Help for Holiday Shoppers
Computer science professor and her son develop website that helps people give the right gifts
Everyone has stories about receiving gifts they didn’t want – whether it be ugly ties or two of the same item.
A Southwestern University computer science professor and her son hope to change all that – just in time for the 2011 holiday shopping season.
Suzanne Buchele, associate professor of computer science, and her son, Fox, have developed a website that lets people tell friends and family members what they REALLY want for Christmas, birthdays or other special occasions.
Suzanne Buchele describes the website, which is called greedlist.com, as “a gift registry meets social networking.”
“It’s a way for everyday people to keep lists of things they want that other people can see, without seeming pushy by having to explicitly tell people what they want.” she said, noting that The name GreedList is intended to be a tongue-in-cheek reference to a list of things people would like to have.
While some other web-based services such as Amazon’s Myregistry.com let people register for items available on the Internet, Suzanne Buchele said their site takes a unique approach to gift registry by allowing people to request items that are very general or that can’t be bought online, such as a homemade cake. The site also enables people to coordinate giving for charitable events, such as making meals for someone who is sick, and coordinate gift exchanges, in which many people are giving gifts to each other. In addition, it lets users privately store present ideas for other people so they can remember them in the future.
Buchele said she and her son came up with the idea over the 2010 Christmas break. As a college student, Fox was short on money and was using craigslist to find presents to give people. However, he realized those presents couldn’t be returned if the people didn’t like them or received two of them.
“I remember thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if I could know the sorts of things my friends and family had already gotten each other,’” he recalled.
Fox, who was studying computer science at Southwestern at the time, already had been developing web pages for customers to help fund his college education. He decided to leave Southwestern in January 2011 to pursue the development of the site full time, while Suzanne helped as her duties at Southwestern would allow.
Suzanne Buchele said she never thought of herself as an entrepreneur, but has enjoyed working on the venture with her son.
“I really think it’s a great idea,” she said, noting that her birthday in July was part of the alpha testing for the site. The two have filed a provisional patent for their concept.
Suzanne Buchele said she has learned a lot from the project that she will be able to share with her students at Southwestern.
“A lot of these things – such as computer security – I teach in theory,” she said. “This is a practical application of them.”
Fox Buchele said the project helped make him aware of how valuable the computer science courses he took at Southwestern were.
“Most students learning computer science don’t realize how practical it is,” he said. “Anything you can think of, you can program.”
The Bucheles hope to eventually make money on the site by selling ads that can go underneath wish list items. They also hope to earn money from ad clicks from companies such as Amazon, Best Buy and Zappos.
If the site is successful, the Bucheles plan to donate 10 percent of their profits to educational projects in needy areas. Suzanne Buchele, who spent two years in Ghana on a Fulbright Fellowship, has a particular passion for helping educate people in poor parts of the world, as well as locally.
“We want to be a socially conscious business,” she said. “That seems like what people making money should do.”
Fox agreed, adding, “If we make money it would be greedy not to share profits with people who need it.”