always tricky, and like most McGuire Program teams, Givalo is trying to do it on a lean launch budget. However, Team Givalo is showing that a little creativity can go a long way at this stage in the new venture process.
“If they had a small amount of funding they could actually test the business idea,” said Toker. “Instead, since they are doing a lean launch method, they are trying to entice people to engage by giving them a meaningful gift.”
Between now and Feb. 9, any man who fills out the questionnaire at givalo.com and helps the team determine how accurate their gift choices are will be entered into a drawing to win a gift certificate to Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar just in time to be used for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
“We want to test this out to see if we can gain traction,” Hunter Kroll said. “It’s an acid test. We want to see if we can pick the right gifts and drive people to the website.”
The group of four plans on completing the current test phase by the end of February, with aims to start taking actual customer orders by April. It’s an exciting time for the four group members who each came to the McGuire Program with an entrepreneurial dream.
“I’ve always wanted to start my own business,” said Nickell. “We all have.”
Team Givalo is taking its project very seriously and trying to take advantage of every opportunity the McGuire Program offers. They are one of the winners of an internal contest to determine which teams will participate in regional and national business plan competitions this year.
“I’ve loved the McGuire experience,” said Ross Kroll. “It’s incredible and I recommend it to anybody who wants to start a business someday. I definitely encourage anyone who has the entrepreneurial spirit to apply.”
“I’ve learned so much already about what it takes to start a business,” he added. “I believe I now have the tools and skill set necessary to start a successful company, whether it be right after graduation in May, or 10 years down the line.”