ROCHESTER, Minn. – This holiday season, it’s estimated that around 70% of consumers will be purchasing gift cards. But that doesn’t mean the funds on those cards will be spent.
“I bought a latte, had received a $5 gift card,” explains Tori Utley of Rochester. “I [ordered] a vanilla latte and had 17 cents leftover and I threw it in the garbage. I don’t know what it was about that day but it just struck me.”
Utley says she wondered how many times she had tossed a gift card that still had a few cents on it. She started looking into it and found out that it happens a lot. In fact, since 2006 more than $40 billion in gift card funds have gone unused or unredeemed. She got together with three other entrepreneurs to explore how those wasted funds could be redirected to help make the world a better place.
“We’re starting a movement of doing good, one gift card at a time,” she says.
Utley is now the CEO of Tinua, a tech startup she co-founded with Shanna Decker, Zach Zurn, and Jacob Nelson. The Tinua team is currently building a digital platform and mobile application that will allow users to donate gift card funds to charitable causes.
“You’ll have a gift card that you don’t want to spend or you don’t want to carry around and you’ll just open up the app, take a picture of it or enter the information; the company it’s from, and pick from any number of causes that we’ve researched and find to be reputable and really have a good impact for basic human needs,” explains Nelson, Tinua’s Chief Technology Officer.
“What we’re building is a real-time system integration with our favorite retailers and brands,” Utley adds. “Like Jacob said, you can click a button and donate immediately and we can tell you the impact that you’re making right through the product.”
The app is currently in the first design phase and moving towards development. Tinua plans to start testing it with live users in January.
“We’re going to have some folks come in and actually get hands-on with the application and give us some feedback so we can develop better as we progress,” explains Zurn, the Creative Director.
They hope to be able to launch the app next summer.
“We always say here when you receive a gift card; spend it, use it like you want to but when you have an amount that you either don’t want or you no longer need, with Tinua you can see that amount make a difference,” Utley adds.
Tinua is looking for people willing to donate gift cards for testing purposes, they also have openings for user testing. If you’re interested in signing up to be one of the first users of the app, follow the link below.