Categorized | Shoestring Startup

LocalPinch.com gives small businesses a DIY platform to sell gift certificates online

LocalPinch.com gives small businesses a DIY platform to sell gift certificates onlineName of your company and URL?

Our company is LocalPinch, LLC, and our website is at http://www.localpinch.com

Date started?

We came up with the overall LocalPinch concept a few years ago, but www.localpinch.com has only been live for a short while.

What is your product or service?

LocalPinch offers a platform for small businesses to create and sell gift certificates for their business online. Businesses create a profile for their company including business info, photos, videos, reviews, contact information, and then choose the basic details for the gift certificates they would like to sell, such as: quantity available, price, amount of discount (if any), and other restrictions. Local shoppers can then find the profiles of businesses near them, and purchase these gift certificates for themselves or others.

Why did you start your company?

We started LocalPinch because we saw a need in the market, and had the expertise to do it. The founders have over 15 years of combined experience in marketing, online advertising, and website development, and there didn’t seem to be a similar concept available. Some websites hosted reviews (like Yelp), some were major discounters (like Groupon), some sites helped with scheduling (like Thumbtack), but there were no sites offering businesses the ability to transact business online, on their own terms, with new and existing customers.

How was it financed ?

Our site has been financed completely out of pocket. While we would be interested in outside financing at this point, we felt strongly that we wanted to create the business from the ground up, while spending conservatively.

YouTube – Do you have a YouTube video URL that you can share with us, and allow us to publish with your story?

. It’s pretty clever (although I must say, I’m biased) so be sure to watch the entire thing!

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

At the moment, there are two of us running the site. We outsource our development (an interesting experience that led to insights you can read about here: http://localpinch.com/blog/business-tips/how-to-avoid-a-disaster-when-outsourcing-to-an-overseas-web-developer/). We have also employed interns at various times to assist with smaller marketing projects.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

The biggest transition for us was just finding the time every week to make contributions to LocalPinch. There is only two of us, we both have “real” jobs, families, school, and other commitments, so it’s just a matter of continuing to make LocalPinch a priority

What would make your business more “Successful”?

At this point, additional funding. We were extremely successful in bootstrapping our way to an efficient, professional product. LocalPinch.com is easy to use, secure, and fully functional. Now we are at the point where we need to invest in the overall look and feel of the site, as well as in business and customer acquisition – both much more difficult to do on a shoestring budget.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

At this point, we aren’t committed to any one outcome. We enjoy working with the site, and would love to stay on and help it grow and succeed. That being said though, if a Google came along with a $20 million offer, I can’t say we’d turn it down.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

We use a number of free tools to help us manage our business and keep our costs low. First, we use Google Docs for a significant portion of our record-keeping: tracking to do lists, assignments, notes, customers, budgets, etc. We use Google Analytics to keep track of our site traffic, and we use WordPress to power our blog. We use xtranormal.com to create videos, Jing to get screencaptures and narrations, and oftentimes, when we need a tool we don’t have, we just Google until we find one. Finally, we indulge in the free wi-fi at the local tavern for our meetings.

Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or ? Provide exact URL of each
Yes! We are active in blogging about business topics at www.localpinch.com/blog, we are using Facebook at www.facebook.com/localpinch to connect with fans, and Twitter at www.twitter.com/localpinch to share interesting articles and news about our site.

What is the best advice you never got?
Stick with it through the down times. Most businesses are not like Facebook or Pinterest where they experience massive organic growth. Things can get slow and you can hit rough patches. You need to keep at it or you might not see success.

What almost killed your business in the start?
A bad developer. He put together a first draft of the site and it was so bad that we had to just say no and leave. We felt really bad that he spent all this time on the site, but it was just unacceptable and expensive so we had to find another team.

What is the one thing that you did right?

Our business is moving along but not incredibly quickly right now. We are looking for good ways to increase traffic/interest. The one thing that we did right was make sure the operating costs were really low. We have a working website and running it is cheap, so we are not losing our shirts every month.

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