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Connecting and collecting for group gifts remotely - how to

24 September 2020

Group Together founders Ali Linz and Julie Tylman

When mother of four and entrepreneur, Ali Linz (above left), co-founded the now five-year-old business GroupTogether; she didn’t realise the important role it would play in keeping society connected. Now more than ever—when video calls have replaced face-to-face interactions and working from home alone is the new normal—colleagues and friends are searching for ways to maintain human relationships.

Enter GroupTogether: a platform that takes the hassle out of collecting a group gift. Amid a pandemic, this eco-friendly, philanthropic start-up is one of the few that can group together and achieve success; all while leaving behind a message of love, care and community. 

The Product: Solving an everyday problem

How did the idea of revolutionising the way people gift come about?

My business partner Julie Tylman and I have seven young kids, including two sets of boy twins between us. And although there are moments of sublime joy and pride being a mum, it’s mostly patience. We needed to feel a different sense of accomplishment. Julie has an MBA from Columbia and I had been a Director of Strategy Planning at a large ad agency. We sat together and wondered what was dumb in our everyday lives. 

“Ugh! All those plastic presents in all that packaging from children’s parties. One group gift would be so much better, but it’s a nightmare to organise!” The “aha” moment came from there. Surely some 20th century technology could fix that. 

With GroupTogether, the gift organiser can create and share a link to let everyone chip in and sign the card online. We’d do the reminders and tracking and then we’d give the gift organiser the option to withdraw the collected cash or spend it on a gift from our gift store. We also offer the option to donate a portion to charity too. One good gift, less waste and some giving back too. The idea was born.

When did you begin seeing an uptick in sales this year?

Since Covid hit this year, we’ve grown like crazy. People who used to walk down the corridor at work with a jangling envelope are now looking for an online solution to the same problem. They’ve found us and what they’re loving is that we take the awkwardness out - no chasing people for money! It’s easy but you can still group together to make someone’s day, even if it is from afar. 

Has Covid changed the way you market your business?

People are starting to search for a solution to group gifting now that they’re working remotely. SEO, blogging and Adwords are more important than ever. That said, what I love is that GroupTogether is inherently viral. A gift organiser invites their friends to chip in and then at least one friend in that group picks up the idea and starts a gift for their friend, co-worker or kid’s teacher. It’s literally a “friend get friend” programme.

What is something exciting coming up in GroupTogether’s life?

We’re launching a free group card this month - no need to even chip in! This allows people to send a digital card from a group of people. It’s simple; you create and share a link and everyone can add a message and picture. It’s such a nice thing to do for someone at a time when friends can’t exactly get together and celebrate.

The Sentiment: Make someone’s day and feel good doing it

Who is GroupTogether's target audience?

There is definitely a type of person who’d use GroupTogether. You’d know that person in your own life - usually, but not always a woman. She is the person who organises the good things in our lives: the group get-togethers, group gifts and weekends away. She’s the team manager. She’s a fantastic person, a people-person and oh, so organised. 

What’s the sentiment behind GroupTogether? 

It gives Julie and I real joy to see a card with genuine gratitude for another human being. From photos of kids holding up drawings for their teacher and people showing their care of a friend who’s doing it tough by chipping in to get food delivered to the funny things people write on their co-worker’s farewell card; GroupTogether brings out the best of humanity in an everyday way. People are realising that now more than ever it is so important to group together to make someone’s day.

Giving Back: Donate a portion to charity

Tell me how people can give back via GroupTogether? Why was this an important factor in your business model? 

People can use us to give to good causes. We’ve collected about $250,000 for friends in need and charities. We offer an option to give between 0 - 100% of the amount collected to any cause you choose. If it’s a registered charity, we’ll transfer the funds and the details to the charity to issue tax receipts. For a lot of people, knowing that, say 20% has gone to charity makes the gift feel even better. They’re happy that their friend has received a gift, there’s less waste and the world’s a better place. We’re also a lot cheaper than most fundraising sites like GoFundMe so that’s a plus.

The Lessons: From one female entrepreneur to another

What are the three things you've learnt this year?

I’m drowning in the learning! My three main things would be:

  1. Learning is actually painful! But when you feel the pain, you know it’s happening and it feels really good once it’s done-ish. 
  2. People are kind. I’ve asked a lot of people for advice, time and help and many have given it generously and thoughtfully. I’m saying yes to others more because of that, even though time is so scarce when you’re a start-up founder. 

What's the biggest business decision you've made that you wish you could take back?

Every time we spend money on an agency, we wish we’d hired a freelancer or someone in-house. I love agencies, the people in them and the big thinking that they can pull off, but for a start-up on a skinny budget it’s a killer because we can never afford the number of hours required for them to deep dive and execute well. 

What piece of advice would you give 18-year-old Ali?

Do stuff and try stuff - and do it wholeheartedly; even if it’s not on the direct path. It all adds up to a fuller, more interesting life and a way to connect with others. 

If you weren’t the Co-founder of a company, what would you be doing?

I’d be driving my four kids crazy by micro-managing their lives! Or maybe something a little more creative; I do love the invention side of start-ups while also creating beautiful experiences... don’t get me dreaming!

What book is currently on your nightstand?

Who remembers names of books on kindles, anyway?! Most recently, I loved Where the Crawdad’s Sing and Educated but for work inspo, I listen to the podcast series “Masters of Scale” with Reid Hoffman. He interviews super successful entrepreneurs and (nerd alert), I always find myself writing down new ideas mid-walk.

What is your favourite quote?

“Just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin’” from Finding Nemo. It reminds me to get up off the floor and keep going. Progress over perfection.

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