Brooke Yoakam comes from a family of entrepreneurs, and before she even knew what the word meant, she knew she wanted to be one.
Yoakam’s journey began in 2014 when she attended an entrepreneurship camp her mom encouraged her to apply for. She hesitated, Yoakam says she can’t imagine why, but in time realized the camp was perfect for her.
The entrepreneurship academy challenged students to think of a solution to a problem they could solve. At 12 years old, the problem Yoakam faced was simple: whenever she would go shopping with her friends, she would forget the gift cards she had gotten for Christmas and birthdays. Not only that, but whenever she would get a gift card she didn’t want, she couldn’t get rid of it.
That’s where GiftPocket began. The app acts as a virtual wallet, allowing users—usually teens or kids and parents—to add their gift cards for use at stores, or exchange the cards they don’t for “GP” points and buy a gift card they would actually use.
At the end, she gave a six-minute pitch complete with a business and marketing plan.
“If you went over you were disqualified, so I was really nervous,” she says. “But I passed and I won. And I moved on to the semifinals in Rochester, New York. Sadly there I didn’t win.”
What Yoakam did get was learning experience. Plus representatives from Rev1 Ventures were at the panel and asked her to participate in their own academy.
Yoakam proved herself and eventually would become an engaged client with Rev1. At the time, the venture capital company was very hands-on and was able to provide direction as she began doing market research, creating markups and wireframes for developers, and determining features, fully realizing the GiftPocket app.
She hit a few “bumps in the road,” namely with developers and designers who didn’t share the same passion and care for the final product as she did. She also has gotten some pushback from Columbus professionals who are hesitant to fund or get behind an app, and business professionals who initially did not take her seriously.
“There’s been times where I meet with adults and they just show up late, because they just kind of pushed me off and don’t think that my meetings are important,” she says. “This is a real company. Every time I have to prove that we mean business, and I’ve worked really hard on this.”
Later, she would get new developers, partners, and a whole new team to bring GiftPocket to life. Five years after that camp, she launched the GiftPocket app in April 2019.
Yoakam says everything happens for a reason.
“Did I think I was going to take four and a half years to launch GiftPocket in the App Store? Absolutely not,” she says. “But it’s the [reality] of the business, especially an app, that you have to accept and move past it and just keep on working hard.”
Yoakam will be a senior at Upper Arlington High School in the coming school year. She has been thinking about college—“I’ve always wanted to go,” she says—but says she may at the very least take a gap year.
“I’ve worked on GiftPocket for so long, and I have so many cool, unique ideas that I want to bring to the table. I don’t know if I’m ready to just drop it just yet,” she says.
Because Yoakam has been able to start her entrepreneurship career at a young age, she has been able to learn and make mistakes early. If she starts another company, she says, she already knows what she would and wouldn’t do, and that’s the exciting part.
Her journey has also made her reflect on the example she wants to set for others.
“I want to be an example for teenagers that they can start a company at a young age and the age should not be a limit,” she says. “We live in such an age where you can pursue things at a young age if you just try to put yourself out there.”
For more information, visit giftpocket.com.