Ryan Charnov – Founder of Giftfluence

Talk to your customers and get feedback. It’s much easier to ask consumers what they want then it is to guess and check.

Ryan Charnov is the Founder of Giftfluence, a crowdfunding platform that enables charities to raise money through online shopping. Prior to founding Giftfluence, Ryan was a consultant at Mercer and has previously held leadership positions at education focused nonprofits such as Moneythink and Junior Achievement. He is passionate about leveraging technology to make the world a better place, and launched Giftfluence to serve that purpose in late October of 2015.

Through Giftfluence Ryan plans to raise $1 Million for charities in 2016. So far over 70 retailers have signed up to donate a portion of their online sales to great causes, with the average purchase leading to a donation of over $4.

Where did the idea for Giftfluence come from?

My Co-Founder and I have always been actively involved in the community, but after graduating from college we struggled to find effective methods of giving back. Both of us spend a lot of time online, so we figured there must be a simple way to give back to the community through our online activity. When we weren’t satisfied with any other solution we decided to build our own. We started by convincing a few retailers to donate a portion of their online sales to charity and before we knew it we had 70 retailers selling over 4 million products through Giftfluence. Our goal is to create a world in which every action you take online gives back to charity (at no cost to you).

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Although there are no “typical days”, I try to keep a somewhat consistent start and end to my day so that I can build productive habits. Typically, I get up early to work out then start my work day by responding to emails. I usually have calls set up later in the morning and from there my schedule varies daily. I always end my day by writing out a ranked list of tasks to accomplish during the next day. Once I get done with my calls I start with the most important task and work until I have checked everything off of my list. Even though I don’t have a boss to report to, I treat my checklist as if it’s a performance review.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I wish there was some shortcut that I could share to help your readers turn ideas to products, but the only method that works for me is putting my head down and cranking out hard and focused work. I do get as much feedback as possible, and I try to turn every opinion into an actionable task.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Social activism. My generation cares so much about making the world a better place and is actively looking for ways to make a difference in everyday life. I recently read a study in which 90% of U.S. consumers say they would switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality. Consumers want to support brands that make a difference and it is my responsibility to create easier ways for everyone to get involved.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur

I reach out to at least one thought leader in my field every day. I am constantly surprised by how generous people are with their time and the feedback I have received has been extremely valuable.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I have been extremely lucky to never have a horrible job.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would definitely start earlier. It took me a few months to finally act on my idea, which is time that I could have used to grow and iterate. I also would have taken more coding or computer science classes in college.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Talk to your customers and get feedback. It’s much easier to ask consumers what they want then it is to guess and check.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Putting my partners before myself. I try to add as much value as possible to both my charity and retail partners by writing blog and social media posts, connecting them to new opportunities and promoting them to the media. Because we do so much work for our partners, they are more than willing to share Giftfluence, giving us access to a large and loyal customer base

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We actually missed our target launch date for Giftfluence by about two weeks. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, we were launching just before the holiday season so every day that we missed put us behind in terms of educating consumers for holiday shopping. This taught me the importance of planning for the unexpected and setting realistic deadlines.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The UberPool concept for grocery delivery services. There are lots of convenient grocery delivery services but the delivery fees aren’t economical. I live in a high rise apartment building so if I could pool my order with someone else ordering on the same day and split the delivery fee I’d be much more likely to regularly use those services.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A second monitor for my laptop. When I am working at home I can get much more done without having to toggle between applications.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Canva & Piktochart- Great free services for online graphic design. In no time I can create professional looking designs which has saves us tons of time and money

SideKick- Tracking emails and activity is incredibly useful in determining how effectively I am communicating

OpenLibrary.org- I am a huge reader and love being able to rent books online for free

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

7 Habits of Highly Effective People– Although not for everyone, this book helps readers develop a framework for making decisions and driving both personal and professional change. For me this book was instrumental in developing habits to reach my own goals.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Jennifer Rasiah: Founder and CEO of Givesurance- Givesurance’s business model is similar to mine and Jennifer has been invaluable in providing feedback and mentorship on my journey. I have read and listened to every interview she has given as she is a constant source of inspiration and purpose. She was also recently named a top Woman of Influence in Los Angeles.

Ted Gonder: Co-Founder and CEO of Moneythink- When I was in college Ted inspired me to become involved in the financial literacy movement. Ted is an absolute guru when it comes to social entrepreneurship, personal growth and productivity. His blog is a must read for anyone looking to challenge themselves to make the world a better place.

Tripp Wickersham: Product Manager of Mobile at RetailMeNot, Co-Founder of Frolic – Tripp was a roommate of mine in college and is a tremendous friend, mentor and entrepreneur. In under a year he went from zero computer science experience to a leading software developer and creator of a sophisticated app. His app, Frolic, recommends spots for groups to eat and drink at based on individual preferences. If your readers are as indecisive as me and my friends when making plans, then they need to try Frolic.


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