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Filling a Need

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  • | 10:11 a.m. August 13, 2010
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Industry. Online charitable support site
Key. Beneficial texts for business, consumers and organizations
By the Numbers. Click here for Geo-Logical Inc. revenue information

Dan Stewart has successfully made the connection between sinkholes and charity groups, two things that are abundant along the Gulf Coast.

The University of South Florida graduate helped launch Geo-Logical Inc. in Port Richey five years ago and its resulting software programs led to the creation of Envala Inc., a technological marketing firm.

In turn, Envala launched, a fundraising partnership program that lets consumers support their favorite not-for-profit groups by simply receiving text messages from various businesses.

SendSavings, which generates a nickel for each received text message without even requiring a response, is currently being sustained by Stewart's other two enterprises but he expects it to support itself eventually. It has attracted the attention of at least 60 charitable organizations since its introduction in May and is attracting attention from many others across the country.

The premise of SendSavings is simple: Users can register free at the Web site, choose the organization they would like to support or suggest one, then choose the types of offers they want to receive. No more than two to 10 texts per week are sent to participants, now numbering at least 8,200, and participating charities are guaranteed to generate between $5 and $25 per year for every supporter they ask to opt in to the program.

“It allows people to support their favorite charity without spending their own money,” Stewart, who has taken on full-time duties as SendSaver-in-Chief, says at his small office overlooking Main Street in Safety Harbor. “Whenever we present this to a charity or a non-profit, their response is always extremely positive.”

National and local buzz

Even with a limited amount of promotion through social media sites, Stewart says SendSavings is already attracting attention from groups based as far away as California, Kansas and Texas. “Every charity in America should use this program — and they can,” he says.

The program has already attracted attention from Stewart's local peers, having won an honorable mention for “coolest technology” at the Tampa Bay Technology Forum's annual CoolTECH competition June 4 at the Museum of Science and Industry. However, his motivation for launching SendSavings requires a bit more story — all the way back to childhood.

When he was 7, his parents, older sister and younger brother borrowed a friend's sailboat with plans to sail around the southern tip of Florida. On a trial run, the vessel unexpectedly ran into a reef and the family was stranded for a few days, with no food and little to drink, before being spotted and rescued.

That experience has stayed with Stewart all these years, and he says SendSavings is his way of paying it forward. But before he could become an online philanthropist, he had to start another money-generating enterprise first.

After graduating cum laude from USF in 1993, he worked for Verizon/GTE in telephone directory sales, working with hundreds of entrepreneurs. He ultimately decided to become one himself, using his extensive experience in sales systems, process development and personnel management.

Stewart and Chad Dudeck started Geo-Logical in 2005 to address the frequent problem of sinkholes growing beneath the ground of Tampa Bay area homes. Though some sinkholes are rather dramatic, such as the one that opened beneath the Bordeaux Village apartments and swallowed a parked car July 11, he says most reveal themselves in the common stair-step cracks on the outer foundation of single-family homes.

The process of filling sinkholes involves using ground-penetrating radar to find the void, drilling down to the limestone at the base of the hole, then replacing the loose soil with a combination of underpinning and compaction grouting.

Because such tests can cost thousands of dollars, most property owners don't bother trying to find out whether they have a potential sinkhole until a problem shows itself at the surface, Stewart says. “We like to get there before the patient dies,” he says.

Sinkholes to software

After getting tired of waiting for other companies to make the type of software required for “killing” sinkholes, Stewart and Dudeck began developing their own and launched Envala. The company, also based in Port Richey, creates software for other types of companies to handle business processes and sales records.

SendSavings was developed as a spinoff of Envala and will eventually become its own company, currently with seven staffers, Stewart says. He adds that Dudeck now leads Geo-Logical, with 31 personnel, while he concentrates on growing SendSavings.

So far, SendSavings has found its strongest advertising demand from restaurants, entertainment venues and grocery stores, while homecare, fitness clubs and professional services are at the low end of the spectrum. Other categories registrants can choose include automotive, health and beauty, home and garden, pets, motorcycles and general retail.

“It allows us to reach the kinds of customers that will impact their business,” Stewart says. For instance, if someone is looking for a place to go to lunch on a particular day, a text message will go out that morning offering some sort of special.

No more paper coupons

One of the most important sellable aspects of SendSavings is its “green” appeal, eliminating the need for printed coupons or direct-mail pitches. Participating charities appear to be catching on to that, including Hillsborough Achievement and Resource Centers.

“HARC is very keen on greening up our communications and fundraising efforts, and SendSavings gives us the ability to do just that,” says Richard Lilliston, the group's CEO.

Stewart also notes that SendSavings requires participating organizations to prove their non-profit status each quarter to avoid letting “shell” groups get in on collections. But then those type groups would have trouble getting supporters to sign on anyway, he says.

The bottom line to making his companies work, Stewart says, is having the right people in place. Geo-Logical and Envala both tap the knowledge of their current personnel in order to find new hires, and all employees are given group incentives to pull together and perform at their best.

“We tell people you're either going to love working here or you're going to hate it,” he says. “There's no in between.”

One more sideline

While Dan Stewart is seeking various ways to engage social media in promoting all three of his business lines — Geo-Logical, Envala and SendSavings — he's also looking to reach out to potential customers the old-fashioned way.

Stewart recently began promoting himself as a motivational speaker, offering himself to audiences for free. He has won prior speaking awards, including regional honors from Toastmasters International.

“Believing that everyone has the capacity instantly tap into their inner strength and get the results they need, Dan Stewart will challenge your audience to abandon hesitation and seize the future,” reads a letter pitching his speaking services.

Topics Stewart offers for custom presentations include taking the leap to self-employment, technology for small business owners, the “1-2-3's” of corporate philanthropy, applying green technology, and starting and growing a business.


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