New Business Donates Profits to Aid Adoptions
We asked ValuStop five things about doing business in Smyrna-Vinings including its mission to provide adoption assistance to families.
Michael Mason is founder and CEO of ValuStop shopping club. Smyrna-Vinings Patch caught up with him to ask him five things about doing business in Smyrna-Vinings.
Smyrna-Vinings Patch: Tell us about ValuStop.
Mason: ValuStop is a website where Smyrna residents will be able to save 50 percent off at local businesses. We’re similar to Groupon or Living Social except we’re tying to provide a more personalized service. So instead of getting a deal in Alpharetta or downtown Atlanta, Smyrna residents will be able to save money in Smyrna without having to travel 30 or 40 miles to save some money.
The other thing that makes us different than our competitors is that we’ll be donating 100 percent of after-tax profits to caring for orphans. Our goal for 2012 is to fund four adoption assistance grants at $5,000 each for Georgia families.
Smyrna-Vinings Patch: What adoption agency are you working with and how do you ensure people that’s where the money is going?
Mason: For 2012 we’ve chosen to donate all the profits to an organization that is based in Franklin, Tenn. and it’s called Show Hope. This is an organization that was started by contemporary Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman and they are a 501 c3 charity. They have tax exempt status from the IRS and they publish an annual report that shows where their money is going.
They actually disperse the adoption assistance grants all over the United States so a lot of times when I tell people we’re going to be donating to an organization in Tennessee they say, ‘Well, why Tennessee?’ They disperse these grants to families all over the country.
Now how do people know we’re going to actually donate and do what we say we’re going to do? Well each year we’re going to publish and audited financial statement and on that statement it’s going to show the exact amount that we have donated to 501 c3 charities. It will also show how much compensation has paid to shareholders who are employed by the company.
So we’re not a 501 c3 ourselves. A lot of times people ask if we’re a nonprofit and the answer is no. We’re similar to Newman’s Own salad dressing or TOMS shoes in that we are a for-profit company, but we are donating 100 percent of after-tax profit for charity. I am a salaried employee and we have set compensation limits for shareholders who are employed by the company. For example this year our goal is to donate $20,000 and to earn $20,000 in salary.
Smyrna-Vinings Patch: How did you get into this business?
Mason: About a year ago I had the opportunity to get a master’s degree in theology at West Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. I’m an Air Force veteran so I received the GI Bill and a one-year program in theology. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart so this is kind of a way to combine my entrepreneurial sprit with something that’s going to make a difference in someone’s lives.
My wife and I want to do something that’s going to make a difference. We don’t just want to get to the end of our lives and say we made a bunch of money and bought a lot of fancy toys. We want to look back and say we really made a difference in people’s lives.
In the Bible James, the brother of Jesus, write in a letter he says that religion that is pure and undefiled to support God the father is taking care of orphans and water. This is our attempt at practicing and living out the values that we say we have in our lives.
Smyrna-Vinings Patch: You’ve started a business in recession, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Mason: Obviously a lot of companies are cutting their marketing expenses. They’re trying to reduce the amount they spend on marketing and advertising. Surprisingly, we haven’t found that the recession has really affected us going forward because we’ve really tried to eliminate all the risks for advertising and marketing for small businesses. At this point we’ve signed probably 90 percent of the businesses we’ve talked to because we’re telling them we’re going to go out and we’re going to take on the risk of advertising your business and you’ll never pay us anything. You only pay if you make a new customer.
We’ve found that they’re very responsive to that proposition. And we also believe that as we move forward and start our marketing program to attract Smyrna consumers, we believe that the recession will actually help us in that regard and we believe that will actually drive traffic.
Smyrna-Vinings Patch: What impact would you like your business to have on Smyrna-Vinings?
Mason: I would like to give Smyrna-Vinings business a way to promote themselves in their local community without risking their money on ads they don’t know will work. So I want to help Smyrna businesses grow their businesses, increase their customer counts and increase their revenues.
I also want to provide Smyrna residents a way to shop locally and save money. I believe if we can do that we’ll add a lot of value to the Smyrna-Vinings community.