UM students’ app brings discounts to users, supports local businesses

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - 2:17pm

Companies in Ann Arbor looking to increase foot traffic and sales can now advertise in nearby locations, serving the local small business community and college students looking for discounts.   

Spade, a mobile application launched in early December, aims to help local small businesses advertise for one another.

Spade serves as the middleman between businesses looking to advertise and locations looking to profit, according to Kinesiology sophomore Jake Fleshner, the company’s co-founder and chief marketing officer.

Fleshner’s older brother came up with the idea three years ago and developed it for about a year before handing it off to Fleshner, who saw the app as an opportunity to create a network of businesses.

“We thought ‘Why is no one doing this yet?’ ” Fleshner said. “Why aren’t businesses helping each other, cross-remoting and helping the local small business community? We thought they should be working for each other — making more revenue and getting more foot traffic.”

Spade takes print advertisements from clients — local restaurants, for example — and places them in local apartment buildings such as Zaragon or University Towers. Consumers can download the app and take a photo of the ad to unlock the discount.

Fleshner said a small town can benefit from a company like this because small businesses are aware of where other small businesses fit in the market.  

“We thought Ann Arbor was the perfect place,” Fleshner said. “Everyone knows what each other’s gist is and what people are trying to do.”

According to LSA junior Ben Kriegsman, Spade’s regional manager, Ann Arbor also serves as a good place to develop the company before hopefully establishing it in other locations such as New York or Los Angeles.

“The beauty of this for us is we get to have our idea explored in our college town,” he said. “We get to have consumers who are also our peers, who are also students, use our products, use the app and get benefits from it. That way, we can adjust our business model and adjust our ideas going forward based on how that works.”  

Fleshner said he believes students will enjoy the app as it is easily accessible on their phones and offers desirable discounts.

“Students — everyone wants discounts, everyone wants content,” he said. “We’re always looking for stuff and we’re always on our phones. Through this app, you’re going to be able to unlock discounts to places that are local. For students it’s going to be great to unlock stuff and it’s also going to be great to see what other people are unlocking.”

The app consists of a feed that allows people to see what their friends and other local people are unlocking. They can like and comment on these items.

Overall, the company has more than 150 app downloads, 22 partnerships between businesses and 12 businesses on board overall.

Over the winter holiday, the company worked to improve the app, specifically by incorporating beacon technology, which will allow advertisers and partners to connect virtually.

This new form of technology works by way of a small device that can pick up signals from app users and instantly send the advertisement to their mobile devices. That way, store-goers can have access to discounts instantaneously.

Business junior Jordan Golshan said she saw several Spade ads in the elevator of her apartment — one of which was for 25 to 50 percent off for the rest of the day at Bivouac, an outdoor gear and apparel store on State Street.

Golshan said she followed the directions posted nearby, downloaded the app, took a picture of the ad and then proceeded to buy something from Bivouac. Golshan said she was pleased with how user-friendly the app was.

She also said the app is ideal for a city like Ann Arbor because it makes popular places affordable to college students.

“I think this is a great college-town app, because there is already a community of these local restaurants that you can frequent,” she said. “Because Spade is able to conveniently place these ads in places that people go a lot and offers discounts to the places that people go a lot, I think that combination is really beneficial to college students who are interested in saving money.”

Golshan said she thinks the app would benefit other college towns as well.

Meanwhile, Fleshner said he wants to encourage students to check out their local favorite businesses for discounts.