One year on…

It’s one year since we launched Goodmoney gift vouchers so I thought I’d share some of our journey and plans.

Firstly, I must say we’ve been delighted with how well Goodmoney gift vouchers have been received locally. In our first year we’ve sold £10,000! worth of gift vouchers and over 200 local businesses have joined the network. Lots of our members have already had gift vouchers spent with them and huge congratulations to Bison Beer, Coggings & Co. and hiSbe, who have been especially popular.

We started by launching a physical paper gift voucher (with lots of security features) to make it easy for local businesses to get involved. Businesses just sign up to our online directory and we give them a simple guide to the security features to keep in their till. They use the guide to check that any gift vouchers presented to them are genuine and valid and then notify us through our website. We then pop over to collect them (usually on a Wednesday) and pay the business into their bank account.

When we launched this time last year we had great support from local employers who were keen to reward their staff in way that also supports local businesses. Huge thanks to Bloom, Brighton & Hove Buses, DoSomethingDifferent, hiSbe, Madgex, MakeMedia, Propellernet, RitchieLambor, The Big Lemon and Wired Sussex who all helped us get off to a cracking start.

Interestingly, over the course of the last year we’ve discovered that most of our online buyers are based outside of Brighton & Hove and buying for friends and family who live here. So we’re making some changes to our online store so that our gift vouchers can be sent directly to the person they’re for, with a free card and a personal message. We’ll also be running some experiments with online advertising in the run up to Christmas to try to identify a scalable marketing strategy that can be funded by our profit margin. If you happen to be an expert in this field and fancy giving us a hand, do get in touch!

We’re still operating as a ‘minimum viable product’, so we need to introduce some technology to remove the manual processes before expanding the scheme. With a £5,000 grant from Innovate UK we’ve already built a mobile app for businesses to scan the barcode on the back of the gift vouchers to check they’re valid and enter a scratch panel PIN to claim payment.

Before we launch the app, we want to link it to the same digital payment platform that’s used by our friends at the Bristol Pound and the Brixton Pound. This will mean we’ll be able to pay businesses instantly into a Goodmoney account whenever they accept a gift voucher.

Implementing the digital payment platform is a key milestone for us because it will also provide the infrastructure we need to experiment with new services, such as selling digital vouchers and gift cards for individual local businesses and testing our plan to help member businesses swap their goods and services with each other.

Goodmoney CIC was actually founded with a vision of using digital currencies to help businesses trade their under-utilised capacity. Inspired by the revelation that nearly all the money in circulation is actually credit money created by banks – and the realisation that this type of money doesn’t facilitate all potential economic exchange. This is especially true in times of recession when the banks are unable or unwilling to issue new loans and people and businesses don’t have the ability or appetite to take on more debt.

Launching Goodmoney gift vouchers was part of our strategy to build a network of local businesses and establish Goodmoney CIC as a trusted provider of alternative financial services. When businesses join Goodmoney, we ask them whether they’re interested in swapping goods and services with other members and nearly all say yes!

This summer we almost won the opportunity to accelerate our plans when we entered a £30,000 Innovate UK / NESTA competition to develop new markets in the sharing economy. We made it to the final three with our proposal to help local businesses find new opportunities to swap goods and services and also pay each other with their own credit currency (like a gift card) if the time and value of their trade doesn’t match. Despite not winning the final pitch contest, it was great to make it to the final three and have our plans validated by a panel of experts.

We’re really keen to push on and implement our digital platform. Reducing the admin required to run our gift voucher scheme will be great, but it’s the opportunity to experiment with new services that’s most exciting.