Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Start-up company
grew from cost-cutting
and unemployment

Jennifer Valerio is as busy as a one-armed paper-hanger, hanging virtual paper on her Web site offering discounts at some 50 local businesses.

Valerio turned unemployment into her own business in January 2002, when she started Inc.

She's getting the word out through cross-promotion with clients and mass e-mail offers for a four-month free trial.

For clients ready to commit monetarily, Valerio has an introductory rate structure that offers a 40 percent discount from the normal $250 a month fee. Web pages are $150 per month.

A graduate of the University of Hawaii School of Travel Industry Management and former advertising agency employee, she wound up jobless after Sept. 11, 2001. The cost-consciousness that accompanies unemployment had Valerio clipping coupons and fumbling around to find the deal that got away.

Valerio used her time to apply for work and read business magazines and learned that some dot-coms still succeeding are coupon Web sites.

"I looked into it but there was nothing really for Hawaii," she said.

Opportunity, frustration, a desire to provide affordable advertising and to "help local people find the coupons and discounts floating around everywhere" combined into her company.

Some clients are small local businesses, such as Aunty Denise's Kiddie Kuts and Solar Pro Tint; others are Hawaii franchises of national brands such as Goodyear Gemini Automotive Centers and Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits.

Bargain hunters can search for deals by category or company at

Restaurateur Fred Livingston's eateries are relatively new additions to the Web site, though he is unconvinced that the Internet is the best marketing medium for the restaurant business.

But his restaurants get "enormous responses" from visitor publications, Livingston said.

For Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits, going with ecouponsHawaii was a no-brainer.

"The initial deal is a pretty low-risk deal. We figured we might as well give it a try," said Marketing Director Sean Uezu.

He has seen some redemptions at Dillingham and Pearl Harbor locations and expects they'll increase as the expiration date nears.

"The early small showing is not surprising," he said. "Jennifer's working on getting the word out, the visitor count isn't quite where she wants it to be."

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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