My friend Pete really wanted to buy a local gift certificate for his wife for Christmas last year.

And I know what you’re thinking.

That sounds simple enough.

It wasn’t.

After going to the place three different times (with his young daughter in tow), he finally found it open and that the one person who could sell him the gift certificate was actually there.

Only she seemed annoyed at Pete. It was Christmas and she had a thousand other things to do and told him so.

As she sighed and opened the sale book, Pete thought to himself, “I have never worked so hard to buy local in my life. Why isn’t there an easier way to do this?”

Customers are frustrated.

Since Mount Desert Island is a special place to so many people, many want to buy local… but have to go out of their way special to do it.

Besides Pete, we’ve heard of other customers going through seemingly ridiculous lengths to buy local gift certificates here on MDI…

  • driven 30 minutes to buy a gift certificate to a bed and breakfast only to find it closed.
  • called and given their credit card number over the phone to a stranger, hoping the card was actually sent out.
  • messaged the business on Facebook, arranging a meet up day and time for purchase.

And these are people who are very committed to doing so. Can you imagine how many more people would buy if they didn’t have to invest major amounts of personal time and effort to do so?

Businesses are strained.

If businesses could do this, they would. Every good business wants to serve their customers.

But between hiring and training staff, dealing with problems as they come up, and doing everything else it takes to run a successful business, gift certificates are the last thing on business owner’s mind. Yes, it’s an excellent revenue stream not just in the busy summer season but in the shoulder seasons and around the holidays but the extra work it would take to market and sell them is too much, especially for small companies.

How are local MDI businesses supposed to sell gift certificates to customers who want them in a way that’s convenient, cost effective, and gives customers a great experience?

Enter GiftMDI.com

GiftMDI wants to do all the marketing, customer service, and technical heavy lifting for businesses and non-profits who want to sell more things without spending more time.

We want to give customers the service, website experience, and customization they have come to expect from websites… and an easy option to support the local economy.

GiftMDI is open to all MDI and MDI adjacent businesses that sell gift cards/certificates or other paper goods that can be redeemed (admission tickets, memberships, coupons for a free pie).

Our goal with this project is to threefold:

Showcase the real variety of the MDI economy. It’s great people can buy lobster and t-shirts but we want GiftMDI to be a place where people can find a gardener, jewelry, and a local performance group, too.

Put $100,000 into the local economy that wasn’t there before between Memorial Day of 2017 and 2018. Gift certificates represent additional business revenue above their face value as they remain unredeemed or the recipient spends more at redemption. (Would you rather leave $3 on that restaurant gift certificate or throw in an extra $5 for a slice of blueberry pie on the dessert menu? The choice is clear.)

Help other communities, in Maine and beyond, to this with our scaleable website and business model. We’ve built a state of the art website and are using our first year in operation to optimize our process… then we hope to take this to other small towns who want to similarly contribute to their local economies.

We are not a faceless corporation.

We’ve seen those national gift certificate websites (you know, with all the ads that you wince at the idea of putting your credit card into?). We are not that. You can buy from this website knowing not only that it’s secure but that there is a real person (who you can run into at the grocery store even) behind it.

Nicole Ouellette
Customer Service, Development, and Marketing/Sales

Nicole has lived on Bar Harbor for ten years and runs two local businesses: Breaking Even Communications (a marketing company) and Anchorspace (a coworking space). If you get an email about your order, locally pick up your gift certificates, or generally interact with GiftMDI, it’s likely Nicole you’ll be talking to. Nicole enjoys young adult novels, dogs with short legs, and speaking French.

 

Eric York
Design and Development

Eric has a PhD in rhetoric and teaches web design and online communication at Clarkson University. Originally from Bangor, he spends some of his time on MDI with his lady friend Nicole Ouellette. Eric likes reading really thick books, Leonard Cohen, and cooking (he used to be a chef).