West Oakland entrepreneur and UC Santa Barbara alumnus Aaron Belsh joined forces with two UC Berkeley students to launch Dealio — a hyper local coupon startup in the Berkeley region seeking to link community members with local businesses.
Belsh, who is the CEO of Dealio, started brainstorming the startup last fall to make local deals more accessible to the community. In the past month, he recruited two campus students, freshman Milad Brown and senior Richard Zhouren, to be his co-founders.
“We’re small business oriented,” Belsh said. “We want to keep our coupons to small businesses where we’re advertising for people that need it, and that who are underserved.”
Belsh hopes to partner with local businesses to have their coupons on the Dealio website, and would charge them each 50 cents per coupon used by a customer.
Once there is enough business traction, Belsh said, they will charge users a $5 monthly subscription fee to access 10 coupons in their area per month. Half of that fee will go to Dealio, and the other half will go to a nonprofit of their choice.
Belsh added that they are competing with bigger companies like Groupon and Yelp, but Dealio’s lower fees for businesses and focus on generating returning customers makes them stand out.
“With Dealio, we take our responsibility of providing a connection between customers and businesses very seriously,” Belsh said.
He noted that the company has already started seeking small businesses in the area to pitch the idea to and find beta testers. He added that reactions from local businesses have been mixed, but many seemed interested in getting involved.
Artistic Picture Framing owner Rodolfo Olortegui was one local businessman who showed interest in Dealio’s business idea.
“I like startups and new young entrepreneurs; I don’t mind supporting them and giving them a shot,” Olortegui said. “I hope they remember me when they become famous.”
Owner of Thai Delight Cuisine Chayanisa Lee echoed this enthusiasm, noting that the platform could attract more customers — especially after learning it would only cost 50 cents per coupon use as opposed to other third parties like UberEats.
As for next steps, Belsh is seeking 10 to 20 local businesses to work with as beta testers until the summer, when they then hope to spread to other businesses.
If all goes well, he noted, Dealio could expand to other Bay Area cities like Oakland and Emeryville.
“Our mantra is community first. The idea behind it being small businesses is that when you have a small business, much more of the money that goes into the business stays in the community,” Belsh said. “And so we’re trying to build communities and build resilience in small businesses, such that they can compete with the big guys.”