Cupie Celebrates Small Business Saturday, Because Cupie was Invented to Help Small Businesses Thrive. A look back.

By Cupie | Nov 24, 2018
Courtesy of: Cupie: The Small Business Coupon App. GetCupie.com

The Cupie coupon app is now currently available for download in the Apple App Store and on GooglePlay.


UPDATE: EarnSOFT LLC, dba Cupie (pronounced “QP”), is currently conducting a formal beta test in the Midcoast (Camden-Rockland-Lincolnville) area. It began on November 16. Cupie is an innovative coupon app that is specifically designed to help small businesses connect with consumers who want to shop local and save.

 

NOTE: This article originally appeared in Penobscot Bay Beacon magazine in 2016. It is reproduced with permission.


 

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Here Comes Cupie: The Digital Coupon App

Hi-Tech Help for Small Business

From his younger days working in a local department store in upstate New York, Scott Burnett was interested in helping small businesses succeed. His latest venture, Cupie, a locally developed “digital transaction system”—a coupon app, in effect—could help local businesses compete with national chains doing business in Maine or anywhere across the country. Here’s his story.

By Scott Burnett

When the first modern mall opened where I grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York, I remember thinking, “This is great. Everything I need is in one place, I don’t have to walk outside in the rain and cold, and no more parking meter surprises.” At the time it didn’t occur to me that the mall would affect Carl’s Department Store , our community’s 100-year-old general merchandiser, or Wallace Armour Hardware, where you could get anything to fix anything. These and many other local businesses were the heart of our community. They offered everything anyone needed, sponsored Little League teams, and were “just down the street.”

They weren’t just local business people: they were neighbors and friends. My family continued to patronize Carl’s and Wallace Armour over the years after the mall opened, but not as often and, in hindsight, not enough. Carl’s, where I worked as a 16-year-old, closed in 1987. Wallace Armour closed in 1991. The community lost those two and many more great local businesses to malls, big-box retailers  and national chains. But we lost much more than that. We lost an essential component of our community.

Small local businesses have struggled against the great expansion of large national chains that promised one-stop shopping convenience, low prices and more parking than some NFL stadiums. And it wasn’t just the large shopping malls that made it more difficult for small retailers. National behemoths such as Walmart and their newer online counterparts like Amazon are playing hardball in a whole new way: they’re using technology to further corner the market, take money out of the state and to pressure small local businesses even more.

As the Internet, GPS, smart phones and iBeacons have become standard fare, new marketing systems including digital coupons, geofencing, shopper alerts and sophisticated consumer-behavior models based on the abundant data they collect are empowering national chains to grow even bigger and increase their market stranglehold. These new technologies are incredibly sophisticated and incredibly expensive. They are either proprietary (owned by the big retailers) or beyond the means of most small businesses. As a result, local small businesses are left to rely on less-effective, more-traditional low-tech ways to attract customers.

Planting a Seed

In the course of my 35-year career I’ve been involved with a number of businesses small and large. I’ve started or helped start a few, and helped a few grow into successful enterprises. I’ve engaged in developing and launching new products and services in a number of technologies and industries.

Last year I made the commitment to start my own business, SGI Advisors LLC, based in Portland.  (SGI stands for Start, Grow, Invest.) All my years of experience in law, finance, computer technology, biotechnology, consumer goods and business services made me realize I had something valuable to offer.

In my recent experience with the Maine Technology Institute, I was impressed by the commitment of entrepreneurs and the needs of start-up and early-stage businesses in Maine. I started SGI Advisors to help them bring their ideas to life and to develop actionable plans and strategies to commercialize their products. This is not an easy process and, quite frankly, in some ways it’s even harder in Maine. But there is no lack of people with ideas, passion and drive that continues to inspire me and others, and with the right help we can create new businesses to support and help rebuild our communities including our local businesses.

So I’m now on a mission to help entrepreneurs and young companies find their voice, develop their ideas, and build successful businesses. I keep my eye open for something that will change the status quo or at least help level the playing field so that small businesses can flourish again.

Enter Cupie

Last year I met the inventor of Cupie (kew-pē). He explained how he originally considered printing a coupon book to support Midcoast businesses but quickly learned that the economics of doing that were just not there. He dropped the book idea but not the concept of creating a tool to empower local small businesses. He kept refining the idea and eventually came up with the basic concept of a digital coupon solution he calls Cupie.

As soon as I learned about his idea, I was intrigued and began working with him to develop the concept and test it in the market. Over the last eight to 10 months we dug deeply into technologies, markets and competitors. We developed a transaction-based product and service that uses the same sophisticated technologies that big national retailers use, including an Internet application to allow small businesses to create special offers (coupons), and to distribute them to interested consumers via their smart phones.

The concept evolved into a promising solution for small businesses, offering them the capabilities of the most sophisticated big-business systems but in a way that small businesses can use effectively--and can afford. The key to Cupie: giving business users the ability to set up and determine the level of their offers themselves, vs. a Groupon or a Living Social dictating them. Cupie’s business users will be able to start, stop and manage their offers in real time directly through the Cupie website.

In fact, an important aspect of Cupie’s offering has nothing to do with technology. It’s about how the business operates. To use Cupie, a business pays nothing up front. Nada! The business pays Cupie a fee only after a consumer makes a purchase. This pay-for-performance model means the business user has no risk because it pays nothing until after it makes a direct sale based on its Cupie offers and gets paid.

That’s a far cry from a business spending money up front to place an ad in a coupon book and hoping people see it and use it. That may work sometimes, but you never really know.

Built in Maine for Maine

Why will consumers use Cupie and respond to special offers from local businesses? In the first place, Cupie users will include local consumers and visiting tourists alike. Local consumers will sign up for Cupie and download an app to their cell phones. Then they can complete a profile to indicate their interests and preferences. Or Cupie can determine that over time based on their usage and purchases. Cupie will only send them the special offers for products and services they want, not jam their mailboxes or email in-boxes with unwanted, irrelevant offers. By delivering these special offers to consumers’ smart phones (which just about everyone has), Cupie gives consumers the information, convenience and control they want.

Support Local Movement

Cupie also empowers the growing number of consumers who want to support local merchants and recreate the friendly neighborhood business atmosphere that Maine small towns are known for. It will be a powerful tool to further the growing Shop Local movement.

Tourist power

Tourists can use Cupie to plan their visits to Maine or Anywhere USA by searching in advance for specials on products and services in the place they’ll be visiting. Or by tapping into a smart phone’s GPS system, Cupie can deliver special offers from local businesses when the visitor arrives in that town. Users can also browse an interactive map of Cupie businesses and offers, or search Cupie’s active offers. This kind of technology enables consumers and local businesses to connect, helps build relationships, and increases sales for local businesses.

Cupie is poised to be a game-changing solution that can help turn the tide of national retailers that have had the advantage of cutting-edge technologies to drive profits into their tills.

On the horizon

Cupie is currently in the evaluation and development phase. It takes time to launch a sophisticated software application and get it right. The plan is to test Cupie with consumers in late summer and early fall, and with businesses later this year. If all goes well, Cupie could be helping small businesses and local communities rebuild and flourish as soon as next summer.

Cupie won’t solve all the challenges confronting small local businesses, but it does give them a better chance by arming them with technology that puts them in control and gives them an effective alternative to the high-cost/high-risk options that are available today. And it supports local consumers’ growing desire to Shop Local. By helping Maine’s small businesses grow and prosper, Cupie will grow, too. And as it grows, Cupie will “hire local” here in Maine, and help keep thousands of local small-business jobs “just down the street.”

The fact is, something has to change. This 50-year trend has to be reversed so our local small businesses thrive and grow. The strength and the future of local communities is directly linked to their success. We realize that, and hope the development of Cupie will help turn the tide by empowering local small businesses with a technology solution they deserve. There is no going back, only forward, and we intend to help make it happen with Cupie.

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Scott Burnett, a resident of Falmouth, is a business professional and former securities lawyer with more than 30 years’ experience helping large and small businesses grow and succeed.

For more about Cupie or SGI Advisors: Contact: Scott Burnett, Principal

SGI Advisors LLC 207.992.6138 sburnett@maine.rr.com

For information about your business participating in Cupie’s free beta trial: 207.691.4638; bill@GetCupie.com; GetCupie.com

 

EarnSOFT LLC, the parent of Cupie, is a Maine-based technology and services firm headquartered in Camden. It was founded in 2015 by a Camden, Maine entrepreneur. His partner in Cupie is Falmouth resident Scott Burnett who leads SGI Advisors LLC, a business services firm located in Falmouth, Maine. It was founded by to help entrepreneurs and startup businesses document and develop their concepts, perform market research, assess technology plans and business models, and assist startup businesses with obtaining funding. SGI Advisors has worked with EarnSOFT in the development of Cupie for more than two years and has an equity stake in EarnSOFT LLC.

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