In 2011, UF alumnus Edward Lavagnino walked into a Sports Authority for a pair of socks and walked out with an idea.
Lavagnino, a graduate of the College of Engineering, started Gift Certificates and More, a website and smartphone app that allows users to get free gift certificates to local businesses.
Lavignano said he got the idea for the website when he received a free Sports Authority gift certificate in the mail and wanted to “sell that feeling.”
“I started this business because I was unemployed at the time, in transition between jobs, and I just ran into this idea,” he said. “I saw the need, and I wanted to fill the need.”
Gift Certificates and More offers gift cards for $2 to $5 at more than 220 businesses in Gainesville, Alachua and Jonesville. Lavignano said gift certificates are available for seven businesses in Midtown and seven in downtown, along with other Gainesville locations. Some local businesses offering the certificate are Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, :08, Chili’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and 101 Downtown.
Lavignano partnered with UF’s annual Dance Marathon fundraiser this past Spring to create punch cards with offers for more than 10 local restaurants. He said Dance Marathon raised more than $4,000 selling the cards.
Derek Guffin, an assistant director for academic and career advising at the Warrington College of Business Administration, said he has been a member of the website since it started.
“It’s really quite an effective business model,” Guffin said. “The nice thing about this is that it supports local businesses.”
Guffin said he uses the gift cards to help pay for dry cleaning and meals at the Flying Biscuit Cafe.
“A couple bucks here and there — those things add up,” Guffin said. “It’s quite an easy way to save some money.”
A version of this story ran on page 5 on 9/27/2013 under the headline "UF engineering alumnus’ website, app makes free gift cards reality"