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'I felt cared for': The touching story behind a Dallas-based app for last-minute gifts

The Afloat app can help people who forgot to get a gift for a special occasion. For the company owner, it's a result of the support she had during hard times.

DALLAS — Have you ever woken up and realized it’s a birthday or anniversary, and you forgot to buy a gift? Or maybe a friend is in need of support, and you want to send something thoughtful.

For Sarah-Allen Preston, her goal is to make gift-giving easier for people in Dallas.

In February 2022, Preston launched Afloat, a phone application for local gift-giving on demand.

The idea was on her mind for years. 

Preston explained, “My youngest son had to have open heart surgery when he was only five years old. It was an incredibly trying time for me. Looking back on it, I really didn’t pull any of those horrible memories and the feelings I had on the days I felt like I was drowning. What I really remembered were the days I’d get home and there would be a gift on my doorstep.”

“What I felt was connected. I felt cared for, and I wanted to bottle that feeling and amplify it in the world through technology,” she said. 

Preston fostered those feelings into Afloat.

In Dallas, Afloat partners with 46 retailers. The app is also available in Kansas City with 35 retail partners.

The process is simple. A user can open the app, click on a store or category of gift, select an item, add it to the cart, and check out. From there, the retail partner will wrap the gift and Alto, a local rideshare service, will grab the gift and deliver it to the recipient.

Blue Print is one of the retail partners in Dallas. Last year, they made around 100 sales through Afloat.

“We love gifting the turquoise knot,” said Meg Dunlap, Marketing and PR Associate with Blue Print. 

Dunlap said the app has introduced new customers to their store and gallery, showing people they have a range of gifts available for multiple occasions.

“We love that Afloat is run by women, and our company is as well," said Dunlap. "We were founded when five women came together to bring really unique gifts to Dallas, and Afloat helps us do that in a unique way.”

For Preston, she hopes her app brings meaning to people. She said, “It’s so important to reinforce relationships.”

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