February 25, 2011

Firm picked for elite entrepreneurial program

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A business conceived by Southern Illinois University Carbondale students and launched with help from the University’s Office of Economic and Regional Development is the only downstate company selected recently as one of 11 new participants in the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center’s CAP 20 program.

Rover Enterprises, LLC, is a mobile marketing company based in Carbondale. The business is among an elite group chosen for the Chicago Chamber of Commerce’s CEC premier mentoring program. CAP 20 is a component of the Cluster Acceleration Program that fosters growth in emerging companies by connecting them with resources statewide via educational conferences, networking forums and individualized advisory services.

Cap 20 businesses receive resources and mentorship to help them achieve exceptional growth during a five-year period, with the ultimate goal of stimulating job growth in Illinois. Selection for the program is competitive, and during the next 24 months participants will get mentoring and planning assistance as well as unique business exposure opportunities. According to the CAP 20 website (http://www.chicagolandec.org/content/what-we-do/cluster-acceleration-program.asp), companies must have the potential to reach $10 million in annual revenues during the next five years in order to qualify for the program. Rover is the only company south of Peoria selected for the program.

Rover Enterprises, which launched in 2009, offers RoverCard, a unique business discount card. Participating businesses pay nothing when featured on the card, which resembles a credit card. Purchasers pay $20 for the membership card, giving them exclusive access to money-saving deals from dozens of businesses in the region. Included is a “deal of the day” they learn about via a text message. The featured business gets a banner ad on the Rover website and a special RoverCard 18-foot inflatable balloon to draw attention to their business that day. College students are the primary card buyers.

“Everything Rover does is designed to create a mutually beneficial relationship between college students and small business. We believe that mobile technology is the best way to accomplish this,” said Michael Rzeznik, chief technology officer for Rover Enterprises.

The company founders were all SIUC students when the company began in 2009. They include Rantoul natives Brad Miller, a management alumnus, finance major Joshua Freeman and Mike Philip, an information systems technologies major from Wheaton. Instrumental in helping the fledgling company get its footing was the classroom instruction at SIUC, as well as assistance from the Office of Economic and Regional Development (OERD) and the College of Business’ Center for Innovation.

“The Small Business Development Center, Small Business Incubator and the Center for Innovation at SIUC have been an integral part of developing Rover Enterprises to what it is today and will continue to be a great resource to Rover in the years to come,” said Maryon King, director of the Center for Innovation and associate professor of marketing in the College of Business.

Philip graduated in December 2009 from Operation Bootstrap, a collaborative program from the OERD and the Delta Regional Authority to help new or potential businesses. The company even won $3,000 in start-up funding after successfully completing the program. And that’s just part of the valuable assistance from SIUC.

“During the inception of Rover Enterprises, the Small Business Development Center helped with initial market research, business strategies, growth development and more. The Center for Innovation has been instrumental in recruiting and sponsoring interns for Rover Enterprises,” King said.

Rover Enterprises is currently a tenant in the Small Business Incubator at SIUC, located at 150 E. Pleasant Hill Road, Suite 207, in Carbondale. In addition to continuing expansion into other university markets, Rover just launched its new college marketing service, RoverDawg. RoverDawg is actually a free mobile phone application allowing users to log onto www.roverdawg.com from their mobile phones, select an online coupon and simply display it at a participating merchant to get the special deal.

“RoverDawg is the culmination of everything we have learned over the past year and a half. It is something we are truly proud of and we encourage everyone to give it a try,” said Mike Philip, chief executive officer for Rover Enterprises.

And as Rover Enterprises continues to grow, it is looking for more help to make it all happen.

“A company is only as strong as the people it employs. We are continuing to see more of the brightest minds at SIUC as we build our management team to help us compete in the global market. We are seeking talented business, marketing, graphic design, programming and journalism students to help with Rover’s rapid expansion as they gain valuable experience,” Philip said.

For more information about Rover Enterprises or to seek a spot on the company’s management team, e-mail contact@roverenterprise.com or call 630/847-8378. Additional information is also online at www.RoverEnterprise.com.