Friday, September 29, 2006

Adventures In Gift Certificates.

Gavin Bishop Story

Though the multimillion-dollar gift-giving market will never cease to exist, gift-giving patterns change as often as the latest fashion trends. In recent years, research shows consumers are looking for gifts that are unique--not your run-of-the-mill department-store gift cards. As one of the first companies to catch on to this trend, Xperience Days lets customers give an opportunity of a lifetime as a gift.

According to co-founder Gavin Bishop, Xperience Days offers a wide range of life-enhancing experiences "that people dream and talk of doing, but rarely get around to doing." The average cost of the gift certificates is $275 to $300--prices range from $65 for a trapeze lesson to $110,000 for a private zero-gravity flight.

The concept of giving experiences, which is common in the United Kingdom, was an idea that UK native Bishop, 37, and his co-founders, Michelle Geib, 29, and Robb Young, 34, knew would be a hit in the States. They were right-since the company's launch, at least three competitors have entered the market. "People in the U.S. generally have an adventurous streak and are willing to try things," says Bishop, who met his co-founders while attending business school in South Africa. "Plus, they're very good gift-givers."

Though the company targets anyone "with an adventurous spirit," the founders focused on the San Francisco Bay and New York tri-state markets when they launched in January 2005. As popularity increased and they realized there were plenty of adventurous activities available nation-wide, the trio added experiences throughout the country, such as Formula One racing in Las Vegas and white-water rafting in Pennsylvania.

Although sales figures are difficult to calculate because the company sells gift certificates, which are a deferred income, Bishop projects 2006 sales of about $2 million--drastically more than the $100,000 it took the three entrepreneurs to finance the startup. They knew investing in such a project--with no asset backing or constant cash flow--would incur serious risks. Nothing quite as risky, though, as jumping out of a plane.

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