Uniting People Through Presents

Sarah-Allen Preston founded Afloat to elevate the gift-giving game in Dallas

Sarah-Allen Preston splits her time between Dallas and Kansas City to run Afloat, a mobile app that connects users with local businesses for gifting on demand.

The idea for Afloat came after one of her sons needed an open-heart surgery at birth, and she split with her husband just a year later. She was an event planner who understood the importance of celebrating relationships and connections, but after encountering this adversity, she understood it on a more personal level.

“Through both of those experiences, I really realized how important connection, in the supportive aspect of the word, is,” Preston said.

She came away feeling gratitude for and connection to those around her and founded Afloat to bottle this connection and share it with members of her community through their dark times and “sparkly times.”

“I wanted to be able to make that outreach and that action of sending the gift much easier for people, and much more enjoyable,” Preston said. “Bringing in the local businesses obviously feels great, so it’s been a really fun product to build.”

When ordering on Afloat, customers start by opening the app and choosing whether they want to shop in Dallas or Kansas City. With Dallas being the location of Preston’s alma mater, SMU, and Kansas City being where her sons live, it made sense for her to pursue it in both places.

After choosing which city they want to buy in, shoppers see a list of gifts from local businesses that sell baked goods, flowers, gift boxes, Pilates classes, clothing, and other items and services to fit about any price range. Once the gift is selected and paid for, a contracted Alto driver obtains the gift from the business and brings it directly to the recipient.

Afloat has grown into a team of 10 employees, most of whom work in Dallas, where the company is headquartered. Afloat’s Dallas city lead, Sarah Oliver, was friends with Preston in college and got on board with the brand in its early stages.

“Initially, [Oliver] went around to the stores and explained the products and the process and got some fantastic ones on, and then once we went live, we actually through word of mouth just had an influx of requests that we now started a waiting list for retailers to get on while we’re building out the product,” Preston said.

Afloat isn’t stopping here. Preston aims to continue to improve the company’s e-commerce experience while growing with retail partners to build the best gifting experiences on both sides of the marketplace. Once the company nails that, she plans to expand throughout Texas and eventually outside markets.

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