Saving money just by flashing your phone

Sale Cou.pair
Andrea Pasqualetto, EMBA student

Andrea Pasqualetto grew up in a household where frugality was practiced as an art form. Her mother is a connoisseur of rummage sales and second-hand stores. So it wasn’t too surprising that soon after getting married and starting her own household Pasqualetto began clipping coupons.

Now she has turned her personal passion for coupons into a promising business venture. Pasqualetto, a student in the Executive MBA (EMBA) program in UWM’s Lubar School of Business, created an app known as Sale Cou.pair that combines information about bargains at local supermarkets with digital coupons so shoppers save time and maximize savings.

And instead of giving cashiers a handful of paper coupons, Sale Cou.pair users show them a single bar code on their smart phone.

Over time, Pasqualetto had refined the organization of her paper coupons, even making an Excel spreadsheet that listed each one to ensure she used them before they expired.

“Eventually I got hooked on the savings and took couponing to the next level by pairing coupons with sale items, and from there it just became a lifestyle,” she says. “I was going to give up couponing when I started in the EMBA program, but I couldn’t. Saving money is just too addicting.”

When friends asked Pasqualetto to share her money-saving secrets, she taught several of them her method. But she discovered they lacked the time to keep the coupons organized.

So when she took a marketing strategy course where she had to dream up a business idea and develop its marketing plan, she proposed an app that would improve on her paper system of couponing.

“Once I started presenting it to the rest of the class, I couldn’t believe how many people encouraged me to move forward with it,” she says. Her classmates’ enthusiasm pushed her to apply to the Student Startup Challenge (SSC).

“I’m constantly blown away by the knowledge and the support the SSC gives you to make your idea a reality,” she says. “The networking has been more valuable than the money I won.”

As a business student who works full-time in real estate, Pasqualetto feels more confident about the business aspects of launching Sale Cou.pair. But designing an app is a different story, and she’s grateful for the expertise of the developers at the UWM App Brewery, who are working to build a prototype.

When it’s ready, Michael Hostad, director of UWM’s Web and Mobile Strategy, will partner with Pasqualetto to pitch Sale Cou.pair to grocery store chains, coupon manufacturers and potential investors. Retailers and coupon manufacturers would have much to gain from the system, Pasqualetto says. Paper coupons are a pain for supermarkets: cashiers sometimes lose them, and stores must fill them out and mail them to the manufacturer for reimbursement.

“Sale cou.pair is going to digitize that whole process so retailers get their funds faster,” she says. And product manufacturers and coupon companies will get more control over the number of coupons issued. With Pasqualetto’s system, coupons can’t be copied illegally, and would be deleted from the Sale Cou.pair account once they’re used.

Pasqualetto is excited about where her idea might lead her, and maybe even a little surprised. “Sale Cou.pair was really just an idea when I entered the Student Startup Challenge,” she says. “Now I’m actually thinking it could be a real thing.”

Update: The product itself has been designed to look like it “belongs” to the individual store using her system, and can be customized to reflect each store’s priorities. Pasqualetto was invited by the Wisconsin Angel Network to participate in its elevator pitch event, where she won the People’s Choice Award. She also has had some interest from a Midwest chain of grocery stores. Customer development will pick up as soon as the prototype is completed in the App Brewery.