Spotlight:Capital savings through small business

Juniors Eric Cartier and Jack Binder are attempting to change the reputation of sales and build their resumes at the same time.

Door-to-door salesmen and small business owners, the men recently started their own small business called the Capital Savings Card. Working with an idea they conceived last February, the two finance majors are selling cards for $10 apiece to students who will in turn receive discounts at local restaurants and pizzerias.

Discounts include 15 percent off all orders at Armand’s, 10 percent off all orders at Pizza Italia and 10 percent off a final bill at News Cafe in Georgetown.

“Kids are not going to J-Street at 3 a.m. because it’s not open, so instead they are going to order a pizza,” Cartier said. “At least this will help them save some money.”

While interning this summer at Microbanc, a New York investment bank, Cartier used the company’s resources to begin contacting and recruiting businesses in D.C. for the Capital Savings Card program. Currently, there are five pizzerias signed up, including Domino’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Italia, Manny and Olga’s and Armand’s.

The juniors said they wanted to ensure students have various options, knowing that everyone has a favorite pizzeria. Other members of the program include Bangkok Bistro, News Cafe, Marshall’s Bar and Grille and more. The participating businesses are not charged for their affiliation with the savings program.

Cartier and Binder spent one weekend on campus over the summer to speak in person with several general managers of various businesses. Binder said they had to be persistent with some of the restaurants in order to persuade them to join in on the venture. The juniors approached Bangkok Bistro at least seven times before the restaurant finally signed the contract.

“It was hard at times,” Binder said.

Domino’s manager Bill O’Neil said he decided to participate in the program because he wants to attract the most students possible.
“This deal is great for everybody,” O’Neil said.

The business caters predominantly to freshmen, who are not yet familiar with off-campus restaurants or other popular hot spots.

“As the card matures and attracts an older student body, the businesses affiliated with the Capital Savings Card will mature as well and go beyond the campus limitations,” Binder said.

Both juniors have spent most of their days back at GW in Thurston Hall, selling door-to-door. More than 120 students have already purchased a card.

“I have already saved more money than what I paid for the card,” freshman Jordan Fried said. “I am surprised no one thought of this idea before, I have used my card every day since I bought it.”

Cartier and Binder’s savings card is not affiliated with GW. All the funding to begin the venture came from their savings accounts. They paid for the production of the cards, advertisements and Web site. The two are receiving some advice from finance professor Eli Semaan and a lawyer from Microbanc, who Cartier got to know from his internship.
The young men said they do not want to take money away from J-Street, but rather provide more dining options to students.

“I remember when I was a freshman and I ate at J Street for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week,” Binder said.

Sophomore Kevin Kumnerle said the card has already proven useful.
“It just made sense to buy the card,” Kumnerle said. “I already went to Domino’s and saved money. This is a smart investment in the short and long term.”

None of the businesses they approached refused to look at their proposal, but larger chains such as Bertucci’s sent the contracts created by the juniors to their corporate lawyers. Cartier and Binder said they are awaiting a response. The four-page contract allows businesses discretion in choosing what discount they would like to offer all students.
“This is not a new idea but a logical one,” Cartier said.

Another discount card provider, Student Advantage, has been on the market since 1992 and attracts chains such as Amtrak, US Airways, Champs Sports and Barnes and Noble at a $20 charge.

Cartier and Binder said the biggest benefit of their card is all the affiliates are local. Students have better access to the businesses and their card costs less than the Student Advantage Card.

Cartier and Binder encourage GW student organizations to sell the cards as fundraisers. They said they would offer the organizations a commission for each card sold.

The entrepreneurs are taking steps to eliminate fraudulent attempts by students to steal or replicate their cards. They are creating a database that will match the serial number on the card with the person who owns it and match the name on the GWorld with that of the savings card.

In the future, both Cartier and Binder would like to incorporate Meiwah restaurant by the Aston, ProEuro at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. and Lindy’s Red Lion near the Marvin Center on I Street. They are also looking for bars and clubs.

The juniors donate much of their profit to various charities around the District. They are supporting a Georgetown University student, sophomore Sarah Dorfman, who is raising money to fight cancer. For every card she sells, she receives $2 towards her cause. In addition for every Capital Savings Card sold here at GW, $1 goes to her charity as well.

Cartier and Binder said they are not looking to make much of a profit with their project, but are using it to one-up other internship and job applicants from Harvard University and other Ivy League schools.

“This is a great experience,” Cartier said. “We are learning everything about running a small business while being full time students. It’s great for our resumes.”

-For more information on the Capital Savings Card go to www.capitalsavingscard.com

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