Every successful start-up has a compelling story behind it and DoDrinks, a business developed by St. Thomas entrepreneurship student BreAnna Fisher, is no exception.
For Fisher, the inspiration for DoDrinks, an app that allows users to send and receive drinks digitally, came after several promises to “buy the next beer” for co-workers and clients. Often unable to meet with her friends, Fisher asked a local bar if she could buy a drink for her co-worker over the phone and found it unwilling to accommodate.
That’s when Fisher realized she had a business idea on her hands.
“I thought, ‘Why hasn’t anyone created this? This is too simple,’” Fisher said.
Fisher decided to pitch her idea during St. Thomas’ Practicing Entrepreneurship, a group of students that meets over convocation hour to do exactly that, practice entrepreneurship.
Even without conducting any research, Fisher hoped that her peers would like the business idea. She wasn’t disappointed.
“I just got up and said, ‘what do you guys think?’ Their response was… ‘Oh my gosh, you so have to do this!’” Fisher said.
With her peers behind her, Fisher said she next needed to get started on the real work. Fisher gathered a group of colleagues and together, they dedicated their weekends to figuring out logistical questions and most importantly, how to make money.
“There were so many questions… needing a lot of answers. We spent an immense amount of time answering those questions,” Fisher said.
Eight weeks later, Fisher brought the idea and business plan back to her St. Thomas professors.
Alec Johnson, associate professor of entrepreneurship, said that he was immediately impressed with Fisher’s idea.
“There’s the consultant/teacher reaction, and then there’s the gut, ‘Would I use this?’ reaction. I had a real strong, positive reaction to both,” Johnson said.
After weeks of tweaking the business plan, Fisher and her team were ready to start pitching and explaining the concept of DoDrinks to bars and restaurants to raise money.
DoDrinks, which will be free for consumers, allows users to use the DoDrinks app on any smart device, connect to their preferred social network, choose a friend, select a bar or restaurant and virtually send them $5, $10 or $25 worth of drinks.
Once the drink is sent, users can use the app to locate the bar or restaurant and redeem their drinks by showing it to a bartender.
Fisher believes DoDrinks will fill a void in the marketplace that consumers are looking for.
“I don’t think I’m unique. I don’t think the fact that I want to send drinks to someone is unique. You can’t do any of these transactional items currently,” Fisher said.
Johnson said that the idea’s potential popularity with consumers is only part of the equation.
“Liking it is one thing, but making money is an entirely different question. We ask, ‘Can our idea become a sustainable business?’” Johnson said.
Fisher said that she is confident she will generate revenue by collecting a percentage of the sales from bars and restaurants and by attracting loyal advertisers with the opportunity to be presented as a choice for consumers.
“DoDrinks intends to drive revenue by allowing you to see the brands right as you’re making a decision, right as you’re sitting next to that bartender trying to decide, ‘What should I drink?’ We’re giving an opportunity to advertisers to reach their consumers right at their buying decision,” Fisher said.
Fisher said that plans to get St. Thomas favorites like Tiffany’s Sports Lounge and Plums Neighborhood Bar and Grill on board with DoDrinks will only contribute to what she hopes will be popular with students.
“We’d love to see a grown-swell coming out of St. Thomas supporting this… (St. Thomas support) is incredibly important to us,” Fisher said.
Fellow St. Thomas entrepreneurship student junior Chantel Taylor said that even though she worries that purchasing drinks via DoDrinks might, in some cases, replace actual face-to-face interaction, the platform will resonate with her generation.
“I definitely think it will be a hit because young people are fully integrated with social media… I’d probably be buying drinks left and right,” she said.
Sophomore Rachel Murray thinks DoDrinks would be especially useful when all of her friends start celebrating their 21st birthdays.
“I think the concept of being able to send drinks to all of my friends, no matter what school they go to, is great. It would be a way for me to help them celebrate an important birthday,” Murray said.
Fisher’s Next Steps
Confident in the appeal of DoDrinks, Johnson said that Fisher is ready for the next stage in the process.
“She’s done about as much good, appropriate leg work as she can, and now with the least risk possible, she needs to go out and start testing her theory,” Johnson said.
Fisher said that she, along with a three-member team, are working toward launching DoDrinks in the coming months.
“We’re looking to launch mid-summer and have roughly 30 restaurants on board at that point,” Fisher said.
In the meantime, Fisher said that generating a user base by offering consumers the chance to sign up on DoDrinks.com for its launch will help gauge the level of interest.
Heidi Enninga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.