PROVIDENCE, RI—Lt. Governor Daniel McKee today joined a volunteer group of local entrepreneurs to announce the expansion of the Gift it Forward small business initiative. Additions to the initiative include online gift card setup services, no-cost advertising, small business text alerts and a consumer-friendly redesign of the program’s website (rismallbusiness.org). 
Launched in March by the Lt. Governor’s Office and Oceanside Graphics, Gift it Forward is an online database designed to encourage Rhode Islanders to support small businesses during the pandemic by purchasing gift cards or buying products and services online. Since the launch, two local businesses, Trailblaze Marketing and Visual Thrive, have joined Oceanside Graphics in volunteering their time to develop Gift it Forward with the Lt. Governor’s Office.
The expansion of Gift It Forward includes:
1) Online gift card setup services: Trailblaze Marketing is partnering with online gift card service providers Swipe It and Toast to offer special, low-cost setup packages for Rhode Island small businesses. Small businesses seeking support for setting up online gift card sales can visit: trailblazepvd.com/giftcards.
2) No-cost advertising: A new video advertisement encouraging Rhode Islanders to shop small and local on the Gift it Forward website will air on Cox Media networks across the state. Cox Media is donating the airtime in support of Rhode Island’s small business community. The video was produced and donated by Third Spoon in East Greenwich and can be viewed online at youtu.be/yKdXE7q6f7A.
Several other companies are providing no-cost promotional opportunities for Gift it Forward: Lamar Advertising – Rhode Island Office donated billboard space along I-95; WPRI 12 donated digital banner ads and television airtime and iHeartMedia donated a series of radio public service announcements.
3) Website add-ons: The Gift it Forward website was updated to feature a new, more consumer-friendly design including easily searchable business categories and Spanish translation capability. The new website also allows Rhode Islanders to sign up for COVID-19 small business text alerts from the Lt. Governor’s Office.
“Gift it Forward is all about Rhode Islanders going above and beyond to help other Rhode Islanders. We see this embodied in every consumer who makes a purchase through the website, every small business owner who volunteers their time to develop the program and every sponsor who donates resources to help us remind everyone to shop small and local,” said Lt. Governor McKee. “I am deeply grateful for everyone who pitched in to support Gift it Forward and I encourage anyone interested in joining the effort to reach out.”
“As a small business owner myself, I’ve been proud to volunteer my time to work on Gift it Forward since day one,” said Justin Gontarek, Co-Owner of Oceanside Graphics. “Over the last few weeks, it has been exciting to see other small businesses step up, join our team and do their part to help our local economy.”
“It is important we come together as a small business community to do what we can to keep Rhode Island in motion,” said Chris Parisi, President of Trailblaze Marketing. “The Lt. Governor’s Office has been a tremendous supporter of small businesses, and we are excited to partner with them on the Gift it Forward initiative and much more.”
“Working on the Gift it Forward team has been inspiring. Our small group has never met in person, yet together we’ve been able to create a program to help our fellow small businesses get through these difficult times,” said Lori Giuttari, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Marketing Officer of Visual Thrive.
Since March, over 1,000 small businesses have registered their information on the Gift it Forward website. The website received over 180,000 views and over 5,200 clicks from consumers.
Gift it Forward is managed by the Lt. Governor’s Office in partnership with Oceanside Graphics, Trailblaze Marketing and Visual Thrive. The program is supported by local sponsors: Lamar Advertising – Rhode Island Office, Cox Media, WPRI 12, iHeartMedia and Third Spoon.