Another holiday or special occasion arises, and you find yourself in the same position: having no idea what to get your loved ones. Luckily, for those lacking inspiration, Giftideas.ca is here to ‘gift you’ a hand.
Giftideas.ca is run by a local business, Focus River Inc., and is co-founded and led by Quebec entrepreneurs Uriel Pinsonneault and Matthieu Ouin. The website facilitates shopping locally by bringing together the best products from local businesses across Canada.
Unwrapping their full potential
Uriel and Matthieu previously worked in software development and decided to start a side-hustle together with their tech expertise.
“At some point we decided maybe we should do something outside work together since we can build any software, just us two.” During one of their brainstorming sessions, they decided to create the best gift idea website in Quebec.
Entrepreneurs Matthieu Ouin (left) and Uriel Pinsonneault (right), the ‘gifted’ minds behind giftideas.ca
The idea came from overseas—entrepreneur Matthieu is from France where gift idea sites are already very popular. By watching the competition, Uriel and Matthieu realized they could leverage their skillset to create a gift idea site that was more fun and useful than the others they had seen.
Using WordPress, they created their website and began their journey curating a selection of unique gifts from local Canadian businesses.
Ensuring a unique present-ation
Uriel and Matthieu are also the owners of a Canadian affiliate marketing platform called Affiliation Focus. It is used to create partnerships with businesses featured on their gift ideas website.
“We want to choose outstanding businesses and outstanding products.”
The two entrepreneurs take extra care in selecting the companies and gifts they promote. Their process is meticulous and involves picking businesses with nice websites and products with a “wow” factor.
Although based in Quebec, Uriel and Matthieu strive to showcase local stores and products from all corners of the country.
“We’ve been continuously working on developing partners from new provinces. They’re all unique; building an audience through SEO and marketing takes time, dedication and effort.”
Today, the site features exclusive gifts from over 120 Canadian vendors, with more partnerships on the rise.
Uriel and Matthieu initially launched their idea province-wide in 2009. Their immediate success in Quebec saw both co-founders going full-time in 2012 and deciding to take their business national with ‘giftideascanada.com’. However, it wasn’t until they switched to giftideas.ca that they saw a huge boost in national sales.
“We had our .COM website for quite a few years, but we always struggled with that domain name. It had modest success, we would make sales on it and everything, but the growth kind of stalled.
However, within 12 hours of rebranding their business under a short and sweet domain name, giftideas.ca, they received their first sale in weeks. “It was really important for us to get a .CA, because Canadian-ness is really what we're after. We want people to know they're shopping on a Canadian website with Canadian dollars, and it gave us this short name for good branding. It had it all.”
Aligning their domain name with their brand name allowed the founders of giftideas.ca to be more easily recognized and discovered. “SEO-wise, we’ve been ranking better and better for certain keywords, and on a business level it’s much easier to develop partnerships now. We’ve been receiving a lot more applicants with the new domain name... We plaster the .CA on all of our communications so that people, as they remember us, know how to land on our site. So it’s actually really powerful to have that domain name.”
The long road to success
“There’s a quote that says, ‘It takes 10 years to make an overnight success.’” Entrepreneurs Uriel and Matthieu recognize the hardships of small business ownership. 10 years after launching their business Focus River Inc. in 2012, the two are living their dream life and are seeing all their hard work pay off.
Getting there wasn’t easy though. “It’s not true that winners never quit. Sometimes you’ve got to quit because you’ve got to put your efforts in the right places.” The two believe it’s important to be honest with yourself when you’ve gone wrong and to know when to cut your losses, as they did with giftideascanada.com.
Mentors in the small business world have been crucial to the duo’s success.
One of the first lessons they learned from their mentor, a client of theirs, was that, “You need to treat your website as a business, not a project.”
Following their massive success in Quebec, the founders of giftideas.ca hope to continue expanding nationally to provide amazing gifts to Canadians everywhere.