|The SaveFT.org gift card portal website has donated thousands for local businesses among the Covid-19 pandemic.|
The Covid-19 pandemic certainly changed the way people live, buy and support their local community businesses. After a conversation with a local economics expert and realizing there was a need for some kind of solution to help local businesses, Mark Collier and Scott Richards of Richards & Sons Artisans created "SaveFT.org", an online portal designed to be a one-stop shop to support businesses in Fort Thomas.
How Does It Work?
Purchase $50 in gift cards and businesses who are partnering with SaveFT will kick back $10 to your favorite school fundraiser. Gift cards must be purchased in the amount of $50 from the same vendor for the donation to kick in.
The idea grew from a conversation Mark had with Janet Harrah, NKU's Executive Director for the Center for Economic Analysis and Development. Janet stated she had been watching the news about the success Cincinnati had selling gift cards to support restaurants in OTR. She expressed that she would very much like to support a few of our hometown businesses...but the problem is that many do not have any way to order gift cards online.
"When Janet talks about the economy, you should definitely listen. We essentially used her blueprint and ran with it," said Mark. "Our traffic and stats are at an all-time high, but people and businesses don’t know where to go. We started brainstorming this in April. I sketched out the design and talked about it with my buddy, Scott, and he took it and ran with it. We had the entire site built in about a week."
Scott Richards, who used to own a web design business, was immediately interested and started thinking about the site. "I thought it was a great idea. I had heard of other ventures like this across the country and was excited to be involved," said Scott. "I wanted the site to be have consistent design and easy intuitive functionality. We needed to produce a streamlined experience in order to make purchasing simple and hassle-free. I have built a number of sites from the ground-up. We decided to go with an existing platform for this design in order to speed up production time. Doing so produced some limitations that we needed to creatively circumvent in order to meet our needs."
Local businesses in Fort Thomas were also on board with the idea...and Janet says when we support our local businesses, we are supporting our community. "When we support our local business owners in Fort Thomas more often than not, we are supporting our neighbors", said Janet. "Typically, a larger percentage of the money we spend at our locally owned businesses stays in our community. These businesses also provide employment opportunities. Additionally, these are the businesses that support our local schools and other community institutions. Finally, having an independent book store, a pharmacy, a music academy, a dry cleaners, a seamstress/tailor, restaurants, and other services and retail are an integral part of the fabric of living in Fort Thomas."
The fundraising component was an easy sell to local business owners as well. "Adding the fundraising component has been a win as well for our local schools since everything is very much up in the air," said Mark. "The fact that our local businesses agreed to this in concept continues to speak to their ability to just get things done."
They have been slowly adding merchants to the site and with very little advertising or promoting, the site has already processed a few thousand dollars worth of gift cards. Scott says its all thanks to the character of the Fort Thomas community. "Fort Thomas is a very unique community. Small businesses are the heart of this community. Vibrant and healthy businesses produce a vibrant and healthy community."
What's Next for SaveFT.org?Mark says after some promoting throughout July, but they are looking for a long-term partner for the site to handle deliver and become the payment terminal.
"Maybe it’s just optimism on my part, but I’m just hoping our economies can begin to normalize by then. There’s a lot of work on the back-end to make this site function, but it’s been a heavy life in terms of logistics for me to make it work," said Mark. "We’d be happy to hand over the keys to what we’ve built."