Pass It Forward is a website that offers lots of wonderful gifts, each and every one of them comes with the feel good bonus of helping someone else. It is home to some gorgeous gift ideas and is well worth the look.
We had a chat with the brains behind the inspirational site, Betty Zeritis, and this is what she had to say.
Can you tell us a little about the Pass It Forward Gifts website?
Pass it Forward Gifts is an online shop that shares 5% of sales with four Australian charities and inspires others to be generous, to give back to the community and help others in need. Our mission is to offer a positive online shopping experience that leaves people feeling good.
What inspired you to open Pass It Forward Gifts?
It was in my ‘dream book’ for a couple of years, which was filled with all the things I really wanted to do in my life. I had a career in marketing but felt unfulfilled in the corporate world, I wanted to make a difference and do something inspiring with my time. Around the corner from 40 I felt it was the right time to make Pass it Forward Gifts a reality and just went for it one day! It felt right. I’ve always been a compassionate person and volunteer and tried to help whoever I can, wherever I can. It’s a value deeply ingrained in me. I truly believe generosity is the key to a better world.
How did you choose which 4 charities to support?
It was not easy let me tell you! I went to hundreds of websites and registered charity lists and read and read until I kept coming back to these four – I was also listening very closely to my heart. I’ve admired and supported many charities over the years, sponsored children from around the world and volunteered my time to raise funds for major charitable organisations. But these ones felt right for my site.
It was the people involved in them and the fact that these charities were not as well known, yet did so much to help thousands of Australians every day in practical, positive ways. Because they are low overhead operations with lots of volunteers and little funding I wanted to support them by generating awareness as well as passing on donations on an ongoing basis. Most of what these charities receive truly does go to the people who need it, and quickly!
Can you tell us a little about the four charities?
The first is Petrea King’s Quest for Life Foundation. The Quest team run much needed programs and services that address the challenges of living with cancer, grief, depression and other trauma. They focus on peace, healing and wellbeing. I recently attended an event in Sydney and heard Petrea say the most beautiful thing, that ‘she felt blessed and honoured to be by the side of people when they passed away’. She is extraordinarily selfless and has helped me personally in my life and I wanted to return to her the support she’s provided me and others.
The second is Clothesline Incorporated. Their aim is to improve the day-to-day lives of Australia’s homeless, people living in cars and on the streets right now. Each night their vans are loaded with clothing, blankets and other essentials and driven by volunteers to where they can distribute these items direct to the homeless and needy. They truly care about people and also help to raise their self esteem and prospects for a better future.
Inala is the third charity we support. They help people living with disabilities, their families and carers. Inala actually means a ‘”place of peace”. The team are dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities and increasing their independence and participation in the wider community. At Inala every person is treated with dignity, respect, friendship and understanding and is offered a range of services such as Post School Programs, Employment and Training and Residential Services.
And our fourth is Kids for Life. They are another amazing charity who help Australian kids in need. This charity is run by a dedicated group of young professionals who volunteer their time, and leverage their networks and resources to raise funds for preventative research into childhood illness, programs for abused children, welfare programs and more. In just over 8 years they have raised over $1.6 million dollars! They are marvelous.
What can you tell us about how it works, how our online shopping benefits these charities?
Every time a customer buys a product from Pass it Forward Gifts we give 5% of that purchase to whichever one of the four charities the customer chooses when they finish shopping – it’s the final step in the process. This is not 5% of the profit, but 5% of the sales price so it quickly adds up. We are transparent about how much we will give from each sale by publishing the donation amount and updating our charity boards. One day we hope to fund whole programs and initiatives. There is no limit on how much we will donate, the more people shop with us the more we give!
Where do you source the stock that you sell through the site?
From lots of talented Aussie mums who hand make many of our products, other Australian small businesses, third world communities and from the charities themselves by on-selling their products free of charge. We want to help in many ways.
How difficult was it to get your vision for Pass It Forward Gifts in progress and up and running?
It was an enormous effort and there were many, many evenings where I only slept a couple of hours; keen to get the site online and launched as quickly as possible. I took all my savings and with the support of my family, friends and business partners my dream materialized on December 1, 2010 when the website was launched. When you are running your own business, especially something you are emotionally attached to, there is no switching off. Your mind is constantly thinking about how to make it better and what more you can do. As hard as I worked in my corporate career, it rarely kept me awake at night.
What response have you had to the site and how do you get your message out into the world?
A very positive response. People are now starting to discover us and a lovely community has built up on Facebook who inspire me just as much as I hope to inspire them. I have also been blessed to have met some extraordinary Australians who have their own kindness initiatives and we have become a close network who keeps each other motivated. We share ideas and generally support each other however we can; knowing that we all aspire to a common outcome. Public relations, social media and online and search marketing are also a key focus. By spreading positive messages and doing positive things we hope to get our message out there and grow.
What has been your biggest challenge throughout the process?
Being online is extremely competitive and it takes some time for people to discover you and trust you. We are in a tough economic environment, shoppers can be price sensitive and are bombarded with offers and communications every day. It is a challenge to grab and maintain attention, to get your message out there and build virtual relationships with customers, hoping that they will remember you when they need to buy a gift and return to do so. It costs a small fortune to rank favourably on the search engines and many people simply cannot afford to hang in there long enough or take that risk financially. It’s a slow process and rewards take some time and patience to materialize. You really need to have faith in your idea and press on passionately.
Do you ship internationally or is the good work of the site contained to Australia for now?
Not at this stage, but certainly in the near future. We need to keep costs down whilst we grow and test different ideas so we have chosen to sell locally for now. Of course, one day we would love to share our gifts with the world and help people globally. The concept of people paying/passing it forward is a world-wide movement – humanity is uniting to spread goodness.
What does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman, I am governed by my heart and intuition – especially as I grow older. Pass it Forward Gifts feels right for me and regardless of the outcome I am proud that I have done it! Women are resilient and can do anything, in fact in tough times we are resourceful and find the people and means to pull us through. We are nurturers, want to live positive lives and be good role models – to create a better future and kinder generations. I know I want to be remembered fondly.
Betty, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us about your venture. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
Many thanks for this opportunity to share our story with your community.