Five Startup Tips From Social Goodies Founder Carie Salter
“Believe in your idea, but always be willing to refine and adapt.”
That's just one of the five tips from Carie Salter, the founder of Social Goodies, a charitable daily deals site that donates 20% of every purchase directly to charity.
“Thus far, we have raised money for the Red Cross, Teach For America, The Nature Conservancy, Doctors Without Borders, Surfrider Foundation, Fisher House Foundation, Children's Health Fund, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” Salter told Benzinga. “The money goes to their general funds. We only feature nonprofit organizations that have demonstrated that they are fiscally responsible and are able to effectively execute on their missions. Unlike many other charitable giving sites, we have contractual relationships with all of our featured charities and file the necessary commercial co-venture agreements. The charities receive accrued donations quarterly (if not sooner).”
Prior to launching Social Goodies, Salter had a successful career in investment management. “While I enjoyed my time in the world of finance, I felt a certain aspect of my personality was missing,” she explained. “Being philanthropic was a part of my upbringing, and with my rigorous schedule I couldn't do much more than write checks. My mother passing away at a young age made me realize that life is short and you have to live it to its fullest with no regrets.”
Salter decided to leave her job and became actively involved with the Harvard Business School Association of Southern California Community Partners, “which provides free consulting services to worthy nonprofits in the greater Los Angeles area, during which time it became evident that amazing charities were having a hard time securing funding for their good work.”
“The daily deals space was in its infancy and I thought it was an interesting business model that could be used to fund charity,” said Salter, who first came up with the idea for Social Goodies in 2009. “When I first envisioned starting Social Goodies, Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN) was a small, regional company featuring local deals.”
Since then, Salter – who incorporated Social Goodies in 2010 and officially launched the site in 2011 – took note of the many “well-funded entrants into the market.” Some of them have succeeded (Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) LivingSocial comes to mind), but many of them have failed.
“There are so many more players in the space (I just got an email that Target (NYSE: TGT) is entering the market!) that I believe there is now some consumer fatigue as it pertains to daily deals,” said Salter. “I hope that our unique model – where customers are able to give to charity while getting a great deal – will resonate with both customers and retailers alike.”
Ultimately, Salter said that she feels her business model delivers “tremendous value, as Social Goodies has created a win-win-win for our customers, featured charities, and retailers.”
“Our customers receive great deals on cool merchandise from national retailers while simultaneously and effortlessly donating 20% of their gross deal purchase price to well-vetted charities,” she said. “Our three featured charities receive concentrated amounts of money from a new donation source, as well as increased exposure about the good work they do. Finally, our retail partners are not only able to ‘give back,' but also receive an above-average percentage of the deal purchase price, increased publicity (we even blog about them), and new customers (they own the relationship, as customers use their vouchers to shop directly on the retailers' websites).”
Social Goodies has acquired more than 50,000 subscribers and 17,800 Facebook fans. Salter said that she hopes to increase both through targeted PR.
“We are not profitable yet,” said Salter. “Our game plan for achieving profitability is to continue to keep our expenses low and increase exposure to our website so we can sell more deals. The amount of deals that we need to sell in order to achieve break-even is a very doable number, so we're optimistic for the future.”
Salter may be a young entrepreneur, but she has already learned a great deal in launching her first startup. Here are her five tips for other entrepreneurs looking to do the same:
- “Believe in your idea, but always be willing to refine and adapt.”
- “Keep expenses as low as possible.”
- “Surround yourself with great people.”
- “Trust your instincts – when people promise ‘easy' solutions, you're probably wasting your (or your investors') money.”
- “Be prepared for the highs and lows and a fantastically exciting ride!”
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Full Disclosure: Lightbank, the technology investment vehicle from Groupon co-founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, is one of Benzinga's investors.
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