Darelle founder/CEO Kyle Kotapski stresses that supporting charities and non-profit groups is at the very heart of his new e-commerce site.
"From a charity perspective, if you are able to buy something and get exactly what you want and support your favorite cause at the same time, then I think it becomes a no-brainer," he tells Samaritanmag.
On darelle.com, the new Vancouver-based company describes itself as "a true Internet start-up whose aim is to change the face of social e-commerce. We offer the easiest, most cost effective online marketplace for buyers to get exactly what they want and for sellers from far and wide to access new markets. All the while we strive to make the world a better place with every transaction."
Here is how it works: from every transaction generated on its site, darelle will donate 10 percent of its revenue to a selected charity or non-profit group. Both the seller and buyer can name a charity or non-profit that will each receive 5 percent of the revenue.
"Whatever the vendor will recommend becomes the default charity if the consumer does not pick one," Kotapski explains. "But it is always 10 percent of our revenue, period. No administration fees. We have sundry revenue streams and we’ll add more, but it will always be 10 percent to charity."
Current "favorite" charities range from the BC SPCA, whose mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in British Columbia to Whistler, BC-based The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, which provides education and program support to help reduce depression related to teenage suicide.
To Kotapski, darelle is set up "like an isosceles triangle. We have three stakeholders, the business, the consumer and the charity. There is no reason anybody needs to lose for anybody to win. That is the core concept. We provide a really simple platform for all three.
“Consumers can ask for exactly what they want by creating a ‘Buy Request’ and negotiating anonymously with the business. The businesses do not dictate the terms and I think that is a major difference from the daily deal sites."
Items currently on sale on the site range from restaurant and club packages to sporting apparel to fishing charters and wildlife tours. For $29, the Jazz & Wine package at Vancouver nightclub The Kozmik Zoo covers a bottle of wine and no cover charge for the live jazz. The Man's Man Package at JD's Barbershop offers up a hot shave, premium barber cut and a single malt Scotch, all for $50. $225 will buy you 20 baseball shirts for your team (listed as a $400 value) via Big Coast Brands, while for $359, Whistler ATV offers a private wildlife tour for you and four friends with a guide in the Whistler backcountry (termed a $745 value).
Kotapski sees the darelle formula as beneficial to charities and non-profits, as it is getting harder and harder for them to find a recurring revenue stream, he says.
“People get canvassers phoning or people knocking on their door, but it’s hard to support who you want in your day to day activity. If you can get what you actually want, the businesses can still make money, and you can support your charity at the same time. It’s win win win."
Charities and non-profits can also use darelle to fundraise, by setting themselves up as a business and selling their wares on the site.
Kotapski cites the example of a friend who sells steaks at his office to raise money for his hockey team, or charities that have to organise expensive fundraising dinners and silent auctions. "There is a better and simpler way," he says. "With darelle, as a charity you have the opportunity to get businesses to support you by donating products and in turn selling them direct through darelle." Charities and non-profits can encourage their supporters to use darelle and nominate them as their benefitting charity.
Darelle does vet charities and non-profits, ensuring they are viable entities. In the hypothetical case of a person whose house had burned down and they had no insurance, they could still be assisted by being designated as a recipient of darelle's 10 percent return to charity. "If they have a registered bank account and we vetted them, we would absolutely love to help them," says Kotapski.
Response to the concept in darelle's B.C. base has been swift and positive. The site launched publicly at the beginning of May, and signed up 31 companies and seven charities in the first two weeks, with new users submitting over 400 buy requests. Charities and non-profits listed on the site now include the SPCA, Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver, Boys & Girls Clubs, Harrison Festival of the Arts, Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, and the Vancouver International Film Festival.
The site is planning to expand across Canada shortly. Kotapski and darelle spent two years building the technology for the site, but, as he explains, "until it’s being used in a real world setting you don't 100 percent know where any flaws are. You don't want to get one million people online and find out it didn't work the way you wanted. It won't be long until we move it along. You can sign in from anywhere already."
A phrase used in promoting darelle is "shop and do good." Those are two things people enjoy doing, so a way of combining both has a real appeal. To Kotapski, consumerism is not a problem. "I don't think there is anything wrong with becoming selfish at times, or in getting what you want. If you don't make money as a business you do not have the capacity to help. It is a balance."
He has one guiding philosophy as an entrepreneur. "I think success should be measured by whether or not you have a smile on your face. It is so much more enriching if you can put smiles on other faces as well. I've had a lot of financial success in my life. I know what that's like, but there is something that comes from doing simple little things or by making someone smile. My mum taught me it is very easy to do the right thing or to do a little bit more. That does so much more for you."
The site name is based around those of Kotapski's two daughters, Darah and Elle, a key inspiration to him. He calls it "a very happy coincidence and a fortuitous foretelling" that the meanings of his daughter's names have a suitably positive connotation. The meaning of Darah is "nugget of wisdom" while for Elle it is "sun ray, shining light."