Scott Bowefield – Founder/CEO
I have lived in the Columbia neighborhood of Bellingham for 18 years. In late 2017, I had the opportunity (in the form of an early retirement incentive package) to leave my executive sales job in a large, multinational corporation. I had dreamed for years of being in a job where I felt more integrated in the community and where I’d be able to make a real impact in our community. As I explored the idea of local economic development, I came to realize that, while effective over the long term, “Buy Local” campaigns often have a difficult time demonstrating quantifiable results over the short term. Virtually everyone recognizes the importance of these initiatives, but historically it has been a mission centered on changing the economic culture of a community, which takes time… Typically lots of time.
So… is there a way to affect a meaningful change in local buying behavior on a scale of days, weeks and months, instead of years and decades? I struggled with the thought for quite some time, until I walked into the grocery store one evening and for the first time saw, really saw, the enormous gift card kiosk, with it’s hundreds of national brands. I was suddenly struck with the realization that this, the simple gift card, could potentially be the “economic engine” that had the power to finally drive a change in local buying trends over the short term! As I researched more I quickly came on the gift card stats: $160 billion in annual sales; the #1 most requested gift; the vast majority of sales going to national companies rather than local businesses… and Whatcom Gift Cards was born.
But here’s the bottom line: What I truly hope is that local gift cards, and the much more personal connections they represent, have the power to change how it feels to both give and receive a gift card, because really – I mean really, at that deepest level of your heart that touches, and is touched by, the people in your life – isn’t that at the core of what it means to be part of a community? Cheers, and meaningful giving! Scott
Brad Stevens – Advisory Board
During his 2002 – 2009 tenure as Vice President, Customer Relationship Management for Starbucks, Brad founded Starbucks’ first Customer Relationship Management function, where he oversaw the $1 billion Starbucks Card business, global consumer insights, and brand loyalty.
Under his leadership, Starbucks CRM launched the Starbucks Card Rewards (the precursor to My Starbucks Rewards) and Starbucks Gold programs, which comprised more than 3 million members collectively. His teams developed an analytics infrastructure to track program ROI, and formulated an annual communications strategy to build Starbucks brand loyalty. During this time, Starbucks more than doubled its customer database, generated 95% member satisfaction, and built a new understanding of frequent customer purchase behavior.
A hallmark of Starbucks’ CRM strategy under Brad was constant innovation of the Starbucks Card payment platform, including Starbucks Card Mini and Starbucks Card Mobile, the iPhone app that introduced Starbucks’ popular pay-by-phone capability.
In 2011, Brad joined Nordstrom as Vice President, Loyalty Programs, where he was the executive responsible for increasing sales and customer retention through loyalty marketing at one of the leading fashion specialty retailers in the U.S. and was accountable for strategy and execution of the Nordstrom Fashion Rewards and Nordstrom Gift Card programs, which together contributed to more than 40% of company sales. Supported by a team of 26 loyalty and gift card marketers in strategy, program management, communications, store engagement and analytics functions, Brad delivered record growth in Fashion Rewards program membership (+20%), sales volume (+19%) and incremental sales ($1B+) in 2012.
Lara Merriam-Smith – Advisory Board
Currently Program Director for the Northwest Innovation Resource Center, Lara started out as a Higher Education Geography teacher for 10 years before inventing the product that started her entrepreneurial journey. In 2006, she started her own company based on her product the Bra Barrette, which she took from concept through patenting to a national selling spot on QVC in 2010. Today her company is in a licensing pipeline, so she can focus on educating future entrepreneurs. In 2010, she earned her MBA and began sharing her experience and expertise with other entrepreneurs as a mentor, coach and entrepreneur educator at various colleges throughout the Puget Sound. Her passion is to provide experiential learning opportunities for entrepreneurs to embrace their innovative ideas and reach new levels of success.