CheckedTwice, an online gift website founded by Andrew Swick SOM ’11, helps people avoid the holiday nightmare of receiving the same gift twice.
Swick’s family knows this nightmare firsthand. The idea for the business began when Swick’s older sister, Rebecca Hyatt, the chief technology officer and co-founder of the site, received three identical Robert Frost anthologies during the the 2002 holiday season. But born from the disastrous gift situation was a new business idea — an online gift registry to ensure that no one else would receive duplicate presents. To coordinate gift giving, users register on the site, which provides links to items on Amazon. Swick and Hyatt are holding a second relaunch party next Wednesday at the School of Management.
“It’s marketed towards anyone who wants an easier time exchanging gifts. You have to make it work for grandmas and grandpas as well,” Swick said.
After registering for a free account, users invite family and friends through online invitations to join the site. When users accept invites, they get their own Web portal where they can see wish lists of family and friends. Users also post their own lists of desired gifts, which family and friends can “claim” to let others know they intend to purchase that gift. Intended recipients cannot see who claimed each gift.
“That way all secrets are kept secret and all surprises stay surprises,” Swick said.
When creating a wish list, a sidebar of Amazon links appears on the right side of the website.
Swick said that the site makes money from each Amazon referral. For each item purchased, CheckedTwice receives a percentage of the profit, ranging from 4 to 8.5 percent depending on the product and volume.
Swick decided to link to Amazon after looking through their financial statements, and was attracted to their small business-friendly policies.
Last holiday season the company made $3 dollars per user on average. According to Swick, 250 to 300 people used the site during the 2009 holiday season. Most of the users were students at the School of Management and their family members.
Swick said the site is currently self-funded. But Max Uhlenhuth ’12, president of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, which helps students explore entrepreneurship, added that the site has very low costs, so Swick earns most of the profit.
This summer Swick was a Yale Entrepreneurial Institute fellow, participtating in the 10-week program and also revamping the website, first launched in December 2009, to make it more accessible to users.
“It’s more helpful the bigger your family is and the more spread-out you are,” Swick said, adding that college students with siblings also in college may find the site to be helpful, providing an easier holiday season. Some families also use the site for birthdays, Swick said.
Uhlenhuth was also a YEI fellow last summer with Swick. He said he used the site last year for some of his holiday shopping and that this year he plans on getting his entire family to sign up to make their holiday season easier. But Uhlenhuth added that it was difficult to get some family members to use the site last year.
“It’s hard to get your mom on board because it’s new technology, but Swick spent the entire summer making the usability high,” Uhlenhuth said.
Jason Kearns SOM ’11 said his entire family enjoyed using the site last year and that he enjoyed how it incorporated the wish list. His aunt loved it so much that she’s telling her friends about it, he said. One of Kearns’ favorite parts of the site was that surprise gifts could be shown so other family members could give surprise complementary gifts.
“It was really straightforward and had a nice design and color scheme,” Kearns said.
Two of the five students interviewed said they were interested in learning more and in possibly using the site.
After graduation, Swick plans to continue the project for at least the next year.
“While my peers frantically applying for jobs, I’m just frantically working,” he said.
As for future plans, Swick hopes to advertise on Facebook and to utilize cell phone applications.
Swick has also increased his advertising for the relaunch party this Wednesday. Last year, Swick’s wife baked cookies and they invited people via e-mail to a launch party to advertise the site. This year they are again throwing a party at the School of Management, but now are relying on more than just word of mouth, advertising using Google AdWords and popular “mommy blogs.”
There were 10 businesses that received YEI fellowships this summer.