Jason Wolfe is a successful serial entrepreneur who has created and grown a number of companies, including the first online coupon site – MyCoupons.com, in 1995.
Since 1999, GiftCards.com has been providing U.S. consumers with an array of gift card products including personalized gift cards, group gift cards, virtual gift cards, discount gift cards, and local gift cards redeemable at millions of establishments across the country. GiftCards.com is also a leader in gift card innovation with 40 patents filed and 10 patents issued/allowed.
BusinessInterviews.com: How and why did you get into gift cards and gifting?
Jason: When I was a young boy in 1977, I was living in welfare with my mom. We were poor, had no heat and not a whole lot to eat. On Christmas morning the doorbell rang and we found a basket full of gifts. There was no one there, just the gifts. We were very grateful for that generous gesture and it made me think somebody cared. A little later in life, as an orphan, I was given the gift of education and upbringing at the Milton Hershey School. This made me extremely grateful to Milton Hershey and his foundation. Things like these make a big impact in your life, and ever since, I’ve been very sensitive to gifting, both giving and receiving, because the only thing worse than not getting any gifts is not being able to give one away. I have received a lot of help throughout my life, and this is in a way a form of giving back. By improving the gifting experience.
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some of the ways that GiftCards.com has changed and evolved since first launching back in 1999?
Jason: Gift cards started to replaced gift certificates in the mid 1990’s. They were introduced 20 years ago as a means to bring in more store traffic. Since its early days, gift cards have gained enormous popularity, some 2014 reports show about 90% of Americans give and/or receive at least a gift card on any given year. This popularity has given way to a number of variables: closed loop store gift cards, open loop Visa and MasterCard gift cards redeemable anywhere, personalized gift cards, corporate rewards and loyalty cards, group gift cards for weddings or baby showers, and local merchant gift cards. But for the most part, the vast majority of gift cards remain in plastic form. Virtual or e-gift cards, and other forms of electronic gifting products, promise to pave the way for a different future.
BusinessInterviews.com: What do you hope to change or add to the industry?
Jason: We have owned the domain giftcards.com long before gift cards became main stream. And we have continued to be cutting edge in gift cards. We had the first on-demand and fully personalized gift card facility. We have over 40 patents filed and 10 issued. We were the first to do Virtual e-gift cards. We were the first to do Group Gifting onto a gift card. We are the firtst to do Local gift cards in a massive way with over 1 million merchants. Like many industries, the gift card industry shows room for improvement. I want to contribute to that change, be a force of innovation, improve the customer experience, and make it easier for people to deliver gifts and to redeem them seamlessly. The future is clearly digital, and as online category leaders, we are positioned to drive that change. We’ve seen large, monopolistic-like companies closing doors because they failed to embrace or address technology. Think of Blockbuster or Kodak, each dominated an industry and both were eaten up alive by technology. Instead of harnessing it, they let technology become their enemy. We are both a gift card company and a technology company. We are determined to lead the way in launching better technologies that will improve the customer experience for both giver and receiver. Today we allow customers to deliver a truly personalized gift by loading a personal picture on any Visa or MasterCard gift card, embossing a personal message, and enclosing it in a matching greeting card – all done from the convenience of your computer or smartphone. Grandma now gets a Visa card with a “happy birthday” message embossed and a picture of her grandkids and she has a gift that will never leave her wallet. Furthermore, she can spend the gift card at Sears, Macys, Target, the gas pump, or a local café. Looking ahead, we are currently developing mobile apps that will enhance and change the gifting experience for both givers and receivers.
BusinessInterviews.com: Where does your passion for entrepreneurship come from?
Jason: I am a self-made person, perhaps by necessity. My role model was Milton Hershey, the founder of the Milton Hershey School which was started in 1909 as an orphanage and where I grew up. I always admired Milton Hershey and wanted to be like him making people happy and giving back. I have a clear vision and strategy, have been blessed to attract great talent in all my companies, and know how to execute with discipline, order, and communication. I have no politics to deal with, no boss to report to, I do what the team thinks is right to drive the vision. I am driven by a purpose, a mission, not merely by money. At GiftCards.com, our mission is to ‘make ‘em smile.’ We don’t count how many gift cards we sell, but how many people we make smile. I suppose the ability to dream up a vision and make it happen is something very difficult to do in a corporate environment. This is what drives me and what makes me smile.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share a bit about how you’ve managed to position GiftCards.com as the undisputed leader in gift cards online?
Jason: We were the first in the online space in the late 1990’s. When I first started this company, I owned the domain directcertificates.com. Soon after I saw plastic gift cards wipe gift certificates off the map. I felt the same thing would eventually happen to plastic gift cards in physical stores. So I started paving the way for a digital distribution channel and digital gift card products. We built a strong website with the highest SEO standards in the market. Hence, we are the highest ranked site on all relevant Google, Bing and Yahoo! category searches. To this date, organic traffic continues to be our #1 source of visits. We also have built a strong and loyal community with over 550,000 Facebook fans and growing, that’s more than all competitors combined. We have our own – one of two in the entire country – custom print-on-demand facility that can deliver truly personalized gift cards in massive amounts. We have long, established relationships with Visa, MasterCard, and a number of banks. This is not an operation that can be run out of a garage. No competitor online or offline has the experience, expertise, infrastructure and know-how my team and I have developed throughout the years. That’s why we manage to stay on top. We are uniquely positioned to capture that migration from physical stores to online and e-gifting.
BusinessInterviews.com: What do you think about the future of gifting?
Jason: The future of gifting is digital. Analysts project what they call “e-gifting” as the fastest growing segment in the industry, from 3% of total market today to about 7% or $10 billion by 2016. We have seen this shift happen in numerous industries, video stores, photography, music, books, etc. Gift cards still remain plastic in their majority, but just like the plastic replaced the paper gift certificates, digital gifting products will eventually phase out plastics. I don’t anticipate seeing sudden consumer changes to new technologies, but without a doubt we’ll see the day where plastics are a minimal piece of the pie.
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