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Think global, gift local with SMAKK gift card service

By François Levesque on November 12, 2013

Take an idea and run with it. That’s what Heidi Fuller and Bettina Vollmerhausen did when they created SMAKK. Heidi lived abroad for several years and every time she wanted to send a gift card home to Canada, be it for a birthday or a wedding, she ended up buying from big chain store. It irked her that there wasn’t a platform where she could buy gift cards from local businesses.

She kept the idea in her back pocket until a chance encounter with Bettina, an old friend, at the Calgary airport pushed the dream to reality. The idea she shared over a few glasses of wine was simple: she wanted to make it easy to give something special and encourage local, independent businesses.

The next morning, Heidi and Bettina committed to launching SMAKK. They set about creating a business plan and a platform, starting with a lean enterprise that would allow them to pivot and adapt based on demand. At its soft launch last March SMAKK had about 35 vendors, almost all from Ottawa. Since then the online store has grown substantially with over 60 independent businesses in Ottawa and virtual SMAKK stores for Toronto and Western Canada.

SMAKK wants to become the place to buy gift cards from local vendors in cities across Canada by making online shopping from local independent businesses as easy and convenient as shopping with the bigger brands. If you want to purchase a local gift card for someone, just pick the city the recipient lives in, select a store, pick a price and entre the recipient’s coordinates. SMAKK takes care of the rest. For vendors, there’s a small $25 membership fee to join and SMAKK only takes a commission when they bring the vendor a sale.

According to Bettina, local support was key to getting the operation going.

“Hub Ottawa was instrumental in introducing me to the Impact Academy, where you take a concept from ‘ideation’ to implementation. We were past the ideation phase when the Impact Academy started but all of the speakers helped us think through our business – funding, structuring the business, etc. This helped us apply many of the learnings to our business. The conversations with our peer group was also great. We’re still helping each other, giving each other feedback.”

It’s still just Heidi and Bettina that are running the show, but it’s becoming a challenge. The business is really blooming and they are looking to hire someone to help sign up vendors as Bettina shifts her focus to driving traffic to the site and communications.

Not surprisingly SMAKK is a perfect fit for Apt613’s Support Local month.  For the occasion, SMAKK has decided to organize SMAKK-a-FAIR, a market featuring a handpicked selection of quality, local businesses represented on SMAKK. Attendees will be able to shop for unique products and services of these locally owned, small businesses, listen to live music, and enjoy the fabulous food of Art-Is-In Bakery.

You’ll be able to discover: Tubed Jewelry, Azucar DanceWabi SabiWhee WorksArt Is In BakeryForbes Beauty CoDancing Mama,Chobhi Scarves & Jewellery, and Twiss & Weber. The event takes place on Friday, November 15 at 7pm.

For more details on SMAKK-a-FAIR, check out their Facebook event page.