Editor’s note: Startland News selected 10 Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list, now in its seventh year recognizing founders and startups that editors believe will make some of the biggest news in the coming 12 months. The following is one of 2022’s companies. Click here to view the full list of Startups to Watch — presented by sponsors Husch Blackwell and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Gifting is a tangible way to show someone special you care, Sarah-Allen Preston shared, but the process of gifting can get caught up in the busyness of life.
Until afloat — a gifting app that allows users to pick out items from their local shops to be packaged and delivered either same day or next day to the recipient.
Elevator pitch: From a breakup pick-me-up to a birthday gift, afloat is gifting on demand from your favorite local businesses. The afloat application allows users to send thoughtful gifts with a few quick clicks.
- Founders: Sarah-Allen Preston, Laura McKnight, Olivia Lynn
- Founding year: 2020
- Current employee count: 7
- Amount raised to date: Undisclosed
- Noteworthy investors: Undisclosed
- Programs completed: Techstars Kansas City
“The pandemic caused many of us to realize that there is nothing more important in life than celebrating connections and reinforcing our relationships,” said Preston, who co-founded afloat alongside Laura McKnight and Olivia Lynn. “I feel so lucky to be a part of afloat; it’s the gift that keeps on giving. You’re sending someone you love something from a store you love in a community that you love.”
Another response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stronger push to shop local, Preston added, noting afloat’s commitment to supporting small businesses.
The afloat team has already partnered with more than 20 local businesses across Kansas City amid the app’s soft launch this month. It is set to officially launch in February 2022.
“We’ve already had one of our store owners tell us about how many orders she’s gotten through the afloat app,” Preston shared. “To hear that not only the users are loving it and having fun, but the businesses are flourishing too, that’s been so exciting.”
Click here to sign up for the afloat app waitlist and early access to its debut.
Along with afloat’s soft launch in December, the team recently expanded its offices into Dallas where afloat has 18 local business partners. With continual expansion on the horizon, Preston and her team are looking at other markets in Houston, Austin, Los Angeles and Miami.
“We’re already seeing great results in Dallas as well, and we plan to fundraise in 2022 so that we can scale aggressively,” she said.
Afloat’s not-so-secret to success: an all-women team passionate about their product.
“We have such a strong belief in our team and what we’re doing — and that’s allowed us to overcome the pushback we’ve received,” Preston noted. “Many of us have also worked in retail before, so not only are we understanding our users, but also understanding our retail partners.”
Although afloat’s current target market is focused on women, the team has plans to reach more men on the user side.
“Men keep sharing with us, ‘Hey, we’re the ones who actually need to help,’” Preston said, laughing. “So we do want this to be a platform for everyone to be able to utilize.”
With an exciting ending to 2021, Preston is confident that 2022 will be afloat’s big year.
“We’ve been able to make gifting easy and seamless — but also meaningful, exciting and fun,” Preston shared. “The team has brought our personal experiences into the product design and development process, and we are really looking forward to sharing that with our communities.”
With its headquarters in Kansas City — and more than 800 attorneys across 25 U.S. locations, including its virtual office, The Link — Husch Blackwell’s industry-centric approach and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion work give the firm a deep understanding of what its clients face every day.
For more information on what Husch Blackwell can do for your business, visit www.huschblackwell.com/capabilities
Startups to Watch is now in its seventh year, thanks to ongoing support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.