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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, May 17, 2019 1 week ago

Company helps supporters raise funds for schools through local vendors

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Sarasota-based Schoolvite provides a twist on Box Tops for Education for the digital age.

A Sarasota company has created a new way to support schools, through purchasing products and services.

The company, Schoolvite, allows parents and other school supporters to plan birthday parties, field trips, school spirit nights and other special events through a website platform that connects them with local vendors. When Schoolvite vendors are used, a designated school, team, club or teacher receives a percentage of that business.

Schoolvite founder Frank DiGiovanni, a financial advisor, tells Coffee Talk the idea behind the business came when he was talking to a fellow parent about how it is difficult to communicate with parents about school events. He says the concept is to generate money back to schools on a passive level by parents purchasing what they would purchase anyway.

The website includes several tools for party planning, from invitation creation to RSVP tools. Right now, Schoolvite is more party and event-oriented, but DiGiovanni plans to incorporate additional purchases, such as cars and real estate. The platform, he says, could include almost anything.

The company is ready for a rollout at the beginning of the next school year, including launching in Manatee County schools. He aims to introduce it into Sarasota schools soon, too.

Once schools and groups within schools are using the platform, DiGiovanni says Schoolvite plans to send checks to schools once a month that will break down the amount of funds each group received.

DiGiovanni has been working on Schoolvite for well over a year. He’s having success signing up vendors — one of the latest is The Westin Sarasota — and he’s continuing to add to the list. “Eight out of 10 businesses have said ‘yes’ right off the bat,” he says. Businesses range from prominent restaurant Michael’s On East to face painters and bounce houses.

Vendors have agreed to give 7.5% of the price of purchases back. Schoolvite will keep 2.5% and the school will get 5%. In the future, DiGiovanni says vendors might have the option to choose a greater percentage. In return, vendors are part of a system that encourages people to use them.

Plans for expansion include more districts and more schools statewide. The biggest challenge ahead, according to DiGiovanni, comes on the parent side. “Vendors are on board, schools are on board," he says. "Will the parents use it? Will they find it functional?”

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