Gilbert residents Rick and Leslie Roman used to give shares of Boston Celtics stock as gifts to friends and family. The pair was always interested in company stocks and thought they made great presents, and it ultimately led to the couple’s first business venture.
In 2002, the Romans started GiveAShare.com in Portland, Ore. They’ve since created other business have since been created by the couple under the name Leading Edge Gifts: GiveAShare.com, GiveACaricature.com, GiveAMasterpiece.com, GiveAURL.com and MyFaceIcons.com. GiveAShare and GiveACaricature are the largest in their portfolio.
After 25 years of corporate experience in Motorola and other companies, Leslie Roman, who moved to Gilbert with her husband since both of their daughters had sights set on attending Arizona universities, thought GiveAShare would just be a hobby.
But they realized they could focus solely on the Internet site for their income.
“It’s a complicated process,” she said. “Brokers don’t want to deal with one share, so we have a niche.”
The Romans buy a quantity of shares in a company and inventory it until a customer buys a share, then transfers that share to them.
When GiveAShare.com first launched, the Romans offered only two companies. Now with about 100 different company shares available for purchase, from Disney to Berkshire Hathaway, the business has grown and continues to add more companies. Sea World stock is the most recent company offered through GiveAShare.com.
The price of shares varies depending on a company’s market value. Disney’s stock starts at $118 and Southwest Airlines’ stock starts at $53.
Leslie Roman said a stock makes a great birthday, Christmas or graduation gift because it can grow and become more valuable. The companies that offer more unique paper certificates, like Disney, which uses characters on its certificate, are popular presents.
Office manager Alicia Sterzinar enjoys working for the small business because it allows for direct communication between the employees and the founders. She mainly works with customers to fulfill orders and requests.
“These are not your everyday gifts; they’re very unique and personalized,” she said.
One challenge for the business is that more companies are moving away from issuing paper certificates to stockholders. When Facebook debuted on the stock market last year, it announced it wouldn’t issue paper certificates for shares of its stock. Apple and Microsoft also do not issue paper stock certificates.
“They’re trying to do away with these certificates,” Rick Roman said. Of those that do, he says, “These are now collectibles. Get it while you can.”
He said eliminating the paper certificates saves companies money.
The writing is on the wall that these will eventually go away, which would hit the couple’s business hard, Leslie Roman said. In the meantime, the couple creates replica stock certificates for gift-giving, and the owner is registered electronically.
The Romans say sales were up 50 percent from the prior year thanks to Facebook’s initial public offering. When Facebook went public, the business had more sales in two hours than in the entire Christmas season, which is normally the busiest time of the year.
With the success of the first business, the Romans continued to come up with ideas that would diversify their business. Their second business, GiveACaricature.com, was founded in 2005.
Leslie Roman was looking for a gift for her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. She thought about giving a caricature, but she couldn’t find any that she liked online. She thought that making a business that focused on giving personalized caricatures as gifts.
The Romans interviewed many artists and eventually decided to work with Eric Jones who lives in New York because he had a style that they hadn’t seen before.
“There’s nothing more personal than giving this,” Rick Roman said. “It incorporates hobbies, quirks and other things that are subtleties.”
GiveACaricature is a milestone gift, Leslie Roman added. She said they make great wedding and anniversary presents. Prices vary depending on the size of the caricature, and whether it is printed, framed, or digital. An eight-by-10-inch framed print is $139.
Rick Roman said they aren’t focusing on growing GiveACaricature because they want to keep the high quality. They also don’t want to partner with different artists so they are trying to keep the business sales and size to something Jones and his team can handle.
“You are commissioning an artist to do art for you,” Rick Roman said. “This is true art, just a different art style.”
The other three businesses were founded later and are smaller than GiveAShare and GiveACaricature. With five businesses, Rick and Leslie Roman admit they work more than the traditional 40 hours a week.
“When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s what you do,” Leslie Roman said. “When our kids were growing up, they used to complain that we were at the computers all the time.”
But working from home while their three daughters grew up also gave them a lot of flexibility.
“We saw it as a way to stay closer,” Rick Roman said.
The couple is also thinking of new ideas and is open to creating another business if they find the right idea.
“We have a lot of things that we want to bring forward and we’re just trying to find the time to do that,” Rick Roman said. “The most fun we have is trying to come up with new ideas.”