Samba began two years ago as a concept borrowed from a popular business model in Australia and Europe. A common gift idea there, according to Samba "chief experience officer" Alex Barseghian, is to hand out coupons offering gift experiences, like hot-air balloon rides.
"In a nutshell, it's the whole experience in a box," Mr. Barseghian says.
"We have a variety of experiences; it depends on the theme. It could be explore, or live and learn. It could be a spa or a getaway."
That provided a perfect opportunity for Urban Quest, a two-year-old startup that is looking to get its name into the heads of consumers.
The company bills itself as offering unique walking tours of Ottawa in more of a "quest" format than a traditional walking tour, and won the Ottawa Tourism New Business of the Year award in 2009.
Urban Quest offers various clue-oriented quests around the city, including one that starts at Parliament Hill and another that brings guests to the Museum of Nature.
The gift boxes Samba Days provide actually give a choice for the recipient, so there is a risk for a company offering coupons that the recipient won't choose it. But for Keli Marshall, the occasional referrals Urban Quest gets from the business are a bonus.
"I think the concept is really neat when you look at it from a consumer perspective, especially for people that are so hard to buy for," she says.
We may not get 100 per cent of the business, but we get to make an impact on every consumer every time."
Samba Days has a presence in six retail stores in Ottawa, including three in the Bay and three in Chapters and Indigo outlets. It also has around 15 to 18 local partners, including the Brookstreet Hotel.
"What I hear around the world," says Mr. Barseghian, "is whether you're Aeroplan or Expedia, people are looking at other ways to capture the retail market."