One parent turned a small volunteer project into a fundraising powerhouse.
This story first appeared in the May 2008 issue of Startups. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.What: School directory sponsored by local businesses
Who: Gene Haba Jr. of Myschooldirectory.org
Where: Bridgeport, Connecticut
When: Started in 2004
Startup costs: Six figures
After 20 years as a national consultant for the Yellow Pages, it was no surprise when Gene Haba Jr. volunteered to create a parent directory for his daughter's school. But what had started as a simple project quickly turned into a substantially larger idea. Haba, 51, created a directory listing family contact information and using advertisements from local businesses. "As I dug deeper into it, I started to see a bigger vision," he says. "Rather than just printing a directory, I saw the opportunity to turn it into a fundraiser." Haba noticed that parents were unhappy with the demands of current fundraising programs, which usually involved going out and selling something. In response to their concerns, Haba founded Myschooldirectory.org. The directory is distributed for free to every family and faculty member. Funds are raised by parent volunteers selling $50 listings to businesses that have been recommended by families; about 80 percent of revenue goes back to the school. Other families, schools and businesses can visit the site for information about starting the program in their area. "The directory is bringing the community together," says Haba. "It's building value and building community." At his daughter's school, 173 businesses advertised in the directory raising $10,287 for the 2007-2008 school year. For 2008, Haba hopes to create directories for 150 schools and projects sales of $250,000. In the future, Haba also hopes to turn the business into a social networking site: "I want to be the MySpace or the Facebook of the school market."
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