Clover by Clover’s co-founders Betsy Ellis Chung, left, and Erin Aliaga, right, work on their website.
Seven boys, two husbands, two dogs and a website are things two women running a startup in Burlingame share.
Erin Aliaga’s and Betsy Ellis Chung’s business, Clover by Clover, is a gift sharing website in which children celebrating birthdays or other occasions can ask for one big group gift, and simultaneously make a contribution to a charity they select. To date, children have redirected $101,000 in gifts from piles of plastic toys, to one meaningful gift for themselves and almost $50,000 in charitable donations.
“It has spread,” said co-founder Ellis Chung, who began working on the website with Aliaga in 2011. “The great thing about the Internet is people find you. We had people set up pages all the way from Arkansas; neither of us could figure out how they found us.”
For example, a girl named Paige asked for an American Girl doll, along with clothes for the doll, for a sixth birthday celebration. Paige chose the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford to donate to because “if it’s too much money to buy a hotel because a kid is so sick then I want to give money to it so they have enough money to be near their sick kid in the hospital.”
With an office on Primrose Road in Burlingame, the women actually share office space with other mother entrepreneurs. They said these other women, who like them, are primarily focused on their families, want to take advantage of hours when their children are at school with something that is meaningful and challenging. Ellis Chung has three sons, while Aliaga has four.
“We’ve seen other mom friends who ware doing really cool, courageous things,” Ellis Chung said.
Both women have economics backgrounds. Ellis Chung worked in investment banking before having kids, while Aliaga was in accounting. This is Ellis Chung’s first business and Aliaga’s second. Aliaga formerly ran a summer camp for five years.
Officially launching in 2012, it all started after a conversation between Ellis Chung and Aliaga in a school parking lot right before one of Ellis Chung’s son’s sixth birthdays. The two women originally met when their sons went to preschool together.
“She (Erin) said I don’t want to not give him anything; there must be a website that makes it so you don’t have to make that dash to the toy store,” Ellis Chung said. “Finding him one thing he really wants and diverting to really good causes, teaching him how to share.”
The partnership between to the two is something that is in itself really important, Aliaga said.
“Life is happening at the same time and we have to be able to lean on each other a lot,” co-founder Aliaga said. “But I can’t wait to go home every day and see the pages people create.”
They’ve received a lot of positive feedback, Ellis Chung said.
“People are like, ‘finally there’s a solution,’” she said. “This is a simple solution for when your kids start going to birthday parties every weekend. You can easily contribute to something kids really want and help other people.”
The Peninsula has been a great fit for the two, who like doing business in the Bay Area.
“We love this area and felt like there couldn’t be a better place to be than Bay Area to try something new and different,” Ellis Chung said. “We felt like there was nothing preventing us from doing this being in this part of the country.”
Although birthday parties seem to be a big focus of the site, other users have used for weddings, memorial services, teacher gifts and holiday gifts. Their short-term focus is on holiday gifts.
Nonprofits they’ve worked with include the American Red Cross, California Academy of Sciences, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the San Francisco Zoo.
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