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A Company For A Cause

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All successful companies are invariably one of two things; they either fill a need in life or they improve upon an existing product or service.  Dine and Discounts falls into the latter category.  In September of 2007, Dine and Discounts founder, Mike Gerken, thought of a way to improve upon small business advertising and fundraisers at the same time.

We are all familiar with the standard types of fundraising: chocolate bars, popcorn sales, bake sales, wrapping paper, and the Entertainment Book. takes fundraising a step beyond while making it easier and more profitable than ever.

Mike Gerken started a marketing and advertising company in 1987.  His primary focus was small town banks and real estate agencies with a secondary focus in the sporting industry.  In 2006, Gerken decided to sell his business, he says it wasn’t for care-free retirement money.

“I did alright but I knew I was going to have to work again.”

While looking into his options, Mike stated up Dine And Discounts.  He started out with a couple friends but, as no one really had the capital to get it going, it very quickly became Mike’s baby.  He invested a lot of time and money into his company and now, after 4 years, he says it is finally becoming profitable.

So, what is  The company is based on the idea that kids, schools, and organizations will be able to keep a lot more of the money brought it by their fundraising than other options and local businesses benefit by advertising to people they know are interested.  On average, an Entertainment Book fundraiser allows the kids to keep 33% but DineAndDiscounts give back 80% of the money earned.

“They (the community) couldn’t stand it; that kids came up to the door to sell candy bars for schools or sports team.  People ask, ‘How many dollars does the group actually get?’  The kids are really being taken advantage of, it is a shame.”

Mike attributes the ease of getting his company going to his passion for his cause and also to how easy it is to use.  When a child takes a DineAndDiscounts fundraiser to a neighbor’s door, the neighbor can look and see all of the local companies that have a discount available.  From there, it’s pretty easy to see that the benefit is greater than the cost.

Things haven’t been completely easy for Mike, though.  One of the hardest things to overcome was the competition from other fundraising companies.  The representatives would come in and take the coaches or leaders out to lunch, take them golfing, et cetera.  That’s not how Mike does business.

“I can’t be phony like that.  I wasn’t going to play that game.”

The way Mike combatted that problem was to wait, to be ever present, and to show the amount of money other schools were earning in his fund raisers compared to the current method.  The longer is in business, the easier it gets.  One school that took on the company’s fundraiser had a previous record high of raising $12 thousand dollars.  After selling the DineAndDiscounts fundraisers, the school brought in $30 thousand in profit.

Mike was able to run the entire fundraiser over the telephone and online.  He has found several ways of saving money to make his business cheaper to run while still providing the same service but money, he says, was the biggest risk in starting his business.  Things are looking up and may start taking in a couple of investors.  He says the stress is not as bad as it used to be.

“If you keep doing the right thing, you’re going to come out on top.”

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