The daily deal market is crowding up quickly (Groupon, LivingSocial, etc), but few sites offer a way of not only promoting local businesses and great deals to consumers, but also giving back to the community through their purchases. This is exactly what Sharing Spree does and why it is such a community-loving, non-profit-lifting, awesome daily deal platform. We touched base with Ron Sapp, CEO, to talk Sharing Spree beginnings, having a “failure is not an option” attitude and positively impacting communities through his businesses.
Tell us a little more about Sharing Spree
The motivation behind launching Sharing Spree in January 2011 was to be able to benefit local communities by promoting businesses, giving to non-profits and offering great deals to consumers—a triple win.
Every day, Sharing Spree features a deal between 50-90 percent off at local restaurants, hair and nail salons, spas, shows, events, car detailing, wineries, personal service providers, photographers and many other businesses that help make life easier and more fun. Rather than only focusing on the high-dollar, touristy-type businesses, Sharing Spree strives to drive business to the smaller, lesser-known business names. We currently offer deals in Portland, Ore., Nashville, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala., Seattle, Wash., and will soon be expanding to Dallas and Austin, Texas.
What makes us different from the other Groupon clones is that Sharing Spree donates between 10-15 percent of every deal to a local non-profit or school. Every day, the featured non-profit receives 10 percent of the proceeds of the daily deal. On top of that, buyers choose an organization from about 150 participating non-profits that receives 5 percent of every deal they buy. Every deal goes back to charity, every time—while buyers enjoy a sweet discount.
What’s a typical day at Sharing Spree look like?
A typical day for me at Sharing Spree consists of going out to Portland businesses to tell them about Sharing Spree and how we can help get more new customers in their doors. I love getting to know the local business owners in my community, and am truly passionate about helping them thrive.
While I work on the merchant side of operations, we also have a number of employees dedicated to supporting our non-profit and school partners. Every day, they’re working to help them boost donations. They also spend a lot of time speaking with prospective non-profit partners who could use our support.
How do you motivate yourself?
It’s really not hard to get motivated when you have a passion for what you do. The market has changed a lot since we first entered it, and while the daily deal space is continuously growing and getting bigger, there are fewer and fewer players staying in the game. What keeps me working hard every day is the mindset that failure is not an option. With so many Groupon clones popping up left and right, I have to give 120 percent effort every day to ensure our success. I am constantly motivated by the greater good we are trying to accomplish: helping non-profits and schools boost donations. We are on target to hit a charitable donation goal of $500,000 this year, and ensuring that we meet that goal keeps me going.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
My bootstrapping tips:
- Never give up; failure is not an option.
- Be prepared for emergencies to arise, keep your cool, and continue to focus on a solution to the problem.
- Continue to focus on the vision you have for the company. When times get tough, you have a tendency to lose that vision.
- Go the extra mile. A start-up takes you working extra hours, thinking big and pushing yourself beyond what is comfortable.
We want to know about where you spend your day!
Most of my days are spent doing the following:
- Making sure everyone in the company is working in “one accord.” Keeping all employees working toward one vision is a daily challenge, but is necessary to grow a successful business.
- Generating ideas that will accelerate the company. Today, we are in an informational economy. Creating an environment where new ideas accelerate the business is key to success. I spend a lot of time brainstorming with mentors and others within the company on new, innovative ideas.
- Raising capital is essential to any business. Usually, start-ups are under-funded. I work very hard at continuing to feed our growth.
What entrepreneur do you admire?
I admire so many entrepreneurs—some who are still alive and others who have passed and left a better world for all of us to enjoy. A few who stand out include:
- Henry Ford for being an innovator and creating a system that brought products to masses.
- Thomas Edison for discovering things that no one ever knew to think about or could exist, like the light bulb.
- Napoleon Hill for his contribution to society on how to view the world if you want to be successful.
- Andrew Carnegie for overcoming poverty to become one of the richest men in the world in his day.
- Robert Kiyosaki for his contributions to getting people to think about starting their own businesses instead of being an employee.
- Steve Jobs for creating a product that has changed the world. His creative genius was second to none, and I truly admire him.
- Conrad Hilton for never giving up. He faced complete devastation during the Great Depression and almost gave his dream up. He listened to his mom’s advice to “never give up,” and because of that, we now have a lot of Hilton Hotels to enjoy.
If you were given inside access to 2 Internet companies to invest in, which ones would you pick?
I would invest in Groupon and Facebook. I think these two companies are the wave of the future. We will find out that access to millions of people through email, etc., will produce amazing companies. These two companies are new to the world, and have shifted the way we will market to people forever.
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who loved his family, created companies that contributed to society, did what he loved to do, and gave back to society whenever possible.
What apps/sites/software do you use every day and can’t work without?
In general, I use a lot of iPad and iPhone apps. Between myself and my four children, we download five apps every day.
Can you share what your latest “WOW” moment was?
My last “WOW” moment came as I continued to see our revenue growth of 30 percent per month. I am always in awe of the people who work for Sharing Spree, and contribute to our success. Our people are incredible!
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually realize yours?
Prior to Sharing Spree, we operated under the MyEZdeal.com name and website. I initially co-founded MyEZdeal.com in the summer of 2010, and offered an identical group-buying business model to Sharing Spree. The site built up quick momentum, and made a real difference for a number of schools and non-profits—we donated more than $30,000 to schools and non-profits during roughly six months as MyEZdeal.com. But, I knew we had only just begun to accomplish our larger goals. I wholeheartedly believed the company was capable of reaching an even larger audience and achieving greater results. It was time to make small changes with potential for big impact on our charitable dollar amount. In essence, it was time to revamp. The first step was rebranding to make the company and its message known to an even larger and more receptive consumer audience. In January 2011, our website became Sharing Spree—the currently thriving daily deals site with a big heart.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get their business off the ground?
I have a number of pieces of advice for entrepreneurs looking to launch a startup of their own:
- It’s always going to be even harder than you think to get your business off the ground.
- Be prepared to weather the storm.
- Go into business ownership with the mindset that failure is not an option.
- Have significant funding in place—even more than you think you’ll need.
- Execution is the key to success. A lot of people have great business plans and ideas, but don’t execute them well.
- Don’t be afraid to change and go in a different direction. You don’t have to stay on the same path just because you originally saw it one way.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people who share your same passion.
- Place employees in roles that you know they’ll enjoy and find success in.
- If you have employees across the country—or across the globe—be sure to schedule regular meetings on Skype or a conference call. It’s important to keep everyone on the same page.
Can you share numbers?
In our second year of business, we have a run rate of approximately $6 million in revenue. We started in January of 2011 with a run rate of around $800,000. We are very proud of our growth.
Where can our readers reach out to you?
Thanks Ron! If you want daily deals and a little dose of giving back, definitely check out Sharing Spree. So far, $338,216 has been donated to non-profits. That, my friend, is a business-consumer-community win. And, a little rhyme as it turns out.