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VOL. 37 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 11, 2013

Chance meeting helps launch City Saver success

By Hollie Deese

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When Tom Beach and his wife, Kristin, decided they wanted to start a family 10 years ago, they figured it was also time to change careers.

Both were in sales and marketing, and Tom traveled extensively.

“I didn’t want to be on the road all the time, and we wanted a little bit more control over our schedule,” he says. “We were looking at what we could do that would play to our strengths. But we also wanted something so we felt like we’re giving back in some way to the community. And specifically, [to] kids.”

At a high school reunion, an old classmate told them about a coupon book fundraising business. The Beaches joked to one another about starting that type of business in Nashville.

The couple now sells City Saver coupon discount books to help schools raise extra money in Nashville, Memphis, Clarksville, Louisville, Atlanta and Puget Sound, Wash.

“We started to talk to a lot of people in the community and realized there was a need to have a fundraiser that was really easy for schools to do,” he says.

Kristin quit her advertising job at WTVF-TV, and a couple of months later Tom quit his job. “It was one of those ‘jump off the cliff and burn the bridge behind you’ things,” he says.

City Saver comes to Nashville

The Beaches spent the first few years hitting the pavement, getting businesses on board with discounts such as half-off and buy-one-get-one. They also let schools know there was a local alternative.

“By the second year, we started seeing some schools and businesses come our way,” he says. “They liked the fact that we are a family-owned business and locally owned. And we really started to separate ourselves from a lot of our competitors in a lot of different ways.”

The biggest difference is schools get 50 percent of the sales from each $25 book. Tom says that is the industry standard for most companies, but there are many companies that don’t even come close to letting the schools keep that much money.

By far the biggest concern among parents and schools is the amount of money that actually goes to the school once sales are final.

Sue Clark, principal at Metro Public Schools’ Spanish immersion Glendale Elementary, says her school started selling City Saver books because of what the Beaches delivered.

“Tom Beach is the only fundraising organization that I can find that is 50 percent,” Clark explains. “Most of them only want to give you 28 percent. Or less. And I get a call or an email every day from somebody wanting to sell something. So you can go to a lot of effort and not really make a lot of money.”

Sweet incentives

The Beaches inspire students to sell the books by offering Predators tickets, Titans tickets and Sweet CeCe’s parties.

Glendale has 420 students and sold more than 1,200 books this fall, netting $14,500 for the school in just three weeks of sales. Over the years, Clark has used City Saver money to buy maps, globes, carpet, library books, overhead projectors and computers.

Many popular fundraising products have other downsides. For example, cookie dough needs to be kept frozen until delivery – with many people bowing out in the weeks from sale to delivery when the sticker shock hits that they paid $15 for something that costs a fraction of that at Walmart.

“The very first year I was open we sold frozen cookie dough,” Clark says. “It just seemed like a lot of trouble. But City Saver is just quick and easy. We thought we might skip a year, and my parents were just up in arms.”

How it’s helped

Shannon Fey teaches sixth grade math at Head Middle Magnet School. The school opted to sell City Saver books this fall for the first time in years, making four times the amount of money it had selling cookie dough and coupon cards, Fey says.

“We have sold Smart Cards for the last few years and had some success, but we wanted to find a way to make more money,” Fey says.

With this fall’s City Saver sales, the school raised $12,000 as opposed to the typical $3,500 they got from Smart Cards. Like most schools, the money is going to improve technology in their 13-year-old building.

Last year more than 75-area schools sold more than 36,000 City Saver books, netting $450,000 dollars for the schools.

“When you run a business like ours, there are just some days we wonder if we’re really making a difference. Then I’ll go visit one of our schools and the principal will show me a brand-new computer lab with 25 new iPads they bought with City Saver money. That’s what really recharges my batteries. That’s what we were put on this earth to do, to help the generation behind us. We want our kids to have it better than we had it.”