Pauline Torres launched the DapIt in 2018 with her husband, Cesar Torres. (Photo by Terence Duffy)

Startup of the Month: DapIt

Digital gift cards give small businesses a boost

Back Web Only Mar 5, 2020 By Russell Nichols

With gift cards, both physical and digital, continuing to soar in popularity, DapIt, a Woodland-based startup, aims to bring their convenience to small businesses while cutting down on plastic.

“We want to give small businesses like us a way to fight Amazon, Target, those giants who are just making more and more money,” says cofounder Pauline Torres, who launched the startup in 2018 with her husband, Cesar Torres. “Small businesses don’t have the money to fund an app.”

The idea for the DapIt app came in 2017, when the couple was on vacation for Cesar’s birthday. Friends in other places wanted to buy them a drink or appetizer remotely. But the restaurant had no options for receiving gifts. They did research, saw a business opportunity and jumped on it.

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The Torres’ raised about $190,000 from family and friends to produce the first version of the app. With a subscription fee of $5 a month, businesses can be on the DapIt network, where customers anywhere can buy their digital gift cards. (Businesses also pay 9.9 percent per transaction fee, which includes the services of DapIt and Stripe secure processing.) The business owner must complete the information to enroll and be verified on the DapIt app. For larger businesses, the owner can set up a store manager to have employees do approvals.

As of January, 75 businesses were signed up, mostly in Woodland, and the Torreses plan to expand the network to Sacramento and beyond. This year, the Torreses hope to raise at least $1 million to ramp up. Currently, they have a patent pending for what the app does. But the team is just the two of them, Cesar says, “fighting for this dream of helping small businesses.”

Support also comes through the DapIt app network. For instance, when a business is featured in the news, the app can promote the story and help spread the word. Also, instead of using a website that sells tickets for a business, the business can create a social media event that allows buyers to get tickets directly through the app.

Ultimately, the plan is to expand DapIt nationally. Since launching, Pauline says, they have had businesses reach out from Florida and Pennsylvania, but they started in Yolo County, so the majority of businesses are from there. But potential customers can be from anywhere — that’s what makes DapIt special, says Juan Barajas, co-owner of Savory Café in Woodland. “DapIt has allowed our business to see any user of a cell phone in Fresno, California or Shanghai as a potential customer of Savory Café,” he says.

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Kellie Morgan, owner of Yolo Eats, which runs three restaurants in Woodland, was one of the initial investors in DapIt, and she has been on the network for about a year. Her restaurants still use physical gift cards, she says, but the DapIt app makes it more convenient for customers.

“It’s not like a card at your house that you can forget,” Morgan says. “You can easily access it when you’re out and about. If you’ve got money to spend on it, you know where to go to do that. It pulls different people in that might not have come in otherwise.”

Morgan looks forward to seeing the app evolve with potential features, such as pop-up ads that say, “Hey, you’re near a place that uses DapIt!” But what she likes the most is that DapIt caters to establishments that can’t afford to spend a lot on marketing. “The big draw was the fact it felt like it was built for small- to- medium businesses,” Morgan says. “In our town, quite a few people use it and we’re all supporting each other.”

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