BUILDING A PLATFORM
I had the idea, and I was excited to recruit local businesses to help our teachers out. But I realized that teachers would then need an online platform that compiled all the businesses that offered discounts and free services to them.
What I envisioned was a mix of services like Craigslist and Yelp. Craigslist is a simple, easy-to-use classified ad website good for disseminating information. Yelp allows users to join the conversation as well, offering their personal experiences and reviews – through their secret algorithms, refusal to delete dishonest reviews and paid advertising have always left an ugly taste in my mouth. Still, it works great as a modern-day phonebook.
Then I thought if I could create something as straightforward as Craigslist and combine it with the good, experience-focused side of Yelp to help people find businesses that want to show appreciation and support for teachers, that would really be something special. I pictured the site listing businesses first by category, then by the discount.
I took my idea to Small Dog Creative, a local marketing company that had created a site for my other business. I liked their work and they seemed to be in touch with business needs. As I told them about my experiences with teachers and the emotional impact No Bugs’ promotion had had on so many, they were mesmerized. They couldn’t believe the good that simple promotion had accomplished, and agreed that teachers deserve much more than they get.
I explained to them exactly what I envisioned for the site. Along with the review platform, I wanted commercials and testimonials of businesses expressing their gratitude for teachers and the offer they were willing to give them. I wanted there to be clear pages about how the relationship mutually benefits both teachers and businesses. In addition, I wanted it to show how teachers get support from their community and special offers from local businesses, while businesses get the joy of giving back, referrals from teachers, and public support.
I asked them if they would build my site for me. Small Dog said they’d love to help out and told me a site like this would usually cost anywhere from $30,000 to $70,000. Now, I didn’t have that kind of money, but I did have a whole lot of contagious passion and enthusiasm for the project. I told them that if they’d be willing to donate some of their resources, I would pay direct expenses and labor and we’d be able to both see where this great idea led us.
They liked the idea, thought it over, and two days later they agreed to help me build the site. So I bought the domain name I Love Teachers – a simple name that defined our organization’s purpose perfectly – and the site was born.
Small Dog had initially told me that the site would take around four months to build, but I knew teachers just didn’t have that kind of time. Teachers across the nation were going on strike. Legislators were still pushing to arm teachers in schools. Big-name news media like Time and the New York Times were reporting on teachers all over the country not getting the support they needed. So, I asked the team if we could have the site done in two months. They stared back at me in silence, just long enough to make me feel uncomfortable, and finally said, “Well then, we’d better get started!”
We met every week. Nine weeks later and just over two months after seeing my previous high school teacher at Starbucks, we had the site up and running. It was everything I had imagined and more.