Former Herts and Essex High School student Louise Doherty launches VoucherBang to help independent businesses sell gift cards
A former Herts and Essex High School student wants to turn her new gift card business which focuses on independent traders into a national success story.
Louise Doherty, 34, launched VoucherBang in October to give people access to gift cards from family-run businesses including restaurants, beauty salons, craft shops and personal trainers.
Customers can browse hundreds of "local gems" when choosing the perfect present for loved ones at the same time as giving businesses fresh custom and free advertising at no risk.
And Louise is even doing her bit to help companies who might be struggling during the coronavirus crisis by sending 100% of gift card sales to them for the next 12 weeks. It is only 5% commission after that period to cover administration costs, so no sale means no fee.
The qualified bookkeeper was inspired to set up the business after a frustrating experience searching for a birthday present for her mum in late 2018.
Louise wanted to get her a voucher for the Lemon Tree restaurant in Bishop's Stortford but found it shut. Having left it to the day before her mum's birthday, panic set in as she did not want to have to buy a run-of-the-mill gift card covering regular chains.
"I struggled to find anything of the sort that I could get in the timeframe I needed and without travelling all over to collect it," said Louise.
"I then had a light-bulb moment. This was a sale lost for the business and a real inconvenience for me travelling around.
"I realised all of these beautiful, independent, family-run businesses might offer gift vouchers but customers don't have a place to buy them. And if they don't offer gift vouchers... well, they can now!
"I decided to create an easy-to-use platform where any legitimate business can sign up and register with their gift voucher details. We will then list them on our site for customers to flick through using location and categories.
"We can then send instant e-vouchers for last-minute gifts or print out a gift voucher and send it directly to the receiver or the buyer with next-day delivery options available."
Louise lives in Great Dunmow with husband Jack, who is the manager of Bishop's Stortford firm Associated Taxis. They have three children between them – Tyler, 15, Honey-Mai, 13, and Albee, 8 – and she previously ran her own business, HoneyBees Cupcakes.
She has more than 100 businesses in the Stortford and Dunmow area signed up and is aiming to make that over 1,000 covering the South East within the next three years before looking to make the brand national.
"We currently have Facebook and Instagram pages that work very well. We give local businesses great exposure whilst helping grow our own brand," said Louise.
"I'm a firm believer that the more people you have advertising and pushing your business forward, the better.
"With VoucherBang, our aim is to get the business sales and this comes with no risk for the business."
Customers also have the option of uploading photos and writing personalised messages on the vouchers to make them more special.
Louise added: "The best thing is the business doesn't need to supply us with gift vouchers as we use a VoucherBang template that has their brand and details on, meaning once they're set up they can start receiving sales."