Local company WishWish markets experiences as gifts
Published: October 23, 2011
Instead of the latest gadget, a local business hopes holiday shoppers will consider giving the gift of experience this year.
WishWish, a new business started by Joren and Simone van der Pluijm, recently opened its website, www.wishwishusa.com, to shoppers. Instead of offering material goods, it offers experiences such as a tennis lesson or a pottery class to give as a gift or to pamper yourself.
“WishWish is about doing fun things. We help people find fun things to do and to give to somebody else as a present or to spoil themselves,” Joren, the “chief executive inspirer,” said.
As well as selling to individual consumers, WishWish also markets itself as a way for businesses to reward employees, especially as many companies can’t afford to give bonuses or raises right now.
Simone, marketing guru for WishWish, said it makes the reward more meaningful, too. Often, people spend bonuses on groceries and other bills, and it leaves them with no lasting memory of how they spent the money, she said.
“A picture of a bonus check isn’t going to make it into the family album,” the 44-year-old Joren said. “But a nice day out is, and from that moment on, that’s the proof that you’ve given something that’s special and that made a difference.”
The company makes money by charging a fee to the supplier every time a customer buys a product. Unlike Groupon or other online-based services, WishWish doesn’t discount the services available through the site and doesn’t charge a fee to the providers until a sale is made.
While the business, situated near the Downtown Mall, is new in Charlottesville, it isn’t new to Joren and Simone, 40. Joren and his brother have run a similar company in the Netherlands for the past 14 years, and Simone worked as the marketing manager for the Dutch company, as well.
When they decided to expand their business they looked for a U.S. location that has good tax rates, is near a university, is near an international airport and has an entrepreneurial community. Charlottesville meets all those requirements, Joren said.
“There’s a lot of energy, a lot of things going on,” he said.
“[There’s] a lot of things to do in Charlottesville and the area, a lot of outdoor opportunities. It’s just great. We really fitted our family and we fitted our company, too. It was an excellent choice,” Simone said, finishing her husband’s sentence.
While many people would be hesitant to start a business during a slow economy, the van der Pluijms think it could be an advantage for them.
With prices starting at $25, a WishWish experience can more easily fit into a tight budget than a new mp3 player or cell phone, and can be more meaningful, the company believes.
“Especially in this time where the economy isn’t going as smoothly as it should be, we feel that a lot of people are coming to the conclusion that it’s not about the stuff we are gathering in our basements, it’s about the fun things we share with our loved ones,” Joren said. “It’s about sharing the love.”
Valerie Long, Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce vice chairwoman of economic vitality, said having WishWish in the community is a “win-win.”
The company “enables employers to reward employees with a variety of experiences to choose from rather than tangible goods or extra money, while promoting existing businesses in the community to new customers,” she wrote in an email.
For Joren and Simone, working together also seems to be a win-win. They have separate roles in the office and try to keep work at work.
“I think we are a good, strong team together,” Simone said. “Joren is the creative force, the more outgoing person. I’m more the strategic force and make sure that things really happen, and together that works out really well.”