Meet Jim Alvarez founder and CEO of Gesture.
Gesture works with charities, nonprofits, schools, churches and political organizations nationwide to organize events that maximize revenue in silent auctions, direct donations and live auctions. From school auctions, sports fundraisers, golf outings, club fundraisers and stadium auctions to the most elegant gala, Gesture helps charities raise more money via energetic teams and unique mobile bidding technology.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is Gesture all about?
We help Charities increase their donations via their silent auctions. Our technology allows donors to bid on items using their own mobile devices. This gives Charities the opportunity to keep their silent auctions open longer, allows them to invite more than just the people attending the event to participate in the auction, and it instantly notifies the bidder when they have been outbid. We help many great Non-Profits like Ronald McDonald, American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis, The Chicago Blackhawks, and tons of schools throughout the nation.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
CEO Jim Alvarez founded Gesture in May, 2011. He and his team managed 57 charity events that year and grew it almost ten-fold 18 months later to manage 500 events. Forty-two months later, and now Gesture has helped over 2,000 nonprofits in 44 U.S. markets raise over $170 million from silent auctions and donations, including the American Heart Association, Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Cubs Charities.
After graduating from Indiana University, this entrepreneur fashioned a ‘no pain, no gain’ mindset.
In 2004 as a trader playing softball at night after the markets closed, a hamstring injury led Alvarez to invent the HammY golf putter. Three years later the HammY won a LPGA tournament by Natalie Gulbis, globally ranked 58th in putting, who moved to #3 using this game-changing putter.
Never sitting still for long, Alvarez bought two Sprint® stores in 2006, grew this investment to seven in two years, earned top dealer status and profitably sold them. Then he started a tanning business that led to him becoming partner in L.A. Tan, one of the largest privately held tanning salon chains in the nation with 180 locations.
In 2010 Alvarez founded the Amhurst Asylum. This former “psychiatric hospital” won best new haunted house by HauntedHouseChicago.com that year. In 2013, Amhurst was voted the #1 haunted attraction from 118 haunts in the Midwest.
His team is now intent on a similarly successful path for Gesture being just as freaky fast. A decade later, Alvarez is reminded of repeated success starting businesses in multiple industries.
Alvarez met his wife in the 4th grade and they were married in 2001. They have two small boys; Jax (6), and Asher (3). In his free time, Alvarez enjoys being a member of the Golfweek Rating Panel, and loves hitting the links as often as possible.
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
Making our bidding platform the best on the planet.
Q: What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?
We want to build additional products and continue to open markets throughout the nation
Q: How do you bring ideas to life?
This is hard…I have many thoughts in my head, and often it is difficult to articulate them all.
Q: What’s one trend that really excites you?
Mobile.We are a mobile first company, and the adoption of more and more mobile users is exciting
Q: What were the top 3 mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?
Not having a marketing budget: I will never start another company without a million dollar marketing budget.
Trusting too many people: I trusted some close friends in the beginning, and once they realized how great my idea was they screwed me (I have not learned from this one, and I will continue to lean on my friends.) I did learn that no matter how good of friends you think you have, money changes things.
Not tracking things better: We went full throttle from the beginning, and if we would have tracked things better at the start we would not have to spend weeks/months going through these trying to figure out what happened.
Q: How do you go about marketing your business, and what has been the most successful form of marketing for you?
Much of our marketing has been done through word-of-mouth and client referrals. For branding, lead generation and connecting with our followers we use all the major social networks.
Q: What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur – and why?
No fear, no give-up, and being nice.
You cannot think of things that will cause you to fail, there are too many.
You can’t give up. Ever. And in the beginning not many people will believe you can do what you think you can do, so being nice is the key to keeping them on your team
Q: What are top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?
Buffer is a great social sharing platform.
Unroll.me is an app that works with your email to keep your inbox clean.
Google Docs Google makes it super easy to simultaneously edit your docs with other people whether you are huddled in a room together or spread out all over the world. It also provides a place for people to store their documents.
Q: What are some books you recommend entrepreneurs to read?
I don’t read. I’m not proud of this, but I don’t have time, and I am not a great reader.
Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?
I don’t read, so I don’t have one. But I will make one up….learn from the past, but never dwell on it.
Q: How can our community get in touch with you?