By Kathy Day
Mordy Levine and his partners acknowledge their relatively new venture in the “daily deals” arena puts them smack in the middle of the next possible tech “bubble.”
But the Rancho Santa Fe resident and brothers Jered and Sasha Cherry have confidence that their approach with Ideal4aCause is the right approach.
Their concept is similar to Groupon and LivingSocial in that they offer discounted deals at small businesses, activities and experiences, said Levine, a self-described “serial entrepreneur.”
And it’s different from others offering daily specials online, explained Sasha Cherry, because they team up only with local small businesses and give up to 20 percent of their revenue to charity.
The Cherry brothers, who are professional rock climbers and enthusiastic nonprofit volunteers, run the day-to-day operations while Levine is the “back end” guy.
When he’s not pitching in with Ideal4aCause, Levine leads the pharmaceutical company Jaleva that is developing a drug delivery system that may allow drugs to be delivered quickly through the skin or even the cheek. It has already licensed out two of its products.
Sasha’s background is in print advertising; Jered works with Positive Adventures, an outdoor education and team-building business.
Sons of a teacher and defense attorney who grew up in New Hampshire, they did their first effort for a cause when Sasha, now 35, was 8 and Jered, now 31, was 4.
“We made ‘Save the Whale’ posters and sold them,” Sasha said. “We donated the money to Greenpeace.”
They came up with the concept while all three, who met while rock climbing, were volunteering at a Down Syndrome Action event at Rady Children’s Hospital.
Levine said they were talking about how big Groupon is and that it would be fun to do a deal company in San Diego.
“They said ‘Make it support a nonprofit,’ which I bought into,” he added.
They know some of the companies in daily deals are going out of business, including a London-based one that recently laid off 250 of its employees. But all three feel strongly that they’re on the right track.
They get nonprofits to sign on for a “contest” to see who should be the featured charity that gets the proceeds from particular deals.
“If they do well in the voting, they are featured on the site,” Jered said.
The beneficiary changes regularly. On May 1, it was the Women’s Museum of California that would get a donation for sales of Mother’s Day flowers. Others that have already been featured include ARTS – A Reason to Survive, Girls on the Run, Helen Woodward Animal Center, Difference Makers International, Jeans 4 Justice, Cancer Angels and the San Diego Oceans Foundation, among others.
Eventually, Jered said, they hope to be writing $1,000 checks to the charities, although they’re not there yet.
“A thousand dollars goes a long way for some of these nonprofits,” he added.
The charity shares their email list, which helps them spread the word about deals and about the company.
Explaining that their market is the “conscious consumer,” who will opt for a purchase if there’s a benefit to someone beyond themselves, Jered said, “They make a better customer.”
The goal is repeat business, added Levine, whose wife owns The Living Studio in Del Mar. “Cause people are more conscious, more affluent and they come back – the extreme opposite of the coupon clipper.”
Sasha added that their approach also helps build “a membership with quality people vs. quantity.”
It also gives them a way to reach out to the businesses they sign up.
Sasha said the businesses – primarily those in the downtown and beach areas at this point — have to be willing to offer a steep discount.”
In return, Levine said, they get an opportunity to upsell the customer.
“We only ask them to do a specific product during limited hours,” he noted.
They also allow their businesses to run on other sites since they believe they attract a different group of customers, which benefits the business.
Jered emphasized that they come from the community level with a focus on sustainability, paying particular attention to whether the demographics are right for the business and the charity.
Right now the business is pretty much the Cherrys with Levine’s oversight and experience. They have a couple of interns and a “street team” that helps them out at community events like the recent Earth Fair at Balboa Park.
“At some point, we could sure use some more help,” Sasha said.
In the meantime, they’ll apply what they call their “rock-climbing mentality to making the Ideal4aCause grow. “We know how to manage risk.”
Learn more about the deals at www.ideal4acause.com
Learn about Mordy Levine’s company at www.jaleva.com