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Boosterville builds relationships between booster clubs and merchants

How many times have you been approached by students selling cookie dough or discount cards to stores you rarely visit? Pam Cooper, a small business owner with over 20 years as a civic leader and fundraising volunteer, kept asking herself, “How can technology be applied to school fundraising?” Not having a technology background, she asked her…

Boosterville_featured

Boosterville_featured

How many times have you been approached by students selling cookie dough or discount cards to stores you rarely visit?

Pam Cooper, a small business owner with over 20 years as a civic leader and fundraising volunteer, kept asking herself, “How can technology be applied to school fundraising?” Not having a technology background, she asked her husband, Tom, a world-class software engineer and CTO.

Cooper’s early market research revealed the school fundraising market size was over $5 billion per year, yet local businesses did not reap these financial rewards. Pam wanted to change that. In 2012, she sold her carpet cleaning business to support her venture, but also so she and Tom could combine their professional backgrounds and work together.

Originally called Sodbusters, they joined the StartCo accelerator in Memphis in 2013. Through their programs, networking and mentoring, their original idea morphed into a card-linked marketing platform that connects the merchant and the supporter.

“The first advice we received was to change our name to include the word ‘booster’,” said Cooper. As a result, Boosterville was launched later that year.

Elbowing into the credit card space

Boosterville’s goal was to develop a prototype that is complex on the back-end so the donation process is easy for everyone else. As they explored options, they contacted major credit card networks, but working with them came with a $1 million price tag. With additional research, Pam was accepted into the Prosper Women Entrepreneur’s program in St. Louis in 2015. With PWE’s support, Pam returned to the credit card network to renegotiate a partnership, which was accepted.

“Marrying a CTO has been my greatest asset,” said Cooper. “Any non-tech founder will tell you that having a co-founder who can get a minimal viable product to the public is priceless. That way, we can focus on our vision without getting bogged down by the technology development.”

Yet, finding the funding for the venture has been a formidable process. They have been bootstrapping from the start. They have learned that studying what prospects say they will do and what they actually do with their money is critical to their growth and success. Through many iterations of their product, they get it to the customers, address the issues, and use feedback to gain traction and funding.

Official launch expected in June

Zynga, the provider of social video game services, contacted the Boosterville team to ensure they weren’t infringing on the Facebook game, Farmville.

“This was a frightening experience, and we were glad to have a top-notch lawyer at that point,” said Cooper.

Confidence has been the top achievement in their journey. Getting approved for a partnership within the credit card network as a startup was a big win. Opening the platform to all community-based causes has expanded the potential market exponentially. They’ve received interest from the United Methodist Church and will officially launch the platform at the PTA National Convention at Disney World in June 2016.

“Our biggest success has been implementing our idea, but the best measure will be when we can provide our investors with a hefty return,” said Cooper

For other entrepreneurs interested in pursuing an idea, the Boosterville team has some advice.

“Get your idea in front of as many people as possible,” said Cooper. “There is much more to be gained from sharing and getting feedback rather than hiding your idea from the world.”

Kristen Reed Edens, of St. Louis, is a content writer and blogger for small business. She writes about entrepreneurs, business and the unique lifestyle of grandparents in business.

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