RoverCard founders -- (From left) Brad Miller, Michael Philip and Joshua Freeman are the creators of RoverCard, a discount card. Miller and Philip are SIUC students while Freeman is a December 2009 graduate. From Feb. 1-15, they’ll be donating the full $10 purchase price for the card to Haiti relief efforts and 710 Bookstore in Carbondale is matching the donation. (Photo provided) Download Photo Here
January 29, 2010
Student firm, bookstore team up to help Haiti
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Three Southern Illinois University Carbondale students saw no need to wait until they graduated to make their mark on the community and business world, and now, they’re using that same gung-ho attitude to raise funds for Haiti earthquake relief efforts.
Brad Miller, a senior management major, and fellow Rantoul native Joshua Freeman, a finance major, conceived of a plan for a unique discount card for the Carbondale area. They quickly got Michael Philip, a senior information systems technologies student from Wheaton, on board and RoverCard was born.
“Prosperity isn’t a term heard often these days. However, RoverCard offers a unique way for both businesses and consumers to prosper even in tough times,” Philip said. “The RoverCard is designed to help local businesses expand their market shares and increase their profits while also offering consumers great savings via RoverCard.com instant text-messaged ‘deals of the day.’ The RoverCard is a membership card giving cardholders exclusive access to money-saving deals on a daily basis from more than 68 of the finest businesses in Carbondale and Marion. More businesses sign on daily.”
The men say their card is different from other discount cards because merchants can change their offers as often as they want. Merchants incur no cost to participate in the discount program. But, they can offer a “deal of the day” any day Monday through Saturday for $10 and all card purchasers get a text message promoting that deal. The www.rovercard.com Web site highlights the deal in a banner ad and a special RoverCard inflatable goes out in front of that day’s “deal of the day” business.
The cards are $10 each and available online at www.rovercard.com or at 710 Bookstore. But for the next two weeks, the men won’t be profiting from the card sales.
The entire purchase price of the cards from Monday, Feb. 1, through Feb. 15 will go to the Haiti Relief Fund, Inc. And, 710 Bookstore has jumped on board too, offering to match the RoverCard donations for that time period. So, for each card purchased during the RoverCard/710 Bookstore Haiti Relief Foundation promotion, $20 will go to help the people of Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake.
“Even as a small, local business, we still feel that it is important to take on social responsibility,” Miller said. “What happened in Haiti was devastating not only in terms of lives lost but for the friends, families and loved ones who survived. As if losing people they care about wasn’t enough to endure already, they also have to worry about where they are going to get their next meal, their next cup of fresh water or where they are going to take shelter at night. The RoverCard/710 Bookstore Haiti Relief Foundation promotion strives to make things a little easier for the people of Haiti. We feel like this is the best way we can do everything in our power to assist in Haiti.”
Miller, Freeman and Philip didn’t get so far so fast with RoverCard entirely without assistance though. They’re quick to praise not only the classroom instruction they’ve gotten at SIUC, but also the help they’ve gotten from the SIUC Office of Economic and Regional Development. Philip was a graduate of the December 2009 Operation Bootstrap, a collaboration between the office and the Delta Regional Authority to help new or potential businesses.
“Brad, Josh and I started the RoverCard in only two months. With no prior business experience, we had a crash course in business ownership. Operation Bootstrap gave me an opportunity to take a step back and learn some of the finer details of business ownership that we missed during the initial rush to get RoverCard operational by the beginning of fall 2009. Operation Bootstrap has been an integral part of our success,” Philip said.
The fledgling Rover Enterprises LLC even managed to win $3,000 in start-up funding through the program. Those funds have paid for card printing, Web site development, advertising and more. RoverCard founders have also been working with Kyle Harfst, director of the Southern Illinois Research Park, and that led to the company’s recent move into a spot at the park’s Small Business Incubator.
“We have worked closely with Kyle Harfst since before Bootstrap. Weekly meetings with Kyle have kept us on track and provided us with invaluable advice. The Small Business Incubator is an incredible resource available to Southern Illinois residents that any prospective entrepreneur should check out.” Philip said.
Although Freeman graduated in December and Miller is set for May graduation, the trio says the RoverCard is here to stay in Carbondale.
“Since we started last semester we’ve learned a lot by trial and error. This semester, we have a lot of big things going for us. We say that we are not your typical discount card. Our pride and joy is our ‘deal of the day.’ We can almost guarantee those messages reach the target audience. We are a business started by SIUC students and we’re trying to help SIUC students save money while also helping local businesses. And now, we’re helping Haiti too,” Miller said.
Freeman said the company’s use of mobile marketing helps make RoverCard unique.
“Using this Web site, we can change, update or add any advertisement for any particular business quickly and for free. To increase the popularity of our Web site, we are also starting to do more campaigns including giveaways, surveys, lotteries, adding news and things like that. A very unique aspect of the business too is that we can communicate any offer or special straight to our cardholders via text messaging for a nominal fee. And, we are still continuing to grow,” Freeman said.
Miller also noted that although the primary target for the cards is the student population, people of all ages are likely to find appealing the deals offered for everything from food to furniture, haircuts to eye care and much more. About mid-way through the semester, the card price will drop but the discounts will continue through May 14.
Not only do the men plan to continue RoverCard after all of them graduate from SIUC, they plan to expand their Saluki initiative. They’re already seeing the potential for recreating the program in other university communities in the years to come.