E-Commerce App Afloat Makes Thoughtful Gifting Fast and Simple

The solution helps users send curated gifts while simultaneously supporting the growth of local businesses.

Written by Ashley Bowden
Published on May. 26, 2022
E-Commerce App Afloat Makes Thoughtful Gifting Fast and Simple
sarah allen preston
Sarah-Allen Preston, CEO and founder of afloat. | Photo: Afloat

Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of Dallas’ rising startups from last quarter here.

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When it comes to finding the right thing to support someone through a tough time or congratulate them during a celebration, the gift one sends them could either make or break the occasion. A Dallas-based startup wants to help people find the most thoughtful gifts for those they care about 100 percent of the time.

Afloat is a mobile e-commerce platform that offers a convenient way for users to find and send meaningful gifts. The app connects users to local businesses and displays an array of curated gifts. Currently operating in Dallas and Kansas City, afloat provides same-day shipping to recipients.

“Our big value is connecting people who want to gift thoughtfully with local stores who have creativity, curation and experience with their communities in spades. They just don’t always have the access to digital or delivery,” afloat founder Sarah-Allen Preston said.

Preston previously worked as an event planner where she got to act on her passion for connection and celebrating relationships. During a period when one of her sons had to undergo open-heart surgery, she experienced the supportive side of her close relationships. People would send thoughtful gifts like meals, toys or blankets and made her feel cared for, Preston said. Later on in life, she encountered a similar experience of friendly connection during a divorce. 

“At that point, I had the spark of the idea for afloat, and I really wanted to expand what I found to be the most important part of life, whether that was celebrating or supporting relationships and connection,” Preston said.

“Gifting is a huge market and makes up 20 percent of every retail purchase in the U.S. every day. It’s this huge piece of our behavior and lifestyle.”

Though the app just had its soft launch back in December, afloat has already garnered plenty of positive feedback from a number of users. Preston recalled a message from a woman whose daughter was able to send her grandmother a meaningful gift when she wasn’t feeling well, despite living several states apart. Other comments mention things such as how easy the app is to use, how quickly gifts were received and how well-curated the gift selections are.

Additionally, afloat aims to provide a personal touch when it comes to delivery. Instead of a typical bland parcel, items arrive gift-wrapped in an afloat branded bag alongside a handwritten card. 

“We really make sure that the delivery experience for the recipient is as good as the gifting experience for the gifter,” Preston said. 

Eventually, the company plans to augment its personalized gifting solution with more tech capabilities like digital thank yous or video messages, according to Preston. 

As it continues to grow, the company is planning a market-by-market rollout strategy, starting with a big city in Texas and a smaller one in the South, Preston said. The afloat app is currently available in the Apple App Store.

“Gifting is a huge market and makes up 20 percent of every retail purchase in the U.S. every day,” Preston said. “It’s this huge piece of our behavior and lifestyle, and so we’re just looking at a really interesting way to tap into it and make it contemporary and bring it forward with everything else.”

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