Rushio Billings, co-founder &CEO of GiftMe

As the world embraces the digital revolution, local entrepreneur Rushio Billings saw an opportunity to establish a new business, one that is completely digital and automated. He told the Jamaica Observer that the business idea came to him on a regular day while strolling through a mall.

“I was in the United States walking through a mall and I saw one of those stands in the middle of the mall, it wasn't even a store, I noticed that they had physical gift cards on their stand and you could literally buy the physical gift card, give it to anybody and they could go back there to redeem it for a phone case, screen protector or something,” said Billings.

That's when his entrepreneurial mindset sprung into action, “it hit me that we don't even have gift cards for our merchants back home in Jamaica any at all. It's very difficult to have to write up a paper or something and here it was in the foreign country, it was physical but the idea came to me that I could make it digital being a computer scientist and a businessman. So I decided to quickly create a minimum viable product which took about two weeks to deploy,” he continued.

That product idea became the centrepiece of a local business called GiftMe, for which Billings is co-founder and chief executive officer.

He describes the business as a markeplace with multiple distribution channels. He said it's a digital platform that allows local businesses (merchants) to easily distribute gift cards anywhere in the world. Billings said he created an entire infrastructure that merchants can use to redeem and track everything. The gift cards are sent in the form of e-mail or text message.

“We offer two distribution channels, one directly to consumers and another through our corporate channel which allows local businesses to pay and distribute gift cards from all of our merchants to their customers or to their employees,” Billings noted.

It didn't take long before the entrepreneur realised that his product had the power to become a big business in Jamaica. “Within the first week we had about 15 merchants come on to the platform, so I realised they were willing to sign our contracts and also start selling on the platform. Immediately orders started to come in from just posting on Instagram. We started making money immediately and that's when I realised that we had product market fit and decided that this could become a real business,” said the GiftMe CEO.

Billings started just about two months ago, since then he said there has been significant growth.

“Now we have a total of about 60 merchants on the platform. We also have over 600 orders so far from people locally and the majority, about 70 per cent, is from the Diaspora so we're bringing foreign income to companies in Jamaica. The traffic on the website has gone up to about 10,000 unique visitors per month,” he noted.

But it doesn't stop there, the entrepreneur continues to innovate. “We're rolling out a bunch of new features for our merchants. We're gonna allow consumers to attach videos to the gift cards when they're sending it and that will enrich the experience. In the next month, we are gonna be releasing our consumer mobile app. So instead of going on the website consumers can buy digital gift cards from within the app to share with their friends,” said Billings.

He said there are also expansion plans on the horizon, “we're planning to expand outside of Jamaica early next year so we'll be doing a lot of business with overseas companies. We're going further into the Caribbean, but I don't want to say any country specifically just yet.”

In the meantime, he says the company is focused on hiring marketers and graphic designers as the business grows. Billings stressed that he is big on integrating and helping other companies to integrate and is open to collaborations and partnerships along those lines.

BY ANDREW LAIDLEY Senior business reporter

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